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Seven Worst Fathers

First of all, Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there, the good ones, the bad ones and the millions in between.  While Fathers Day and Mothers Day are inventions, they are great inventions.  We should take a day (at least) to honor all they’ve done for us - both the stuff we see and the stuff we don’t. 

The influence parents have on our lives is massive.  And for that reason, this list will examine those fathers who could’ve done a better job - a much better job.  I would advise new fathers to read carefully, but if this list teaches you anything about parenting that you didn’t already know, your kids are doomed.

The Criteria:

1) A father

2) His failure related to parenting.  A father doesn’t make the list just because he was a bad person who set a bad example for his kids.

3) The father did not kill his kids (at least not directly).  The list is about parenting, not murder.

4) The father and/or the child is well known.

So here it is, the Seven Worst Fathers:


Joe Jackson, Father of singers Michael and Janet Jackson

One night, Joe Jackson came home from his job at a Gary, Indiana steel mill to discover that his 9 year old son Tito had broken a string on Joe’s guitar.  Joe beat him.  But before sending his son to bed, Joe asked him to play a few chords.  Noticing that the child had talent, he decided to form a singing group consisting of Tito and his other four sons – Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and the youngest, Michael.  He taught his children work ethic by imprisoning them in the studio and forcing them to practice for hours.  He taught them discipline by beating them.  He took them to amusement parks, teaching them that kids will never talk about abuse as long as you take them for a ride on a merry-go-round.  He also beat them.  As the Jackson Five began to fade, Joe got Michael hormone treatments to keep his voice from changing.  This was a phenomenal decision that couldn’t have had anything to do with Michael becoming a genderless circus clown.  Later, after his sons had cut him out, Joe turned to managing his daughters LaToya and Janet.  Both achieved some notoriety, but only after they ditched Joe.  Janet hit it big as a singer while LaToya posed in Playboy twice, about which Chris Rock once asked, “Twice?  What did you have the second time that we hadn’t seen before?”  Joe would say that he saved his kids from a life of crime, drugs and poverty in Gary.  But those who know better (that would be everyone) will tell you that his parenting merely exchanged one trauma for another.  In fact, Joe was a worse father than Michael, and that would’ve been true even if Michael had dropped that kid from the balcony.

Philander Rodman, Father of Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman

During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Dennis Rodman sarcastically thanked his father who had, according to Dennis, fathered 47 children.  This was a vile smear.  In reality, the aptly named Philander Rodman had only fathered 29 children by 16 different women.  Philander left Dennis and his mother when Dennis was three and moved to the Philippines.  There he opened a small bar that he still manages.  Philander would like to make it clear that he “didn’t leave Dennis; [he] left his mother.”  Running with that distinction, Philander has left a lot of people’s mothers.  He brags that 12 of his offspring have played professional basketball, though that can’t be verified because Philander doesn’t remember all of their names.  Making matters worse, 8 of the 29 are named Philander or some variation thereof.  So naturally, differentiating them could be confusing.  But Philander does remember the name of his youngest child, Pina Marie.  She’s named after a nearby volcano called Pinatubo, that erupted a week before she was born.  Of that eruption, Philander remarked, “What a night of lovemaking.”  It seems Philander was always better at that than he was at love-giving.  (I know that was a corny finisher).

Antonio Cromartie, Cornerback for the New York Jets

Just watch the clip.

Saddam Hussein, Former President of Iraq

Remember “Take Your Kid to Work Day?”  Saddam loved this idea.  So when he became President of Iraq and decided to purge the government of anyone who might challenge his authority, Saddam took his kids to work that day.  In a surreal scene, Saddam sat on the stage before the entire Iraqi parliament as his assistant read the names of suspected traitors.  As each name was read, Saddam’s henchmen pulled the person out of the room and dragged him to a patch of dirt behind the building.  There, Saddam’s sons Uday, age 14, and Qusay, age 12, shot him.  This kicked off a three decade period where Uday and Qusay treated an entire country like a game of “Grand Theft Auto.”  And it all began with Saddam’s horrible decision to bring his kids to work.  

Mohammed Bin Laden,
Founder of Bin Laden Construction and father of terrorist Osama Bin Laden

In the world of radical Islam, men who father numerous children with many different wives and spend hardly any time with most of them are called pious.  In the western world, they’re called deadbeats.  Osama grew up the child of a single mother, with a father he barely knew.  Now the psychological damage reaped upon children (especially sons) with absent fathers has been well-documented.  In many cases, these children feel like social outcasts.  They lack confidence.  They scour their worlds in search of identities, often channeling their lives toward unsavory organizations or ideologies.  So here’s what happened to Osama: He grew up shy, introverted and socially-challenged.  He was academically average.  This led him on a search for identity and a place where he fit in.  That identity was radical Islam and that place was al Qaeda.  This is not much different than fatherless American teenagers who join gangs.  In fact, eventually, Bin Laden led a gang.  Like gangs in America, Bin Laden’s gang killed people, sold drugs and terrorized innocents in their neighborhoods.  And like most gang members, Bin Laden’s life ended with him getting shot.  Think of how much different the world might have been if Mohammed had just played catch or hunted a few falcons with his son.

Marv Marinovich, Father of Former NFL Quarterback Todd Marinovich

Yeah, yeah, I saw the ESPN documentary.  I know he loves his son and his son loves him.  But he has to be on the list.  So I’ll stipulate that he was a well-intentioned failure rather than a self-centered ego-maniac.  For those who don’t know, Marv Marinovich was a former football player with a brief NFL career who turned himself into a strength and conditioning expert and his son Todd into a strength and conditioning lab rat.  Marv’s mission was to construct Todd into the next great quarterback.  It began shortly after birth, where Marv reached into Todd’s crib and stretched out his legs.  As Todd learned to walk, Marv forced him to go without a walker in order to improve his eye-hand coordination.  In high school, he kept Todd on a strict diet that excluded soft drinks, alcohol and famously, candy bars.  Along the way, Marv brought in countless experts to refine Todd’s throwing mechanics, understanding of defenses and footwork.  The plan nearly worked.  Todd Marinovich, known affectionately as the “Robo-QB,” became a high school All-American, two year starter at USC and a first round draft pick of the L.A. Raiders.  But he also became a drug addict.  It began in high school with pot.  In college, he added cocaine (out from under his father’s watch, Todd may have started eating candy bars too).  In the NFL, the Raiders tested him monthly for a long list of drugs.  But since the list didn’t include LSD or certain prescription meds, Todd did those.  He also did many of the drugs on the list. Two years and several failed tests later, the Raiders cut Todd, at which time he joined a band and began using heroin, more cocaine and different prescription meds.  Admirably, following jail and rehab, the “Robo-QB” got himself clean.  But the bumps along the way had to be painful.  And they didn’t exactly stem from a lack of parental supervision.

Joseph Kennedy, Sr.,
Former U.S. Ambassador and father of President John F. Kennedy, and Senators Bobby Kennedy and Ted Kennedy

When considering Joe Kennedy’s parenting, there’s a word that should keep bouncing into your mind: scars.  Sometimes, the scars were literal, as in the scars on daughter Rosemary’s head after Joe had her undergo a full-frontal lobotomy.  The surgery left her a vegetable for the remainder of her life.  But more often, the scars were figurative, like the damage from witnessing Joe’s serial adultery.  Joe’s roster of bedroom partners included actress Gloria Swanson, Joe’s personal secretary and on only nine occasions, Joe’s wife.  In some instances, Joe would take his nine children out to dinner with one of his mistresses while leaving their mother at home.  This spread a family tradition of infidelity down to the next generation, and eventually, the generation after that.  One of the Kennedy grandchildren even slept with his own kids’ babysitter.  And none of it would have been possible without Joe and his scars.

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