“I went through a lot of problems when I was coming into this league,” Mark Gastineau once said, “with people not liking me and me not knowing why they didn’t.”
Arguably the most loathed player in NFL history, the former Jets scab/sackmeister must have had a clue by the time he left the game in 1988. As hated by his own teammates as it was by opponents, Gastineau’s apoplectic sack dance ultimately led to the league’s no-taunt rule in 1984. That same year, Gastineau was convicted for assaulting a Studio 54 bartender who’d dropped him at arm wrestling. In ’86, his fourth-quarter, cheap-shot rough penalty was the turning point in the Jets’ 23-20 playoff loss to Cleveland.
As the first to cross the ’87 picket line, Gastineau was spat on by striking colleagues. When he pleaded alimony payments, his estranged wife Lisa countered, “We’ve gone months without any.” Mark’s final playing days were dominated by tabloid headlines, re: his steamy on-off affair with Brigitte Nielson. Teammates lampooned the couple’s matching butt-tattoos by stenciling their own backsides “Gitte.”
Following football, Gastineau took up boxing, mostly against willing victims. In his last “fight” (November 1998), he was knocked out in the second round by former NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 23, 1999