Being that we are at the end of what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months, why not take a look back at the biggest sports stories of such a year? After all, I’m pretty sure nobody else does these sort of retrospectives…
15) The Los Angeles Kings Win The Stanley Cup
For purposes of full disclosure, I have a bias on this one; I’ve been a Kings’ fan since I had to hold a puck with two hands. But there’s a couple of reasons why this win by the sole surviving original California hockey team (raise your hand if you remember the California Golden Seals) is a big story.
- The Kings are the first native Los Angeles team (not relocated from another city) to win a championship (Anaheim is NOT Los Angeles).
- The Kings became the first NHL team to enter the playoffs as the 8th seed and eliminate the 1st and 2nd seeded teams in their conference.
- The Kings became the first team to win the Stanley Cup entering the playoffs as a #8 seed.
- The Los Angeles Kings ended one of the longest championship droughts (45 years) when they hoisted the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
The moral of the story: Don’t look now, but the Golden State is slowly becoming hockey territory. In the last twenty years, California has won more Stanley Cups than Canada has.
14) Johnny Football Becomes Johnny Heisman
The rise of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had all the media hype of other stories you will see on this list, but it had one crucial difference. Johnny Football became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, thus breaking one of the last barriers in the history of the 50-pound trophy awarded by the Downtown Athletic Club. Manziel literally came from nowhere to the pinnacle of college football in a vote that was never really close.
The moral of the story: Until further notice, the Heisman is an award for quarterbacks and running backs only. If I had a vote, by sticking with the strict definition of the “best player in college football,” my ballot would have been as follows:
- Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
- Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
13) The Indianapolis Colts Cut Peyton Manning
The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis came to a rather inglorious, if not completely anti-climactic end on March 7, when team owner Jim Irsay announced at a press conference that the team would release the man who had become the face of the Colts’ franchise. A 2-14 season during which Manning never saw the field due to a neck injury illustrated the need for a consideration for the future in Indianapolis. Couple that with the economic reality; cutting Manning meant the Colts would save a $28 million roster bonus due on March 8, plus be free-and-clear of the remainder of his contract. Add it all up, and it means this move surprised nobody, because it allowed the Colts to have money for the next franchise quarterback, #1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck.
The moral of the story: Even 4-time MVPs are no longer immune to the economic realities of sports.
12) Augusta National Adds Its First Female Members
To be honest, I’m an old-school guy who believes that private clubs should be able to pick and choose who they want as members. That’s why when I first found out that Augusta had caved to a bunch of ball-busting feminists with chin-whiskers and married to sociology professors, my neanderthal heart sank a bit. But when I found out that the women Augusta picked would completely piss-off the “drives a Subaru with a rainbow bumper sticker” crowd, I had renewed faith in all that is right. Who better to do that that the hated George Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a woman who had the audacity to make a bazillion dollars in the world of corporate finance?
The moral of the story: Social activists, you too need to be careful of what you wish for.
11) The Resurgence of Notre Dame Football
Notre Dame last saw the top of the college football mountain in 1988. In the quarter-century since, the Irish have remained a media darling while simultaneously spending more time as a doormat than a contender. Since that last title, Notre Dame has appeared in exactly five BCS bowls, and has lost every single one of them by at least 14 points. They are 6-11 in bowl games overall in that time. There was a fifteen-year span between 1993 and 2008 where the Irish lacked a single post-season win.
But now they’ve managed to finish the regular season undefeated and ranked number #1, thanks largely to a key goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford, Pittsburgh’s inability to make a clutch kick, and a complete meltdown by Oklahoma. After all that, the Irish are set to face defending BCS champ Alabama for the title.
The moral of the story: Despite all the media attention the Irish are gathering, you would be hard-pressed to hear Notre Dame is a ten-point underdog.
10) The Beginning of the End of the National Hockey League
If you needed a perfect model for how not to run a professional sports league, you need look no further than the NHL. The latest example of their stupidity came with the latest failure to come to a collective bargaining agreement after two months of talks between team owners and the NHL Player’s Association broke down and the league entered its fourth work stoppage since 1992. I’ve never been the commissioner of anything bigger than a fantasy sports league, but even I know that in order to keep people interested in your sport, you need actually to play some games. As of now, that hasn’t happened, and with every passing day, it looks more likely that hockey fans will be deprived of an entire season for the third time since 1994.
It’s time to understand that even die-hard hockey fans like myself are ready to wash their hands of this shit. Idiotus Supremus Gary Bettman and the owners don’t get that they are killing a league over their insistence in making the players’ union pay for their complete lack of business sense. Fellow Sports Blog Movement member Ryan Meehan and I hit on this a while ago, but the keys remain in place. The owners locked the doors because the players wouldn’t accept a new collective bargaining agreement that requires players to accept salary cuts and limits on free agency, despite the fact the owners were more than happy to give those provisions without any threat. The union wants a better revenue sharing plan that help the league’s struggling franchises. Face it, the NHL needs to survive in the Winnipegs and the Buffalos of the world, because in North America, hockey is a regional sport with a limited appeal outside of that region.
The moral of the story: If Meehan, the players, and I can figure that out, what does it say for the future of this league that the owners can’t?
For 25 days last winter, an Asian Harvard graduate was the biggest story in all of sports. Think about that for a minute…Jeremy Lin had been sleeping on his brother’s couch, had been cut by two NBA teams, and was put into a game on February 4th by Mike D’Antoni, whose New York Knicks were so injury-depleted Lin was the only alternative left on the bench besides the towel guy. Lin went on to score 25 points and seven assists leading a comeback over the then-New Jersey Nets. Lin then lead the Knicks to seven straight wins, including one in which he hung 38 on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. What began with a bang (perhaps literally, judging by the photo above) ended with a knee-injury and a quiet relocation to the Houston Rockets.
The moral of the story: All glory is fleeting.
8 ) Michael Phelps Becomes History’s Most Decorated Olympian
As far as I’m concerned, any guy who won 19 gold medals can do all the bong hits he wants. While most stoners can’t get past micro-waving a burrito and watching Scooby-Doo at the same time, this guy joined a frightfully short list of elite athletes while giggling stupidly at his own own reflection in a sheet of aluminum foil.
Phelps made the cover a Wheaties box in 2008 after he won eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. but then came history’s most publicized bong toke. Phelps received a three-month suspension from USA Swimming and Kellogg’s said they would not renew their endorsement of the Olympian. which goes to show what dumb-asses they both are. USA Swimming finally re-instated Phelps and he went on to win nine more medals in London this past summer, his 19 medals surpassing the 18 won by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
The moral of the story: Somebody ought to start a cereal called Weed-ies.
7) The NFL’s Replacement Referee Debacle
We all know what a debacle the NFL’s use of replacement referees was. The biggest indicator of what dipshits sports commissioners in this country are is that they make me sympathetic to scumbag unions.
The moral of the story: This is just one reason people will look back at 2012 as the beginning of the downfall of the Kommissar Goodell regime.
6) Lance Armstrong Stripped of Cycling Titles
While it isn’t an excuse, there is a shitload of truth in that quote in the above graphic. There’s a huge double-standard about cheating in this country; it is OK when your guy does it. And nobody was more of “America’s Guy” then Lance Armstrong was when was routinely humiliating the French in the Tour de France. That’s really the only reason anybody in America gave a damn about cycling; it was an exercise in hating the perfectly hateable French.
Back in August, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that it was stripping Lance Armstrong of his record-seven Tour de France titles and barred him for life from the sport after concluding he used banned substances. On October 22, the International Cycling Union (UCI), cycling’s governing body, said that it had officially stripped Armstrong of his seven titles and banned him from cycling for life.
But then comes the part where the hypocrisy comes in again.
“He deserves to be forgotten,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said of Armstrong.
Give me a fucking break. Cycling is the dirtiest of the “dirty” sports when it comes to performance enhancing drugs; what’s going on in baseball might as well be the drug problem in pee-wee T-ball compared to cycling. All the UCI and USADA did was to catch the best cheater in sport filled with cheaters whose lifeblood literally is cheating.
The moral of the story: There’s nothing wrong with anything that sticks it to the French.
5) Speaking of Hypocrisy, Let’s Talk About The NCAA
Question: Do you know what the Jerry Sandusky and Sandy Hook Elementary School situations have in common, besides the fact they both involve monsters whose own self-absorbed impulses were brought to bear on many innocent people? They are both examples of how we in America love to pontificate about horrible things, yet do nothing about them.
In the wake of both of these terrible stories, you didn’t hear one credible person come out and say stupid shit like “I’m glad this happened. We need more events like this to learn our lessons.” Anybody who would have said anything like this would have been stamped USDA Prime Whacko and their words would have been filed in the appropriate plastic-bag lined receptacle. But no matter how many times you let a train run over a coin, it still has two sides, and there were far too many people ready to get on the other side of the bombastic coin from the stamped Whackos.
These were the people who took such a brave stand by table-pounding the obvious “we need to protect our children” reaction. There are lessons to be learned, and there are things as a society we need to do; the trouble is that we as society have completely missed the point.
The NCAA serves as the perfect microcosm of American society, and the ridiculous, pointless, and self-serving crap the NCAA does is a perfect reflection of the society in which it exists. It’s numb-handed response to the Sandusky scandal at Penn State proves that.
After former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his report , the NCAA got into the fashionable “shitting on Penn State” and did it in a completely meaningless way. While Penn State may have received some of the harshest penalties in NCAA history, they were ultimately without real teeth. If you doubt that, let’s break them down:
- A 4-year bowl ban: Normally that would hurt, but at the end of the 2011 season, this team could only qualify for a low-rent bowl where they got smoked by a Houston team whose coach was on his way to making Texas A&M the Belle of the SEC Newbies ball. Nobody saw the miracle incoming head coach Bill O’Brien pulled off; he literally made a team intended to be kicked off the B1G island and made it the second-best team in the conference.
- Loss of 20 scholarships: This does kill bench depth, but lets be honest…you can still win with only three punters on the depth chart. 65 scholarships is still plenty to field a winning team; NFL teams only have 53 roster spots. The only part that could sting is that Penn State can only sign 15 recruits per year rather than the usual 25.
- $60 Million Fine: Penn State has an endowment of nearly $2 billion and has an athletic department that generates cash in gorgon-like quantities. $60 million to them is the change you keep in your car’s cup holder for toll booths.
- Loss of shared conference bowl revenue for four years: This is estimated to be around $13 million per year. See above.
- Five years probation: That might as well be Dean Wormer’s “double secret probation” from “Animal House” since the NCAA really has no interest in handing out real punishments.
- Players were allowed to transfer without penalty: The team still won eight games.
- Vacating of all wins from 1998-2011: Record book hocus-pocus. This was only done to screw Joe Paterno, who was already dead by the time this move was made. Utterly pointless.
In other words, the NCAA didn’t do anything substantive after the Sandusky situation just like we won’t solve the problem after Sandy Hook.
The moral of the story: I can’t wait for NCAA President Mark Emmert to weigh in on gun control.
4) The Ongoing Tim Tebow Saga
Where do I start start with this? Here’s a guy who sold more jerseys than anybody before he even took a single NFL snap. Here’s a guy who stays in the headlines despite the fact he’s only taken 50 snaps this season as a New York Jet. Here’s a guy who everybody keeps saying isn’t an NFL quarterback, and yet right now we are talking about where is the next place he “isn’t” going to be an NFL quarterback.
The moral of the story: I’ll buy lunch for the first person who can explain Tebow-mania to me in 50 words or less.
3) The “Bounty-Gate” Debacle
Too bad NFL Commissioner Kommissar Goodell doesn’t have a paper towel good enough to clean up the mess he made.
Think about it for a moment. How many times have you seen a guy over-estimate his power, do something completely stupid because of that over-estimation, then need somebody to come in and clean up the mess. I guess former commissioner Paul Tagliabue is the one who had the big roll of paper towels.
To make a long story short, “Bountygate” blew up in Goodell’s face when he mistakenly assumed the players he suspended would simply roll over and take his brand of “justice.” But when Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita were reinstated by a three-members appeals panel. which included former NFL head Paul Tagliabue. The panel overturned a ruling that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was within his powers to suspend the players for their alleged roles in a pay-to-injure agreement.
What it all boils down to is that in the end, Goodell managed to emasculate himself, and required Tagliabue to get him out of the mess he made for himself. In other words, the commissioner did not have the final say; the former commissioner did. I don’t know of too many executive-level managers who stay employed after they need to be bailed out, especially when Tagliabue was only intended to review Goodell’s decision to impose suspensions on four New Orleans Saints players and instead found the action so flawed he had to vacate those suspensions.
The moral of the story: This is another reason people will look back at 2012 as the beginning of the downfall of the Kommissar Goodell regime.
2) Miguel Cabrera Becomes Baseball’s First Triple Crown Winner in 45 Years
Miguel Cabrera became the first player to win baseball’s Triple Crown since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and just the 15th player ever. This puts Cabrera on a list with baseball royalty which includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. Cabrera led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
The moral of the story: Dude can hit.
1) The Los Angeles Dodgers Are The First Sports Franchise to Sell For $2 Billion
The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to a group that includes NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson for a final sale price of just over $2 billion. That represents the highest price any sports team has ever sold for — by a wide margin.
Television money for live sports is skyrocketing, and it’s driving up the values of sports teams not just in the United States, but around the world as well. People keep trying to tell me baseball is dead, and a baseball team just sold for a staggering amount of money. If one were to pay that $2 billion in cash, you would need sixteen standard shipping pallets stacked four feet square with $100 dollar bills. And the prices are only going up.
Want to buy a European soccer team? Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, so you’d better bring your wallet. Manchester United was the first team to break the the billion-dollar barrier, and that was a decade ago. Now, buying a top team in the English Premier League will easily cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. If you still want a big-time European soccer club, but want to save your pennies, you might be able to get Real Madrid for just under $2 billion. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars, arguably the least-valuable franchise in the NFL, just sold recently for $770 million.
The moral of the story: Television money is exploding sports as we know it.
For those of you who want a football playoff, for those of you who love brackets, and for those of you like me who suck at contests like this and just want a bit more torture, we here at Dubsism are ready to oblige. After all, who says you can only have a bracket in March?
Are you ready for some football you probably don’t know that much about? If so, jump on the Dubsism NCAA FCS Football Pick ‘Em Challenge. There’s a printable version of the bracket available here.
Here’s how it works: First, you pick the winners for each round of games. Pick the winners of the first round in the comments section below. Include scores to be used as a tie-breaker.
Then, pick the four teams you think will be in the final four, along with a national champion.
Each week, once the next round match-ups are known, there will be another round of game picks to make.
Each correct game pick is worth one point. Each correct final four pick is worth five points, correctly guessing the national champion is worth ten points and ties will be broken by who is closest to the total score.
The deadline for entering your first round game picks, final four and national champion is 11 A.M. Eastern Time Saturday November 24th.
Show some guts and see how badly you can beat the worst bracket guy in the history of brackets.
The UND athletic department received a package Wednesday that drew a few chuckles — at the expense of the NCAA.
The package included the 2011 NCAA Division I football championship banner intended for North Dakota State, which claimed the title in January with a win against Sam Houston State in Frisco, Texas.
The NCAA shipped the championship banner with good intentions but sent it to UND — North Dakota State’s biggest rival.
It’s an honest enough mistake even for the dilcues at the NCAA.
The package was addressed to Mr. Brian Faison, Athletics Director, North Dakota State University, Hyslop Sports Center, Grand Forks, N.D.
For those of who who don’t know, North Dakota State University is in Fargo, where the University of North Dakota is in Grand Forks. Trust me, I’ve lived in North Dakota, and trying to tell the difference between Fargo and Grand Forks is like trying to feel the difference between a lemon and a lime while wearing boxing gloves.
But the NCAA is still a bunch of dipshits…
In conjunction with our partners at the Sports Blog Movement, Dubsism is hosting an NCAA Bracket Challenge. You won’t win anything other than bragging rights, but it doesn’t cost anything either. Rather, your biggest enjoyment may come from watching my bracket from becoming a bigger smoldering hunk of wreckage than an Italian cruise ship.
You can still enter this challenge by e-mailing email@example.com before Thursday, March 15th by 8 A.M. Eastern U.S. time – then by filling out a bracket by noon Eastern U.S. time that same day.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Rockford is a private detective based in Malibu, California. We here at Dubsism have retained Mr. Rockford at his standard rate of two hundred dollars a day plus expenses to investigate matters of crime and other general shadiness in the world of sports, then report back to us when needed. If you would like to contact Mr. Rockford, at the tone, leave your name and number and he’ll get back to you.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of being a private investigator is that the more money is involved on something, the weirder it can get. One of the things that helps that stuff get about a 9.6 on the weird-o-meter is the power of delusion. You would be amazed the lengths people will go to avoid facing up to an unpleasant truth. Then again, if they didn’t do it, I’d be out of a job.
Right now, there is no better place to see money fueling a forest fire of delusion than the NCAA. You could call it one of those “All You Can Eat” buffets of delusion, because there’s more delusion than any one man can eat, except in this case because all of it is so hard to swallow.
To see it in action, all you have to is look at this game of musical chairs they’ve been playing with conference alignments. First, ask yourself why is this game getting played in the first place? Nobody just starts breaking contractual arrangements just for fun. In other words, everybody playing this game thinks they are trading up somehow.
What would be the motivation to do that? I can’t think of a better one than money, can you?
I have another rule about these things. Whenever a guy spends a lot of time telling me something isn’t what it seems, that’s probably EXACTLY what it is. This is the part where NCAA president Mark Emmert trips my trigger. Everytime somebody asks this guy about realignment, he gives off a lot of squawk about how he is concerned about the perception that money is driving the decisions while he urges school presidents to consider factors besides revenue when choosing conference affiliation.
It doesn’t take long to figure out what a load of hot air that is, especially when you consider how much table-pounding Emmert does on the subject of the NCAA not being “professional sports leagues” and the NCAA is “not a business.” The worst part of that line of bull is that not only does it contain the completely unbelievable assertion that college sports can be about anything but money, but he’s setting the stage for an argument designed to make me believe that HE believes that.
Take a run at it this way…the message Emmert keeps pumping out is that while this isn’t about money, at the same time nobody wants to give up a potentially big payday, and to go back to the “musical chairs” analogy, nobody wants to be the last one standing when the music stops playing.
That’s brings us to thing number three that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up about this whole thing: People who try to have their cake and eat it too. Not only is this guy all to happy to cash the checks while pretending he wouldn’t dirty his hands with money, but he’s got a track record of doing exactly the same thing.
Before leaving the University of Washington to take the NCAA gig in October 2010, Emmert participated in the same sort of discussion with his Pac-10 colleagues. At that time, Emmert was all about adding Colorado and Utah to the conference, which allowed it to have a conference championship game, which is as we know now a revenue generator. Then, Emmert saw nothing wrong with generating more revenue.
Now that he is the head of what is undoubtedly a huge for-profit enterprise (I’ll come back to that later), Emmert’s tune has changed. The following quote says it best.
“We shouldn’t say money isn’t important. It is very important to fund intercollegiate athletics because universities can no longer afford to take money out of their regular budgets to subsidize sports. Money’s not evil. It’s what you do with the money that’s evil.”
Do you see why I think this guy is a giant bag of gas in a three-piece suit? What he’s saying is “it isn’t about money, but we are going to make an oil tanker full of it, but that’s not a bad thing, even if it isn’t about money.”
But for anybody who wants you to believe college sports is not a big businesses, consider the following facts:
- In April 2010, the NCAA signed a $10.8 billion television contract with CBS and TNT to televise the men’s basketball tournament.
- Bowl games generate tens of millions of dollars for participating teams, which are then divvied up among all the teams in the league.
- Some conferences have started their own television networks, which pump millions into athletic department budgets.
- Many schools have spent millions more on their facilities in the recruiting race.
Now, I may be jus a P.I. living in a trailer, but even I know that smells like a big business to me. To think otherwise is just pure delusion.
Dubsism is a proud member of the Sports Blog Movement
Being that we are at the end of what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months, why not take a look back at the biggest sports stories of such a year? After all, I’m pretty sure nobody else does these sort of retrospectives…
15) The Establishment of Two All-Time Winningest College Coaches: Paterno and Krzyzewski
Will there again ever be a year in which we see the crowning of two all-time winningest coaches? We may not see either of those records (Paterno, 409 wins; Krzyzewski, 903 and counting) fall in the next half-century, let alone having them both occur in the same year.
14) Kevin Love’s Double-Double Streak
For nearly 30 years, Moses Malone’s record stood at 51 consecutive games, until Kevin Love scored 16 points and grabbed 21 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers for his 52nd straight double-double. Love’s streak ended at 53 three days later at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
13) Two More Yankees Make The Record Books
Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter…Get ready for two more monuments behind the center field fence in Yankee Stadium. Rivera notched his record-setting 602nd career save, eclipsing Trevor Hoffman’s previous mark. And in the same season, Yank captain Derek Jeter smoked a long ball to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, becoming only the the 28th member of the exclusive club and the first 3K Yankee.
12) The End of The Peyton Manning Era
The Colts spent two decades as an NFL afterthought before the arrival of the wunderkind Manning in 1998, and now neck surgery may spell the end of the Manning era in Indianapolis. Manning’s surgically rebuilt neck, his back-loaded contract, and the Colts prime real-estate in the upcoming NFL Draft form a perfect storm scenario in which if Manning does ever take an NFL snap again, it may be in a uniform not of Colt blue.
11) The Improbable Run to the Championship
When is the next time you will see such a harmonic convergence of “underdog” champions?
- NFL: The Green Bay Packers make the playoffs as the bottom 6th Seed.
- MLB: The St. Louis Cardinals literally make the playoffs as a wild-card on the last night of the season, then they win what may be the greatest baseball game in a generation, Game 6 of the World Series.
- NHL: Granted, The Boston Bruins were a #3 seed in the East, which isn’t a prohibitive underdog, but nobody gave them a chance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks
- NBA: Like the Bruins, the Dallas Mavericks entered the playoff tournament as #3 seed, but it was their complete domination of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers which set the tone for the next two series, both of which saw Dallas facing teams which seemingly should easily over-match them in terms of talent on the floor. That was until Dirk Nowitzki decided to become unstoppable.
- NCAA Men’s Basketball: Again, the #3 seed proved magical, as the Connecticut Huskies rode that to the top of the field of 64. The fact they played their way to that seed was only slightly short of a miracle, considering they entered their conference tournament as a #9 and had to play AND win four games in four days to ensure getting into the NCAA tournament. Honestly, the ten-game streak in the Big East and NCAA tournaments pulled off by the Huskies may be one of the great playoff runs of all time.
- NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey: Another #3 seed…are you sensing a theme here? The University of Minnesota-Duluth (which is really the UCLA of hockey) had an improbable run to the championship of the Frozen Four.
- NCAA Women’s Basketball: I know that it is hard to call a #2 seed an underdog, but let’s not forget the womens’ basketball world was dominated by a single goliath at Baylor which Texas A&M had to slay, but there was the ever-present team dragons in Tennessee, Stanford, and Connecticut.
10) The NBA Lockout
In what may prove to be a Quixotic exercise in abject futility, the NBA owners locked out the players on July 1st for reasons I still really can’t understand given what has happened since the lockout ended. Star players getting big money has been the rule in professional sports for decades; Babe Ruth was the first jock to pocket more than the President of the United States. But when the Samuel Dalemberts of the world world are getting $13 million a year in a league that can’t pull in big-time national TV money, the problem is much larger than a simple collective bargaining agreement.
9) The Death of the Man Who Made the NFL What It Is Today
There’s a certain amount of irony in the fact the world lost Al Davis and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in the same year. Much like the regime of Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il, the end of the Al Davis Era marks both the end of an era that once made the Raiders a serious factor in the world of the NFL, but now leaves them as an isolated dictatorship viewed as a pariah in contemporary circles.
Kim Il-Sung shaped at least a half-century of world history when he ordered the North Korean army into South Korea in 1950, starting a war that is still technically unresolved to this day. Al Davis forever changed the face of the NFL when he sued the league for the right to move his franchise as he pleased.
Much like Kim Il-Sung left his eternal mark on North Korea beyond the war, the legendary Raiders owner had six decades’ worth of unique impact on pro football. I would be lying if I said that I never criticized Davis. Just a few months ago, I included him on my list of the 15 Worst Owners in Sports. However, as I said in that piece, that criticism was reserved for the Al Davis of the past 20 years or so.
For those of you under 30, you may not believe there was a time when Al Davis wasn’t a batshit crazy Cryptkeeper look-alike and the Raiders were not the laughing stock of the NFL. In an 18-year span during the 70′s and 80′s, the Raiders won 13 division championships, made 15 playoff appearances, and took home three Lombardi trophies. This is the era when the Raiders were the winningest team in all of professional sports, and love him or hate him, Davis was a respected and visionary leader who helped build the AFL into a league so successful the NFL couldn’t beat it so they joined with it.
That paragraph only scratches the surface as to what Al Davis meant to the world of professional football. Davis literally climbed the football ladder, going from college assistant coach to an NFL assistant coach, to head coach, to owner to AFL commissioner, to Super Bowl champion, and ultimately to the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps his single greatest honor is having made a record nine presentations of inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Al Davis made presentation speeches for Lance Alworth, Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, and John Madden. Davis himself was enshrined in Canton in 1992.
Davis changed the game of football through sheer personality; a personality which was a collection of contradictions. At once, he was was loyal and rebellious; cantankerous and vindictive, yet sentimental. Yet through all that, Davis’ name must be included amongst the founding fathers of the NFL; a name that must be mentioned with same reverence in NFL circles as that of George Halas.
His contributions to the league as a whole notwithstanding, there the matter of his success with the Raiders. His trademark slogans weren’t just some words on a banner, it was a philosophy that propelled the three-time World Champion Raiders to the very top of the professional sports world. In the 48 year marriage between Davis and the Raiders, they had 28 winning seasons, including 16 in a row from 1965 through the 1980 World Championship season.
Davis died earlier this year died at age 82 and it’s hard to dispute the Hall of Famer’s place among the most influential of the sport’s history-makers. Davis was controversial. He was a contrarian. But he was also a gift to the game.
8 ) The Ever-Deepening Cesspool That Is The NCAA
This is only layer one of what is wrong with the NCAA. The truly disgusting stuff comes later down this list. This entry is all about the corruption and the hypocrisy of the organization which is supposed to keep these factors out of college sports.
It all starts back in January when the NCAA first found violations at Ohio State, but let the players who committed the violations play in their bowl game. The theme here is the NCAA clearly values money over integrity. Keep this in mind as you read.
In August, the Miami situation broke, when it was reported that Nevin Shapiro was pumping thousands of dollars in illegal benefits to past and present Hurricanes players over the past decade. The tale told by Shapiro from his prison cell (he’s currently parking his ass in a federal cell for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme) includes prostitutes, cars, cash, and paid vacations, much of which he alleges were known of by Miami staff and coaches. Shaprio dimed out the names of 73 current and former players.
Go back to the Ohio State situation. At first, this was just about tattoos. Then it mushroomed into costing head football coach Jim Tressel and starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor their jobs. In this case, it wasn’t so much the crime, but it was the cover-up which killed everybody. But the fact the NCAA dicked around for months only underscores the fact they are not really than interested in enforcement.
Then there’s the completely laughable finding that Auburn “committed no infractions” in the Cam Newton affair when there were admissions about cash payments totaling $180,000.
The best part is this isn’t just teams who are mired in unethical activity. The Fiesta Bowl committee was exposed in a 276-page report which detailed allegations of Fiesta Bowl employees being reimbursed for donations to state and local politicians (which happens to be a felony), $1,241 spent at a Phoenix strip club was illegally charged to an expense account, and the misappropriation of $33,188 bill for Fiesta Bowl’s president and CEO Junker’s 50th birthday party. Junker has since been fired, but more stories like this will emerge until the swamp that is the NCAA is drained.
7) The Conviction of Barry Bonds
Another story indicative of what a depressing year in sports this really has been. Again, instead of talking about accomplishments on the field, we are dealing with matters decided in a courtroom.
In April, Bonds became the first player from a “major” sport to be convicted for an issue stemming from the latest round of scandal about performance-enhancing drugs. While he was acquitted of the more serious charges, just this past Friday U.S. District Judge Susan Illston issued a 20-page order refusing to overturn the obstruction of justice conviction handed down by the the jury in her courtroom nearly eight months ago.
6) The Continuing Tectonic Shift in College football
Texas A&M is headed to the SEC. So is Missouri. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are bolting from the Big East to join the ACC. West Virginia is trying to ditch the Big East for the supposedly greener pastures of the Big 12; the same greener pastures TCU left the Big East at the altar for. In return, the Big East extended invitations to at least six teams, and the madness isn’t over yet.
5) The Phenomenon Known as Tim Tebow
I’ve been watching football for nearly 40 years, and I’ve never…repeat NEVER…seen anything like the Tim Tebow story. He’s either loved or hated; he’s either the future of the Denver Broncos or an impostor. Everybody has a strong opinion, and everybody is convinced they are right.
Frankly, I have no idea what to make of the guy, so I’m going to stick with the facts.
- Whether or not the Broncos complete this miraculous run to the playoffs, there is no denying this team was on life-support when they handed Tebow the keys, and that team responded to him.
- The Tebow story is one of the few uplifting stories in a year in sports filled with so many negatives.
- Like it or not, Tebow is the biggest star in the NFL right now. Doubt that? Tell me another NFL player that had an hour-long special dedicated to him exclusively.
4) The Night of the Dueling Collapses
In the last story, I said I have been watching football for nearly 40 years. I can say the same for baseball, and again, I can say I never saw anything like the last night of the regular season. In what was inarguably the wildest night in baseball I’ve ever seen, the Red Sox and the Rays, and the Braves and the Cardinals entered the last game competing for the American League and National League wild-card berths respectively.
This set the stage for six hours of baseball that will be talked about for at least as many decades.
In the National League, the Braves blew a ninth inning lead, eventually losing in the 13th inning 4-3 to the Phillies. This loss opened the door for the Cardinals to capture the wild card by cruising past the Astros 8-0 to complete their amazing late season run; one that found them trailing Atlanta by 10.5 games on August 25th but prevaiiling in the end by winning 23 of their final 31 games.
Believe it or not, the collapse in the American League was even more epic. The Boston Red Sox led Tampa Bay Rays by nine games on September 4th, which seemed to be an insurmountable lead. It wasn’t, as the Sox found themselves in need of a win on the last night of the season to keep their playoff hopes alive. The stars seems to be aligning Boston’s way; they seemed on the verge of staving off a historic choke-job, taking an early 3-2 lead over the Orioles while the Rays fell behind the Yankees 7-0. But then somebody messed with the lenses of the Sox telescope; Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon surrendered consecutive hits to Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold, and Robert Andino to earn a season-ending 4-3 loss. Meanwhile, the Rays regrouped and mounted a comeback on the shoulders of a pair of dramatic homers from Evan Longoria, including a 12th-inning walkoff game winner.
3) The Fiasco of the Los Angeles Dodgers
We may never know how sordid the details of Frank McCourt’s mismanagement of the Los Angeles Dodgers really are; what we do know is that after the Dodgers began showing signs of financial trouble in 2010, Commissioner Bud Selig made the decision to give the league control over the club’s day-to-day operations starting in April 2011.
Since then, we’ve been treated to McCourt attempting to overturn Selig’s take-over via the courts, then threatening to engage in more legal maneuvering over a proposed television deal with Fox Sports was rejected by Selig. Then since the Dodgers struggled to meet payroll deadlines, the club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all during which McCourt was embroiled in what may have been the nastiest divorce in the history of the state of California.
Thankfully, Major League Baseball and McCourt reached an agreement in October under which he will sell the team and the media rights by April 30, 2012.
2) The NFL Lockout
Really, all this lockout proved is that the NFL owners and players really don’t understand the problems they have. They think this new collective bargaining agreement solves all the acrimony we all lived through, but that’s an illusion made of money. Realistically, the NFL and the NBA share some common problems, namely that they have franchises in places they shouldn’t, and those franchises are draining the league’s resources. The difference is the NFL is the country’s most popular sports league, it is literally floating on money, so it can pave over it’s issues with revenue-sharing. When the NFL finally hits the point where it has priced itself out of the market (wait until you see what the new TV deal is going to do to your cable bill), all of a sudden the illusion made of money will disappear. Mark my words, the next NFL lockout (and there will be one) will look and sound just like the NBA lockout we just lived through.
1) The Penn State and Syracuse Sex Abuse Scandals
This is the one story here that transcends sports. We have all heard the allegations, we have all read ad nauseum about all the sickening details; there’s really no need to rehash them here. What matters most is that these stories should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. We all must take a stand in stopping this sort of abuse of our children, and we must do it now. There is no excuse for any other course of action.
To that end, this should serve as the moment of truth for the NCAA. It’s time to find out how many more Jerry Sanduskys and Bernie Fines there are out there, and it’s time to ensure they are stopped. If the NCAA can’t do that, then the NCAA needs to be dismantled.
Here’s time #8,756 I’ve said this – the NCAA is a joke.
It didn’t exactly take the Amazing Kreskin to see this coming when star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters were cited by the NCAA last December for selling rings, jerseys and other memorabilia as underclassmen. But 6 months later, Ohio State vacates all 12 wins from the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl win, and placing itself on two years’ probation as penance for fielding multiple ineligible players. Now, they’ve announced Pryor would have been ineligible for all of 2011 and he has been banned from all contact with the team for 5 years.
The Buckeyes’ self-flagellation comes as part of their official response to accusations of major NCAA violations involving both the ineligible players; Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams, and reserve defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, not to mention disgraced former head coach Jim Tressel’s season-long cover-up.
Am I supposed to be impressed by this?
First of all, it’s about 6 months too late. When Ohio State first tried to keep their Bucknuts out of the NCAA deep-fryer last December, all they were doing was avoiding the inevitable. The thinking was if you let the NCAA get its pound of flesh up front it, they could get away with a slap on the wrist and maintain the hope the NCAA would be placated and not care to do anymore digging.
That means by its very nature it is disingenuous, and it didn’t work. Granted, they managed to keep the offending players eligible for the Sugar Bowl and they kept the regular seasons wins intact.
However, everything backfired once Jim “Cheatypants McSweatervest” Tressel got caught in a season-long cover-up, which is the only reason the NCAA even decided to return to the case at all.
Now, Tressel is gone, Pryor has been banished, and the Buckeye house of cards keeps falling. The first go-around at self-punishment was all about avoiding the record books being wiped clean. Well, that’s going to happen anyway, and it begs a question. By banishing Pryor, now what is Ohio State trying to avoid?
Think about it. Right now, Ohio State is still getting off light. Even if the 2010 season is erased from the books, they still get to pocket the cash those games generated. Plus, in light of the heavy scholarship losses and two-year bowl ban the NCAA dropped on USC last year for essentially the same kind of violations, an eraser to a record book is the aforementioned wrist slap.
Ohio State is again hoping it can avoid harsher (and deserved) penalties by looking “proactive” and by throwing Tressel under the proverbial bus. The problem is the NCAA seems to be buying this bilge. Ohio State is singing a big song to the NCAA to the tune of admitting major violations of NCAA regulations, but in the same stanza claims they should not face harsh punishment because no Ohio State official other than Tressel was aware of player violations.
Now for the big question: since when did “self-punishment” become acceptable? I ask because I really could have used this twenty or so years ago. There are plenty of times I would have copped to breaking curfew if it meant nobody found out what I was doing at 2 a.m. For me as a kid, that moment of truth always came when it was time to sneak back into the house. For Ohio State, they get to try to sneak into the house next month when they have a hearing in front of the NCAA. That will be the moment of truth; will the Buckeyes’ self-flagellation be enough, or will the NCAA actually hold them accountable?