Politicians don't get to have all the fun. Jocks get to be turkeys, too, which is why I count down the top sports gobblers every Thanksgiving.
This tradition dates back to my first year as Copley Newspapers columnist, 1998, when Michael McCaskey had so mismanaged the Bears that his mommy took the team presidency away from him and demoted him to official Halas Hall gardener.
Since then, it's been one doofus, doper or downer after another: Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron(2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004, an unprecedented back-to-back showing!); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009); Mark McGwire (2010).
(You'll notice that from 1998-2009, most of those fine folks had Chicago connections. That's because I columnized and blogged mostly about Chicago sports during those years. Having moved to Krispy Kreme Kountry last year, the Turkey Countdown has a different look.)
As always, I dedicate this tradition to my absent friend, Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor and one of the great guys I ever encountered in journalism.
And now for the countdown ...
10. WILLIAMSES. Rough year for Stevie, Serena, Hank Jr. and Ken. Oh, and last we knew, Ted's head was still frozen somewhere in Arizona.
9. TIGER WOODS. Remember when he used to ... I don't know ... be really good at golf?
8. RON ZOOK. Who's got next? Somebody? Anybody? Please?
7. DALE EARNHARDT JR. & JR HILDEBRAND. On the very same May Sunday, Earnhardt and Hildebrand put on a clinic on how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With the checkered flag just seconds away, Hildebrand crashed into the wall, making a winner of Dan Wheldon at the Indy 500. Hours later, a half-mile from the finish line at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, Earnhardt ran out of gas as Kevin Harvick claimed victory.
6. ADAM DUNN. Arguably had the worst offensive season in baseball history. The only reason I say "arguably" is that the White Sox stopped playing their $56 million man the last couple of months, keeping him from putting up some truly eye-popping failure numbers.
5. JIM TRESSEL. Really? You really have to cheat to win football games at Ohio State? I mean, I'd understand it if Zook did it. But Tressel?
4. LeBRON JAMES. Selfish and clueless, he is a perfectly good representative on this list for all the millionaire players, owners, agents and lawyers responsible for shutting down the NBA. (Oh, and we're still waiting for him to start delivering those seven titles after taking his talents to South Beach.)
3. CARLOS ZAMBRANO. He's been a few cards short of a deck for a decade now, but the dude I call Cra-Z completely lost his mind when he threw at Atlanta batters because he couldn't get them out. Once just a bit quirky, Cra-Z has joined Milton Bradley, Phil Nevin, Kent Mercker, Dave Kingman and a select few others on the list of least cuddly Cubbies of the last 40 years.
2. JOSH BECKETT, JOHN LACKEY & JON LESTER. Booze-swilling baseball buddies put the "club" back into clubhouse. And the choke back into the Red Sox.
And now -- drumstick roll, please -- the 2011 Turkey of the Year ...
1. JOE PATERNO (& HIS FLOCK).
JoePa quietly passed the buck upon learning that a sexual predator was molesting kids right in his locker room.
When the allegations finally came to light years later, thousands of students protested -- not because kids had gotten raped on JoePa's watch but because Penn State fired the old ostrich who had stuck his head in the sand.
I'm not sure if this says more about our deification of coaches, our societal woes or the value of a Penn State education.
All I know is that JoePa is a doting father and grandfather many times over ... and if he had received word that one or more of his progeny had been molested, he wouldn't have just told his boss and then moved on.