For 16 years now, I've used Thanksgiving week as a time to reflect upon the year's losers and liars, miscreants and maniacs, scammers and sleazeballs, chokers and cheaters, bigots and boobs. There's nothing quite like a holiday tradition, eh kids? So it's time once again for the Turkey of the Year Countdown.
Previous "winners" (and by that, I mean "losers"):
Mike McCaskey (1998); Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells and Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron (2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009); Mark McGwire (2010); Joe Paterno and the Penn State Enablers (2011); U.S. Ryder Cup Team (2012); Alex Rodriguez (2013).
Sharp readers will notice that up until 2009, each of those turkeys did their gobbling in or near Chicago. That's because I worked for the Copley newspaper group in Chicago, where the annual Countdown got its start under my predecessor and friend, the late, great Gene Seymour. Since moving to North Carolina, I've expanded my Turkey-choosing horizons.
So grab a plate, put on your bib and dig in ...
10. LUIS SAUREZ. Channeling his inner Mike Tyson, the Uruguayan soccer star took a bite out of an Italian player during the World Cup. As if that wasn't bad enough, he complained that his request of red wine was denied. I mean, white wine with human shoulder? What an outrage!
9. BARACK OBAMA. I'm not talking politics here. (If I wanted to add a non-sports Turkey to this year's list, it would be Nevada rancher/lawbreaker/racist Cliven Bundy, who went from Fox News hero to douchebagga non grata faster than one can say, "The Negro was better off as a slave.") No, I'm talking about POTUS' sporting side. Obama whiffed on three-fourths of his Final Four picks, and despite earning the monicker "Golfer In Chief," he still has trouble breaking 90. As Michael Jordan says: "He's a hack."
8. DAVE GETTLEMAN. The Carolina Panthers' GM celebrated a rare division title by cutting the best player in franchise history (a still-effective Steve Smith). Gettleman then tried to go cheap on the offensive line, in the defensive backfield, on special teams and in the receiving corps. Surprise, surprise ... the Panthers won't come close to matching last season's 12 victories, but they do still have a decent shot at 12 losses.
7. U.S. RYDER CUP TEAM. Oh wait ... I think the Europeans just won another match.
6. BILLY BEANE. The "Moneyball" mastermind traded Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland's best offensive weapon and clubhouse leader, in a desperate attempt to prove he could run a championship team. The A's completely collapsed, blew a huge division lead, barely held on for a playoff spot and lost to K.C. in the wild-card game. If only Jonah Hill had been around to save Beane from himself.
5. LAMARR HOUSTON. The Bears' lineman suffered a season-ending knee injury while celebrating a sack last month. He was one of two NFL dopes to pull off the trick, joining the Lions' Stephen Tulloch on the DL. At least Tulloch's sack-dance-collapse combo came in the first quarter of a big divisional victory over the Packers. Houston's slick move occurred in the fourth quarter against the Patriots -- with the Bears losing by 25 points. "I probably shouldn't have celebrated while they're blowing us out, but it happens." Yeah ... to narcissistic idiots.
4. ROY WILLIAMS. Ol' Roy wants us to believe he didn't know a dadgum, ding-dong-dilly thang about the fake courses that kept North Carolina's 2005 NCAA title team eligible. Aww shucks ... he cain't believe his freckle-faced lads were steered into "independent study" classes that included no study and no classes. Said Ol' Roy: "Well, Jiminy Cricket, it waren't my fault!"
3. DONALD STERLING. Hey, he's got no problem with coloreds ... as long as they're shining his shoes.
2. ADRIAN PETERSON. How about this for cajones the size of cantaloupes: He beat his 4-year-old son bloody with a wooden switch and then cried about the NFL disciplining him too harshly. Peterson should be jailed for felony child abuse -- or even worse, traded to the Jaguars.
AND NOW ... THE BALDEST TRUTH'S 2014 CO-TURKEYS OF THE YEAR:
Back when I used to do a lot of public speaking and radio shows, I often would get asked if Athlete X or Coach Y was a "good guy" or a "bad guy." I usually would say something like, "He seems nice but we don't really know what kind of person he is when he's not in public," or "He seems like a jerk but he might be a real sweetheart when the lights aren't shining on him." Truth is, I usually didn't know.
I'm pretty sure I know about Ray Rice. A guy who beats the crap out of his fiancee in an elevator and drags her limp body out into the hallway is pretty much by definition a Bad Guy.
I'm glad the Ravens, after initially defending him, bowed to the politically correct police and fired him. I'm glad Rice no longer has a job in the NFL and I hope he never does again. I wish he were behind bars, sharing a cell with Adrian Peterson. Maybe they could each be given a wooden switch and be told to go at each other, Hunger Games style.
The Rice incident set the stage for a crazy year for the NFL. Crazy, as in bad. Several other cases of extreme violence and lawlessness have come to light.
This has thrust Goodell, the NFL commissioner, into the spotlight. He hasn't handled it well.
Hell, the only way he could have handled things worse would have been if he had curled up in a ball in the corner of a room and muttered, "This isn't fair! This isn't fair!" over and over.
First, he barely slapped Rice on the wrist with a laughably soft two-game suspension -- this after giving major punishments to pot-smokers. When a graphic video of Rice's beatdown of his fiancee surfaced, a video that had been dropped off at NFL HQ for Goodell to view, he finally caved in to public pressure and brought down the hammer.
According to an ESPN report, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome testified having heard Rice tell Goodell that he had hit his fiancee in the elevator. Goodell repeatedly had said details of what had transpired in the elevator were "ambiguous."
Goodell later admitted he "didn't get it right." He often doesn't get it right. His disciplinary process often seems arbitrary. His league's brand has suffered because of it.
Goodell likes to think of himself as the Law And Order Commish. He's the judge, the jury, the executioner and the appellate court judge. I don't know how NFL Players Association leaders can look their constituents in the eyes after recommending a collective-bargaining agreement that gives one man such sweeping, unchecked powers. They would be wise to make it a major -- maybe even THE major -- issue when it comes time for the next CBA.
But I digress.
All year long, the National Felons League has been the butt of jokes ... and Goodell has been the crack of the butt.