Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving's over, but there's always room for the Turkey of the Year countdown

For 17 years now, I've used the Thanksgiving holiday as an occasion to lob a few grenades at each sports year’s chumps, losers, lunkheads, criminals and clods. Because I was traveling last week, this Turkey of the Year countdown is, for the first time, being presented after we’ve all consumed our turkey, stuffing and pie. I’m looking at it as a heaping helping of luscious leftovers!

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); Roger Goodell and Ray Rice (2014).

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that up until 2010, each of those Turkeys did their gobbling in Chicago or the Midwest. That's because I columnized 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. Still, as always, I dedicate this in memory of Gene.

So grab (yet another) hunk of pie and enjoy ...

12. BO RYAN ... Bo knows winning -- and whining. After masterfully coaching his Wisconsin Badgers into the NCAA title game, he couldn’t resist taking shots at Duke, Kentucky and other programs that use "rent-a-players." He forgot to mention that he went hard after Kevon Looney -- a freshman at UCLA last year whom everybody knew would be 1-and-done -- as well as two of this season’s top frosh, Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Maryland’s Diamond Stone. So what Ryan really meant was that he didn’t like the fact that Coach K and Coach Cal were able to land the kind of 1-and-dones who apparently want nothing to do with Coach Bo. Hypocrites make wonderful turkeys!

11. TED LILLY ... The former Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, A’s and Blue Jays pitcher took out an insurance policy on his RV and then crashed it four days later, claiming $4,600 in damage. Routine stuff, right? Yeah, except the crash actually happened five days BEFORE he took out the policy. Once nabbed, he faced three felony charges of insurance fraud. He took a plea bargain to avoid jail time and received only a small fine, community service and probation. I can see why Lilly would try to get away with a $4,600 scam, given that he only made $80 million during his 15-year career. Of course, I’ll always remember Lilly for the way he slammed down his glove – Bad News Bears style – after giving up a home run in Game 2 of the 2007 NL playoffs. 

10. BRANDON BOSTICK ... As part of Green Bay’s “hands” unit in last season’s NFC title game, he had one job: Block for Jordy Nelson so that the Packers’ No. 1 receiver could catch the football if Seattle sent an onside kick in their direction. Instead, Green Bay’s third-string tight end tried to make the catch himself. The ball went off of his hands and helmet and was recovered by the Seahawks, who promptly drove for the winning touchdown. (As bad as that was, he didn’t deserve the death threats that came his way. What the hell is wrong with people?)

9. CLEVELAND FIREWORKS GUY & JASON PIERRE-PAUL ... Fireworks are fun, right? Pity the poor sap in charge of setting off fireworks after Indians home runs; he accidentally hit the button after Kansas City’s Alex Rios went yard and was last seen burying his head in his hands. And really pity Pierre-Paul, the Giants defensive end who damn near blew off his hand on the Fourth of July. Mom was right about not playing with matches!

8. PATRICIA DRISCOLL & ANNA HANSEN ... You can be forgiven if your reaction to both names is, “Who?” Well, Driscoll is the ex-wife of auto racer Kurt Busch, who testified in court that Driscoll is a trained assassin who has been dispatched on covert missions around the globe. And Hansen is the long-time girlfriend of Lance Armstrong; she claimed to have been driving the car when a drunk Armstrong drove into two parked cars after a party and then fled the scene. Armstrong, one of the most infamous pathological liars in history, let Hansen take the fall. You can’t make up stuff like this.

7. GREG ABBOTT ... After the Astros scored three runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-2 lead in Game 4 of the ALDS, the Texas governor sent out a tweet congratulating the ‘Stros for advancing to the ALCS. Problem was, the Royals came back with five runs in the eighth. They won that game and then took Game 5 two days later to capture the series. Oops! But hey, at least this Texas governor didn’t take the national debate stage and forget which federal agencies he’d eliminate. Nor did he proclaim “Mission Accomplished” a few months into an unnecessary, unfunded, decade-long war. In other words, there’s still plenty of time to REALLY embarrass yourself, Gov. Abbott!

6. ROGER GOODELL ... It was another tough year for the NFL commissioner, our 2014 Turkey of the Year. Tom Brady got away with cheating. Greg Hardy got away with beating the crap out of his girlfriend. Goodell’s nemesis, the Patriots, won the Super Bowl and he spinelessly skipped their banner-raising celebration. Goodell also got caught lying in the aftermath of the Ray Rice fiasco. And so on and so on. Why do NFL owners put up with him? (Hell, they don’t just put up with him, they pay him tens of millions of dollars annually!) Well, because he is good at making the league money, especially TV money. So maybe it wasn’t that bad a year after all for Goodell, who can count his bounty while he ignores his critics.
5. PETE CARROLL ... The Seahawks coach has taken endless grief for his decision to try to win the Super Bowl by having Russell Wilson attempt a second-down pass from the 1-yard line -- a pass that was intercepted by the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler. Some have labeled it the worst play call in NFL history. Most felt Carroll should have run Marshawn Lynch up the middle. Frankly, I don’t think passing in that situation was such a bad idea, but I’d have preferred Carroll give Wilson a run-pass option to the outside, a play that would have let Wilson easily throw the ball away if nobody was open and there was no running lane. Regardless of what one thinks of Carroll’s decision, though, there’s no question it began what has turned out to be a trying 2015 for him and his team.

4. DUKE-MIAMI GAME OFFICIALS ... I don’t know why anybody should be critical of
referee Jerry Magallanes and his crew. After all, t
hey only blew FOUR calls during the Hurricanes’ last-second, 8-lateral desperation play – a play that resulted in a ridiculous Miami touchdown that cost Duke the game. Miami finished 8-4 to Duke’s 7-5 and probably will get to play in a more lucrative bowl game, too. The sitaution was so bad that the ACC actually suspended the crew for two weeks -- and conferences HATE acknowledging officiating errors. While this boo-boo was especially amazing because the officials didn’t correctly use a replay system that was put in place to avoid just this kind of outcome, it was merely this season’s most egregious screw-up by college and pro football refs. Pass interference especially seems like just a “best guess” for these clowns. 

3.  LARRY BROWN & SMU ADMINISTRATION ... I understand the allure of Brown, who wins wherever he coaches. But he should stick to the pros, where he doesn’t have to cheat to win. Brown’s SMU hoops team was barred from the postseason and hit with other major sanctions after Brown was found guilty of academic fraud and unethical conduct. Brown, whose Hall of Fame career includes a long history of NBA success, has coached at three universities. All three – Kansas, UCLA and SMU – ended up getting punished for major violations under Brown. SMU, the only school ever to be hit with the “death penalty” for football violations a couple decades back, should have known better. But I guess Brown is just too darn irresistible.

2. CHASE UTLEY ... The dirty Dodger’s sinful slide in the NLCS ended the season of Mets SS Ruben Tejada. It was gratifying that the incident ended up fueling the passion that soon helped the Mets end the Dodgers’ season. Utley used to be a great player, but he has been declining for years -- and apparently this kind of douchebaggery is all he has left. Sorry, but those who argue it was just a guy “playing hard” are turkeys, too.

And now, for the 2015 Turkey of the Year, it's nice to return the "honor" to its Chicago roots ...


After missing two-thirds of his team's games over the previous four seasons, what was the major topic the Bulls star wanted to discuss as the team opened training camp this year? His health? His excitement about getting back with his teammates? His desire to return to MVP form and lead the Bulls to the NBA title? Not quite. 

"This whole summer I had tunnel vision. My mindset was I was working out every day and spending as much time as possible with my son, making sure my family is financially stable. As far as you see all the money they're passing out in this league -- just telling the truth -- and knowing my day will be coming up soon. It's not for me. It's for P.J. and his future. So that's what I'm thinking about right now." 

It's important to note that Rose had been asked a question about an entirely different subject. Unsolicited, he brought up being a free agent -- something that's still two years away for him.

A reporter asked a follow-up question just to make sure that really was Rose’s main focus.

“Yeah … I’m preparing for it.” 

Hey Derrick, you know what really will help you make even more money than the $100 million-plus your current contract is paying you? 

How about playing most of your team’s games and, you know, actually accomplishing something in the postseason?!?!

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