Scandalous: A Decade of Sports Scandals
On the list not because of the infraction itself, but for the sheer arrogance of it. On the surface it’s just the Patriots videotaping a Jets coach who, as Bill Belichick put it last January, was “giving signals in front of 80,000 people. Okay?” Okay. But stationing your own guy in plain view of those same 80,000 people to film him, when you were explicitly told not to, is pretty dumb and deserved to be punished.
11. CARDINALS ALLEGED HACKING
Too bad we used the term 'Spygate' on the Patriots. The Pats weren’t spying. They were merely staring straight ahead across the field through the lens of a video camera while pressing 'record'. But this . . . THIS is spying! The St. Louis Cardinals actually hacked into a rival team's database (are databases still a thing, or is that like '80s spy-movie lingo?) to peek in on personnel records. Currently number 11 on the list but has the potential to climb much, much higher if (when?) more comes out.
10. DONALD STERLING RACIST AUDIOTAPE
A miserable bigoted billionaire slumlord is exposed for being a miserable bigoted billionaire slumlord. Every once in a while bad guys DO get their comeuppance. The NBA kicked Sterling out of the club, issuing a lifetime ban and forcing him to dump the Clippers. He sold the team for $2 billion. They showed him.
The penalties may have been a bit excessive and many ended up being overturned in court. (Sorry, Roger.) But at its core, this was pretty bad. The NFL is violent enough. So the Bountygate program run by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- designed to reward players on his team for injuring opposing players -- definitely crossed the line. This was messing with people’s lives and livelihoods.
8. FIFA CORRUPTION
Meh. Call me American, but I just couldn’t muster any faux outrage over this particular scandal. Not because these aren’t crooked, despicable men doing crooked, despicable things. They are, and they did. It’s just that everyone’s always KNOWN they're crooked, despicable men doing crooked, despicable things and, for some reason, were okay with it. I mean, these are the guys who awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with no real soccer culture, sweltering summer heat (average July temperatures of 113 degrees), and a disgraceful human-rights record that includes the use of slave labor. Isn't that kind of a tipoff?
7. TIM DONAGHY NBA BETTING SCANDAL
NBA officiating is brutal under the best of circumstances. It didn’t need Tim Donaghy to make things worse. But make it worse he did. Betting on NBA games you happen to be officiating is inherently and obviously . . . well, bad. So, too, is basically everything Donaghy has said about the NBA since his exile in 2007. Allegations that the league urged refs to call fouls a certain way and rigged games in an effort to extend playoff series? If any of that was, or turns out to be, true, then this goes rocketing up the list. Bet on it.
6. TIGER WOODS SEX SCANDAL
The greatest golfer in the world undone by one swing of a club: A 9-iron from his ex-wife Elin as she chased him out of their home in November 2009. Tiger’s infidelity earned him a chipped tooth and busted head that night, but what followed in the six years since has been unfathomable: The complete unraveling of both his golf game and his once-squeaky clean (and private) persona.
5. NFL PLAYER CONDUCT
A wise man once said “Ignorance is not a defense." No, wait, that was Roger Goodell; forget that "wise man" business. He was referring to Bountygate when he said it, and then he conveniently forgot his own words during the Ray Rice fiasco. Tape? What tape? The number of missteps made by Goodell here is astounding, punctuated by the absurd notion that he had not seen the video of Rice knocking his fiancé unconscious in an elevator when he decided to suspend him for only two games.
4. LANCE ARMSTRONG DOPING
Lance Armstrong was the greatest. Just listen to this accolade courtesy of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which in 2012 gushed that Lance was part of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." Did you hear that? Sport. Not HIS sport; ALL of sport. Pretty impressive, Lance! You really were the best.
3. NFL CONCUSSIONS
Hey, it’s the NFL again! It’s hard to know how much the league knew about the effect concussions have on a player’s long-term mental health and, if so, what lengths it went to cover it up. As documented in the book and PBS special "League of Denials," the NFL has gone all Big Tobacco on the issue, attacking any science that links head trauma to long-term neurodegenerative conditions. The league has also done its best to slam the door on this story for good, paying out $756 million (out of its $9 billion in yearly revenue) in compensation to concussion sufferers in exchange for being allowed to permanently seal off any other evidence that could, at some point, reveal that the players are, in effect, turning each others' brains into mush, one concussion at a time.
2. MLB STEROIDS
Seems like old hat, but baseball’s steroid scandal may have been the most damaging for its respective sport. And MLB allowed it to happen. The numbers generated during the Steroid Era forever change how we view the past and have altered our ability to enjoy the game when its played “clean”. ("This guy hit .310 with 37 homers and 112 RBI? Eh. That’s all right . . . I guess.") The last big shoe to drop was in 2008, when Alex Rodriguez put on a royal blue sweater and purple lipstick and admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs on national television. (And then was later discovered, in the Biogenesis case, to have kept right on taking them even after his mea culpa.) Not that it came as a huge shock at the time but A-Rod was supposed to be the clean one. The one to restore legitimacy to the game and take back the home-run record from that other cheater. Oops.
1. PENN STATE JERRY SANDUSKY SCANDAL
No explanation necessary. The serial sexual molestation of multiple children by defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and the university's wide coverup that accompanied it is despicable at every level, made worse by the school's and student body’s blind loyalty to Joe Paterno despite his obvious knowledge of what went on and his decision not to act. Just the worst.
BEST (WORST?) OF THE REST
Hmmm. What’s missing? Oh yeah: Deflategate. Why? Seriously; stack it up against the murderers row of liars, cheaters, thieves, adulterers and pedophiles we just went through. It’s like Verbal Quint being included in the lineup of Usual Suspects (well, before we found out he was criminal overlord Keyser Soze). Oh, crap! Spoiler alert!