TOP 10 CONTROVERSIES
1. New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal–This controversy has had more twists and turns than a weekly soap opera or pro wrestling show. The Saints coaching staff were accused of paying players to injure opponents, and in turn the team was fined $500,000, head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games, assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, who was charged with running the scheme, was suspended indefinitely. Saints’ players Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita were all suspended for different lengths (Vilma for the season), but the NFLPA appealed the suspensions. After a lengthy appeals process that eventually led to former commissioner Paul Tagliabue making the final decision, all of the players suspensions were reversed because Tagliabue ruled that the players should have been fined, not suspended.
2. Replacement Refs–Only the NFL could survive two major controversies and see little to no effect on the perception of the league. The NFL went five weeks with replacement referees, as the regulars were in labor dispute. Each week there were moments of bad calls, missed rulings, and overall futility among the replacements, and it all came to a head with a blown call in a Monday Night Football game on national television. With the last play of the game, the replacement refs ruled that the Seahawks scored a touchdown, on a play that likely should have been ruled an interception, giving the Seahawks a win against the Packers. More public outcry ensued, and the NFL quickly reached an agreement with the regular refs in time for the weekly Thursday night game.
3. NHL Lockout–The NHL and its players have not been able to reach a labor agreement, and it’s very possible that an entire NHL season will be cancelled for the second time in the last decade. If there are no games and no money to be shared among players and owners, what is there left to negotiate?
4. Lance Armstrong–Lance Armstrong was stripped of all of his cycling accomplishments because of the doping investigation led by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. He is banned from cycling forever, and because of the mess Lance resigned as director of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and major sponsors dropped Armstrong, including Nike, RadioShack and Oakley.
5. Infield Fly Rule–In the first ever National League wild card playoff game, an umpire’s ruling led to a 19-minute delay while fans at Turner Field littered the field with beer cans, water bottles, and foam tomahawks. Down 6-3 in the eighth inning and with one out, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a blooper that landed in the middle of the outfield in between Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Pete Kozma. This allowed the bases to be loaded with the go-ahead run, slugger Brian McCann, at the plate. At least that’s what Braves fans thought. Umpire Sam Holbrook decided that the shortstop had been “camped” under the pop up and applied the infield fly rule, which meant Simmons was out, despite the fact that the ball was halfway into the outfield. Most baseball analysts said they had never seen an infield fly rule called that deep into the outfield. The Braves lost the game, and because of the nature of a one-game playoff, many fans will blame the umpire for ruining Chipper Jones’ last postseason.
6. Oscar Pistorius–South African runner Oscar Pistorius, one of the best runners in the Paralympics, won his fight to compete against able-bodied runners. Back in 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled that Pistorius’ “Cheetah” prosthetic blades were considered a technical aid, based on a study by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann that the IAAF and Pistorius had endorsed, and therefore was in violation of the rules and gave Pistorious an advantage over able-bodied runners. This meant Pistorius could not compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics. But in May of 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that not enough scientific information was known to prove that the “Cheetah” blades gave Pistorius a competitive advantage and, therefore, cleared him to compete against able-bodied athletes. The IAAF agreed that same day and accepted the decision. Even though Pistorius didn’t make the 2008 South African team, he did make the 2012 team for the London Olympics and became the first double-amputee to complete in the Olympics.
7. Tanking in Badminton–Yes, there was tanking in badminton. Eight Chinese badminton players were tossed out of the Olympics after it was discovered that the competitors were purposely losing in the qualifying rounds in order to get a better draw once they started playing for real.
8. Flop Fines–Flopping has long been a perceived problem in the NBA. Those who do it call it an art form (see Shane Battier, Reggie Miller, Vlade Divac, etc.). Those who don’t like it, say it kills the integrity of the game. NBA Commissioner David Stern agreed with the latter, and instead of holding referees responsible for missing the call, he decided to start making flopping a fineable offense. Each offense gains a higher fine, and if you flop too much, you could be suspended. (It would be kind of nice if we could fine our politicians when they do this.)
9. French low blow–Another Olympic controversy occurred in a basketball game against France and Spain. In the basketball quarterfinals, after the game had been decided, French forward Nicolas Batum (also a member of the Portland Trailblazers) punched Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro below the midsection. Batum was not ejected from the game and showed no remorse after the game, saying, “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.” When asked if the low blow showed the Olympic spirit, Batum accused Spain of throwing a game in pool play in order to avoid the United States until the gold medal game by saying, “Do you think if you lost a game on purpose, that’s the Olympic spirit?” Batum eventually apologized through Twitter, though never face-to-face to the man he punched.
10. Tim Tebow/Mark Sanchez–This really isn’t a true controversy, but the amount of media coverage devoted to the quarterback situation with the New York Jets would have made you think it was. There was daily speculation all season on whether or not Tim Tebow would replace Mark Sanchez as starting quarterback of the New York Jets, and head coach Rex Ryan had to address it at nearly every press conference. Sanchez played poorly all season and the Jets’ offense was putrid, but once New York was eliminated from the playoffs, Sanchez was replaced with…Greg McElroy not Tebow. Making everyone wonder why the Jets ever traded for Tebow in the first place.
By Aaron May
This was published in the December 2012 DigiMay. Aaron May is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine.
TOP 10 UPSETS
1. Lehigh beats Duke (NCAA basketball)–Duke, a perennial powerhouse loaded with talent such as Austin Rivers (10th pick in 2012 NBA Draft), Seth Curry and the Plumlee brothers, Miles (26th pick in NBA Draft in 2012) and Mason, lost in the first round to a school not considered a threat. Led by C.J. McCollum’s 30 points, No. 15 seed Lehigh (No. 87 RPI) won 75-70 against No. 2 seed Duke (7 RPI) in one of the most stunning upsets of the 2012 NCAA tournament.
2. Texas A&M beats No. 1 Alabama (NCAA football)–Texas A&M stunned Alabama, 29-24, on Nov. 10. In the previous week, Alabama made a miraculous comeback at LSU, but they came home to a tougher challenge: Johnny Manziel. He passed for 253 yards, rushed for 92 and scored two touchdowns, torching Alabama’s vaunted defense to end a 13-game Alabama winning streak and almost spoiling the Crimson Tide’s national title hopes. The upset propelled Manziel to win the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first freshman to do so.
3. New York Giants beat Green Bay Packers (NFL)–Green Bay looked unstoppable last season, losing just one game in the regular season while outscoring opponents by 201 points. But Eli Manning and the New York Giants came to Lambeau Field and did what the Packers do to other teams as Manning passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns, winning 37-20 in one of the more unexpected blowouts you will ever see.
4. Norfolk State beats Missouri (NCAA basketball)–Missouri can thank Duke for this upset not being remembered that well. Like Duke, Missouri was a No. 2 seed (No. 12 RPI), which lost to a No. 15 seed, Norfolk State (117 RPI). Norfolk State, led by Kyle O’Quinn’s 26 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocked shots, edged Mizzou, 86-84. Missouri had a chance to win at the end, but Phil Pressey’s desperation three did not fall. Unfortunately, this upset was overshadowed by Lehigh beating Duke, as they played later that day in prime time.
5. Baylor beats No. 1 Kansas State (NCAA football)–When Alabama lost its No. 1 ranking after falling to Texas A&M, Kansas State was left in the driver’s seat to make the BCS national title game. All that was left was to beat unranked Baylor and unranked Texas. But Kansas State was blown out at Baylor, 52-24, ending its championship hopes and Colin Klein’s Heisman campaign.
6. Philadelphia 76ers beat Chicago Bulls in first round (NBA)–The eighth seeded 76ers upset the top seeded Bulls in six games in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. The upsetting thing about this upset was that Derrick Rose, the NBA’s 2011 MVP, was injured in the fourth quarter of Game 1 while the Bulls had a commanding lead. Rose was lost for the rest of the postseason and the Bulls were lost without him, losing all but one more game the rest of the way.
7. Chaminade beats Texas (NCAA basketball)–A Division II team beat a Division I powerhouse. Texas, which has one of the largest recruiting budgets in college basketball, let a team that gets on TV just once a year, walk all over it, as the Longhonrs fell to Chaminade, 86-73.
8. Butler beats No. 1 Indiana (NCAA basketball)–In a Hoosier state classic, walk-on Alex Barlow hit the winning shot in overtime to help Brad Stevens’ squad knock off in-state rival and No. 1 ranked Indiana, 88-86. Butler provided a little March Madness in the month of December.
9. Ohio beats Michigan (NCAA basketball)–Ohio was a No. 13 seed and Michigan was a No. 4 seed, but that didn’t faze the “other” team from Ohio, as the Bobcats were led by D.J. Cooper’s 21 points. Ohio hung on for a 65-60 victory, and then advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to North Carolina in overtime.
10. New York Giants beat New England Patriots (NFL)–Once again, Eli Manning and the Giants were underdogs against Tom Brady and the Patriots in a Super Bowl. And once again, Manning led a late drive to help the Giants pull the upset. We really shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were anyway.
By Aaron May
This was published in the December 2012 DigiMag. Aaron May is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine.
With 2012 completed, let’s look forward to 2013. There are many topics to think about and many questions to be answered, so let’s get to it.
BCS National Title — On Jan. 7, Notre Dame will play Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Notre Dame has the No. 1 rated defense in college football, giving up just 10.3 points per game, but Alabama’s defense is No. 2, giving up 10.7 points per game. I expect a low-scoring game. If Alabama wins, it will be its third national title in the past four years, and the seventh consecutive title by a SEC team. Can Notre Dame stop the SEC’s run on the BCS?
Super Bowl — The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots look to be headed toward a showdown in the AFC Championship game, and the NFC looks up for grabs. Atlanta has a record that suggests that it is the cream of the crop, but they haven’t dominated. San Francisco switched quarterbacks mid-season and Green Bay has trouble keeping teams from scoring. And then there was the muddled NFC East, which included the Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants battling it out to see which one represented the division.
Giantism — Giants won two of the sporting world’s biggest prizes in 2012: the World Series (San Francisco) and the Super Bowl (New York). (And WWE’s 7-foot, 500-pound “Big Show,” once named “The Giant,” also became World Heavyweight Champion, for what it’s worth). Can Giants repeat in 2013?
Spring Training — Spring training gives hope to sad people known as Cubs, Astros and Royals fans. Theoretically, because everyone starts with a 0-0 record, any team has a chance to put together a magical World Series winning season, even the hapless (or hopeless) Cubbies.
Angels in the Outfield — With the Los Angeles Angels signing slugger Josh Hamilton, the Angels have people thinking of the greatest 3-4 hitters of all-time. Duos like Maris-Mantle, Ruth-Gehrig, Mays-McCovey, etc. The Angels lineup will include Hamilton and Albert Pujols, hitting 3 and 4, with Rookie of the Year/MVP runner-up Mike Trout leading off. The Angels will score a lot of runs, but the question seems to be, how many records can their offense break?
March Madness — Duke and Indiana have been early favorites to reach the Final Four, but you never know what can happen in March. We saw a preview of this when Butler beat No. 1 Indiana in overtime a few weeks ago. It will be fun, as always, to see which team will become the next Cinderella and which team will get its “one shining moment.”
Wrestlemania 29 — Who will face the Undertaker at Wrestlemania? (Sorry, that one’s probably just for me.
Heat Repeat — The story this summer will be if LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be able to make it a repeat.
Wild West — The NBA’s Western Conference could be a free-for-all this summer. The Lakers were everyone’s preseason favorite, but have been a mess in the first two months. The Thunder traded away James Harden in training camp and you have to wonder if they will regret it. We assume the Spurs are too old, the Warriors are too young, and the Grizzlies are the Hawks of the West (great in regular season, awful in postseason). Maybe it will be the “other” team from L.A., the Clippers, who can completely shed the whole “laughing stock of the league” label they’ve always had with a Finals appearance. As long as Will Smith doesn’t write another song about the Wild West, it should be a fun postseason.
162 = 1 — Major League Baseball seems intent on staying with the one-game, wild card playoff structure; instead of moving to a three-game series like many players would like to see. Baseball plays a regular season of 162 games, and then tells wild card teams they have one game to prove their worth. Doesn’t really seem fair does it? Business-wise though, the one-game playoffs were huge for TV ratings, outdrawing the division series. Despite record attendance figures, declining TV ratings have been a problem for baseball in the past few years, so anything that helps them trend up will be a good thing in Commissioner Bud Selig’s eyes. After the infield fly debacle in Atlanta in 2012, baseball needs these games devoid of controversy in 2013 or people will see it as a sham, tune out and go back to watching Duck Dynasty.
#FreeTebow — Where will Tim Tebow wind up? And will he actually play? Or will we continue to have the most popular backup quarterback since Doug Flutie roaming the sidelines? This is the most important story of all for 2013! Okay, maybe not, but Skip Bayless sure makes it seem that way.
2013 Football — It seems kind of odd to start looking ahead to next year’s football season when this one’s not over yet, but this column is about 2013. It’s impossible to predict which team will make next year’s Cotton Bowl, but there are a few questions to ponder for next season: Can Cam Newton break his sophomore slump? Can RGIII, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson avoid one? Will the Saints rebound from their scandal-filled 2012? How much longer will Peyton Manning and Tom Brady play? Will “Johnny Football” lead Texas A&M to championship heights? Will the SEC continue to dominate NCAA football? Will this crazy conference expansion continue? Will the NCAA become one giant conference of 130 teams? Will Roger Goodell end football by deeming the sport too dangerous to play? Will “Girl Meets World” be as good as “Boy Meets World”? And will we finally find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?
So many questions!
Aaron May is a staff writer and videographer for Sports Spectrum. This column was published in the December 2012 Sports Spectrum DigiMag.