TSFJ's 6 Anti-Sportsmen Of 2014

Last week, Sports Illustrated announced Madison Bumgarner as its 2014 Sportsman of the Year. Bumgarner was a deserving choice if not an inspiring one. When your name is mentioned with the likes of Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford among others, you must have done something quite special on the pitcher's mound. And Bumgarner did just that, hurling the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series title in five seasons.

When I think about baseball in 2014, I'll think of Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw, the remarkable lefties who produced historic campaigns that evoked tales of yesteryear. But when I think about sports as a whole ... well, I see a more negative portrait. Bumgarner's dominance shined a light in an otherwise bleak calendar for sports. There were others, too — the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Kings, Rory McIlroy, Serena Williams and the incomparable Mone Davis — whose performances did the same.

Yet, as we inch to the close of December, it's hard to not think of 2014 as the year of Roger Goodell and Ray Rice, or Donald Sterling and the farce of post-racial America. Luis Suarez bit a man on the pitch for the third time. Even as the year began, the protests against Putin's Russia, with its stringent anti-gay policies, disrupted the good feelings promised by the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Adrian Peterson fell. So, too, did the venerable Tony Dungy, who admitted he wouldn't draft the openly gay Michael Sam but would welcome back Rice to his football team.

Neither of them made our list, nor did many others who inspired shame. If there's a glass half-full viewpoint to 2014 it's this: We no longer blink at the ignorant — we stop and stare. Because of Sterling and Rice, and in some regards Goodell, we've engaged in conversations about race and domestic violence that had been quieted for too long.

We can take solace in that. We can also be glad this nightmare of a year is almost over.



Roger Goodell's Follies

In 2007, when he updated the league’s personal conduct policy in his own image, most of the mainstream media effused the neophyte NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with praise. Considering the times, it was understandable. They called him stern, quick and decisive; tough on crime; and most of all, proactive to the concerns of the fans and media tiring of player misconduct.

Yet, few cynical minds publicly and privately questioned the concept of one person being the judge, jury and executioner of all discipline within the NATIONAL FOOT… NFL. We were waiting for something to challenge the policy that would be too big and nuanced for Goodell to singularly take on.

No one — sycophants and cynics alike — expected the hell that has reigned in 2014.

It wasn’t as if life for Goodell was that smooth to begin with, despite the wealthy coffers he and his office granted to team owners. Last year began the belated tide against the insane greed of the league along with questions of its altruism, care for former players, stance on bullying, and the on-field imbalance between offense and defense.

To list the many stumbles here exceeds the limits allowed, but let’s also keep in mind that on-field play has gotten even worse, prime time games are still terrible, younger viewers are watching less, the pointless London experiment will continue, the concussion settlement is still in limbo and there was consideration of actually charging the Super Bowl Halftime Show performer (really?). Of course, we have three more weeks until something else ridiculous happens.

In 2007, Goodell said, “We’re not trying to make examples of people. We’re trying to do what is necessary to protect the integrity of the NFL.” Maybe he was right back then, but based on what the NFL has given us in the last few seasons, the personal conduct policy has unintentionally made an example out of its creator.

(Of course, he could do us all a solid and not allow any team from the NFC South in the playoffs, but let’s not get our hopes up.) — Jason Clinkscales



The Ray Rice Saga

Many thought the most disturbing visual to come out of sports news happened this past April when video surfaced of Ray Rice dragging his lifeless fiancé out of a casino elevator in Atlantic City. The first few frames of the surveillance video are the most appalling. Rice has his hands under each of Janay’s arms as he drags her out of the elevator. Before her legs fully exit the elevator doors, he lays her down face first on the casino floor and tries to bring her to consciousness.

The video is short but essentially captures the zeitgeist of everything that was wrong with our country in 2014 — marginalized groups being treated less than human by those who want to maintain the status quo and those people largely getting away with it. This video alone inspired national discussions about domestic abuse and victim blaming, and is one of the biggest reasons Roger Goodell is also on this list.

At the time of the incident, Rice’s lawyer’s called it a “very minor physical altercation.” In a written statement, Rice’s attorney quipped, “The video that's being posted by TMZ Sports is not the complete event, but is merely the end result of what transpired.” The public was asked to reserve judgment until all the facts of the case were revealed.

Many were wrong to assume that the most disturbing sports visual would be Rice dragging Janay’s lifeless body. In September, video surfaced of Rice hitting his now wife with his left hand. Not once, but twice. The second blow forced Janay to hit her head against the elevator wall and then hit the floor.

Rice did not appear as if he showed any remorse during the course of either video and even shoves her legs together at one point with his foot. Rice did not show much remorse for his actions during the press conference set up by the Ravens this past May either, with the Ravens tweeting during that time that “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”

Rice, for beating up his then fiancé, now wife, has essentially received a slap on the wrist while Janay has, at various points of this year, been transformed from the victim to the pariah. Rice was charged with third-degree assault, a felony, but will have the charges dropped after completing a year in a counseling program. The legal system once again fucked up. The NFL and Goodell fucked up. The Ravens fucked up. And all of this was caused because Rice couldn’t keep his hands to himself. — Phillip Barnett



Luis Suarez: Part Footballer, Part Vampire

From the moment you set foot on any type of athletic field as a child, your coach instills the idea of sportsmanship. You're taught to shake hands and comport yourself in a proper manner.

Luis Suarez was clearly never taught any of this. His history of vampiric actions is well-documented, making any outlandish acts he commits on the field anything but surprising.

Yet you'd think, on the world's biggest stage, that Suarez would be on his best behavior to help his native Uruguay reach the promised land. How silly of us to believe such a thing was possible.

Suarez, one of perhaps the three most talented players in the world's game, did the most unsportsmanlike thing you can possibly do. He bit an opponent, again, with the entire universe watching. In Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy, Vampire Luis reared his ugly teeth once more, this time taking a chomp out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder. Although he wasn't penalized during the game, Suarez was subsequently banned from all soccer activities for four months and watched as his Uruguayan teammates failed to escape the round of 16, producing little offense against a sound Colombian squad.

It's one thing to be a dirty player. It's another entirely to blatantly bite people in front of the entire world. Luis Suarez is the furthest thing from sportsmanlike as there is. I'm not sure if I should blame him or his first coach, because clearly this "man" never learned the meaning of the term. He is your anti-sportsman, if not of the year, than perhaps of all time. — The Reverend Paul Revere



Ray Watts Kills UAB Football

Killing sports at the University of Alabama-Birmigham might not have been UAB President Ray Watts' goal when he set out to figure out if keeping the football program was costing the school more money than it was earning. Somehow in the South, where football happens to be quite popular, Watts managed to cook up a report that said the sport was losing the school money.

In less than a week, VICE Sports shot holes into Watts and the report prepared by consulting firm CarrSports. It turns out CarrSports, which probably received a nice payment for this report, wasn't so good with its own numbers. VICE pointed out how the report severely underestimates what the football program could bring in for the next few years.

It was these shoddy numbers Watts hid behind when he addressed the UAB football team, a collection of young men figuring the world out who were at once all losing their most meaningful bond and source of structure at UAB. This is the one part of the story when Watts gets a little credit: He stood there and took his lumps, which he rightly deserved:

There are higher forces at play here — namely, Paul Bryant Jr., son of legendary Alabama Coach Bear Bryant, and the rest of the University of Alabama System trustees who want to nix the UAB program. The thinking is that Bryant wants to protect the Alabama football program by funneling athletes who would have gone to UAB into Bama. The players might not be good enough to all start, but having depth is important. Nixing as much recruiting competition in-state is important for Bryant and, as an extension, the university he serves.

Watts could have stood up and been the advocate for his student-athletes. He would have lost his job, but he would have gone down on the right side of history.

Instead, Watts caved, cut the team and will likely lose his job anyway.

He should be run out of town on a rail and dumped in a ditch. — Carden Hedelt



Donald Sterling Finally Falls

They knew he was an abhorrent human being for years. They knew he was also the worst owner in the four major pro sports in North America. They knew he and his wife were slumlords who evaded intervention with ease. They knew that through revenue sharing and impressive levels of thrift, he managed to make more money with losing basketball than teams that actually earned ticket sales with winning hoops.

So the man who looks like a real-life Abe Simpson without the elderly charm opened his flap a bit too much. Again, there may always be questions about how the mouse trap worked, but there’s no doubt it got the job done. V. Stiviano and TMZ did what the mainstream basketball media, the Los Angeles Times and others couldn’t do (and that David Stern wouldn’t).

While she has her own issues to work out, Stiviano was able to solve the problem of the black hole that had been the Clippers franchise during Sterling's stewardship. Life is seemingly good under new owner Steve Ballmer.

Yes, an already wealthy Sterling walked away far wealthier than he could have hustled with any of his schemes. He wasn’t going to change, and Adam Silver’s decision to banish him forever didn’t exactly cull any sincere apologies. It’s completely understandable that many still view his big payout as an issue as if he was rewarded for his racism.

Yet, Sterling was booted out with the force of an angry ownership group that sure as hell didn’t want him to profit from everyone else’s work any longer. He’s the only person on this list from whom we never have to hear from again when it comes to sports.

Better late than never. — Jason



Sepp Blatter Makes Goodell Look Competent

Despite its high standing and association with an extraordinarily popular video game (not to mention sport), FIFA has never been a bastion of integrity. This year was no different than the last several, but with new attention paid to sports and human rights, the organization suffered a precipitous fall in the court of public opinion.

At the head of it all was Sepp Blatter, a 78-year-old man who has presided over FIFA since being elected president in 1998. Blatter's indiscretions range from the comical to the shockingly offensive. He once suggested that female players should wear shorter shorts to make women's soccer more popular. When questioned about 2022 World Cup host Qatar's stance on homosexuals and what it will mean for traveling gay fans, Blatter encouraged those fans to refrain from "sexual activity."

The Qatar experiment, some eight years prior to the tournament itself, has been an utter disaster and marks the low point of Blatter's dubious tenure. Accusations of corruption have compromised the legitimacy of the awarding from its inception. Blatter has done little to quell concerns. This year, he failed to address the growing death toll of migrant workers in Qatar.

Then there was the relatively blind eye turned to the protests that engulfed Brazil during this summer's World Cup. Blatter has done little more than shrug in the face of mounting discord. Human rights? Not his problem. Bribery? He'll look into it.

It's hard to believe that Blatter has retained his position even as the opposition grows. UEFA president and France legend Michel Platini recently called for Blatter's resignation. The problem is few people on earth, if any, could clean up the heaping pile of garbage Blatter will leave behind. — Dillon Friday

NEXT SLIDESHOW: 6 Things We Know Now That The College Football Playoff Selections Are Final

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