2007 Turkeys Of The Year
Adam "Pacman" Jones
Every year, it seems, we get a handful of players who don't know when to say when. Jones, the poster boy for this year's crop of NFL bad boys, incited a fight in a Las Vegas "gentlemen's club" -- euphemism alert! -- that led to three people being shot. New league tough-guy Roger Goodell slapped him with a year's suspension without pay. Which is a euphemism for "hit him where it hurts."
He infuriated Dolphins fans by insisting he would not leave for the Alabama job -- then did just that. He infuriated LSU fans by taking over a divisional rival just two years after he had left the Bayou to pursue what he claimed was a life-long NFL dream, then getting caught on tape referring to Cajuns as "coon-asses." Alabama fans hadn't much cared what others thought about their $4 million-a-year supposed savior until back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and (gulp!) Louisiana-Monroe dropped the Crimson Tide to 6-5. Now Saban has infuriated fans of good taste everywhere by likening those two defeats to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. And he hasn't even played Auburn yet.
After missing a putt to win the British Open, then losing to Padraig Harrington in a playoff, Garcia didn't exactly play the gracious winner in his post-match press conference. His gems included: "It's funny how some guys hit the pin and [the ball] goes a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes 20 feet away;" and "I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field." A month later at the PGA Championship he was disqualified after he signed an incorrect scorecard.
New York Mets
There are losing streaks, and then there are historic, stomach-cringing collapses. The Mets had a seven-game lead on Sept. 12 with 17 games to play. Then it all fell apart. They lost five of six at home to the Nationals and Marlins in the final week of the season. It matched the largest blown lead in September and trumped the '64 Phillies, who had a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play. The <i>New York Daily News</i> ran a poll on the final day of the season, asking Met fans if it was the worst day in franchise history. Eighty-five percent voted yes.
The former NFL coach is lording over a football debacle at Notre Dame. The Irish lost to Georgia Tech in the opener. They were blanked by Michigan and USC. They lost to Navy for the first time in 44 years. And the next week they lost to Air Force. They have won one game at home. As cancharlie.com put it recently, "We're 1-9. Anyone want to defend Weis?"
No Turkeys list is complete without Bonds, who completed his career-long quest to pass Henry Aaron on baseball's all-time home run list by blasting No. 756 this summer, then followed that up, just before Thanksgiving, by being indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. It never ends with Bonds, does it? Uneasy lies the oversized head that wears that crown.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He has become the Michelle Wie of NASCAR -- a marketing machine without the victories to back it up -- but doesn't have the excuse of being a teenager. Junior leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. (the company founded by his late father and owned by his stepmother) to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season was perhaps the biggest NASCAR story of the year, but the hullabaloo was because of his last name and popularity rather than his on-track performance. Dale Jr. finished a mediocre 16th in points and missed the Chase for the Cup for the second time in three seasons. He will carry a 62-race winless streak with him to Hendrick.
We get it, Kobe. You want to be traded. We understand, really. You hate losing. OK, already. Lots of guys don't like their jobs. Lots of guys would rather work someplace else. But you know how many make more than $17 million a year? Not a lot. So just play, OK.
The guy can coach. We'll give him that. But his all-out arrogance -- despite the fact he dresses like a fourth-grade gym teacher -- is simply infuriating. It's what got the Patriots into the whole Spygate thing in the first place, leading to fines for him and a black eye for the franchise. The only thing more maddening than the humorless Beli-cheat will be watching him hold up another Lombardi Trophy.
The talented but volatile ... no, we'd better change that to volatile but talented, because when we're talking this guy, it's first about temper, not talent. Bradley was having a mostly quiet year in '07 before he got into an argument with an umpire -- it <i>was</i> the ump's fault -- and ripped up his knee as manager Bud Black was trying to restrain him. His injury crippled the Padres' hopes, too.
Tour de France champion Floyd Landis' arbitration hearing on doping charges took a series of bizarre twists. The first came courtesy of Landis' fellow American Tour winner Greg LeMond, who disclosed he had been sexually abused as a child and had received a call from Geoghegan, Landis' manager, who threatened to reveal the secret if LeMond showed up to testify. Shortly after LeMond dropped those bombshells, Geoghegan walked up to LeMond, apologized and admitted that he had made the call. That led to a Donald-Trump-like "You're fired" from Landis attorney Maurice Suh to Geoghegan while the two were still standing in the hearing room.
We always wondered whether the ex-quarterback for the Falcons was more style than substance. But then we'd see that arm, and see him escape from the pocket, and we'd fall for him all over again. But, after police uncovered a dogfighting ring he funded, and after Vick admitted to taking part in killing at least a few dogs, it's clear there was no substance there in the first place.
Ideally you'd like a referee to be a guy who upholds the rules. Donaghy resigned from the NBA in July, shortly before reports surfaced of an FBI investigation of allegations that he had bet on games that he officiated during his last two seasons and that he had made calls that affected the final score in those games. On Aug. 15 he pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. He's awaiting sentencing in January and could face up to 25 years in prison. (And as if he wasn't enough of a pariah, he reportedly plans to expose other NBA referees for violating the league's strict anti-gambling policy.)
It was the tantrum heard `round the nation. Earlier this season the Oklahoma State coach, unhappy that a local columnist wrote a critical column on demoted quarterback Bobby Reid, used his entire postgame press conference to trash the story and explain why it wasn't fair or accurate. This after a win over Texas Tech, no less (Gundy didn't say a word about the game). Maybe Gundy should have read the entire article and confronted the writer in private. Instead, he ignited a national firestorm and embarrassed himself and his university.
A three-time Olympic gold medalist in track, Jones pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators when she denied using performance-enhancing drugs, then announced her retirement in a tearful apology outside the U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y. She faces a maximum of six months in prison when she is sentenced in January.
It's long been understood that the Darth Vader of sports agents willingly tramples on all that is good and decent in service of his clients' bank accounts. Lately, though, Boras has even lost that Midas touch -- and thus his sole redeeming feature. He overplayed his hand by announcing Alex Rodriguez's opt-out during the World Series finale, ultimately leading A-Rod to give him the slip while heading back to the Yankees with hat in hand. It's not a good sign when cameraman-bopping Kenny Rogers decides he no longer wants to be associated with you.
You would think Sampson would have learned his lesson. Before he had even coached a game at Indiana, he was sanctioned by the NCAA for improperly making 577 -- 577! -- phone calls to recruits. Then, last month, the NCAA hit Sampson again for ... improperly making phone calls to recruits. This time the punishment was extremely harsh, costing the Hoosiers coach a $500,000 bonus, a scholarship and an assistant coach. Someone take the phone away from this guy.
The Juice is welcomed back to the Turkeys -- some guys just can't stay away -- after he and some pals stormed into a Vegas hotel room stocked with Simpson memorabilia. Problem A: Guns were involved. Problem B: There is some question as to whether the memorabilia actually belongs to Simpson. Cops call that "armed robbery." The Juice is facing life in prison. Again.
Wyoming football coach Joe Glenn got all the bad publicity for flipping off the Utah sideline during a November loss. But if anyone deserved the finger -- and, yeah, people do once in a while -- it was Whittingham, the Utah coach. Really, calling for an onsides kick with your team up 43-0? Glenn deserved some guff by stupidly guaranteeing a win. But that kick was just piling on.
Not every L.A. story has an Hollywood ending. The Galaxy, home of international star David Beckham and U.S. national team stud Landon Donovan, finished with a 9-14-7 record for 34 points (the league's third-worst mark) and failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Though Beckham fought valiantly through the knee injury he brought with him from Europe, he ended up playing in only five regular-season games and failed to provide the spark for a postseason berth. Coach Frank Yallop resigned in the aftermath, escaping from L.A. to San Jose and an expansion team that will debut next season.
The Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach pled guilty to conspiring with a gambling ring and got two years probation. According to an NHL investigation, Tocchet did not bet on hockey and was basically along for the ride in the operation. But commissioner Gary Bettman said it was "inexplicable" that Tocchet continued to legally gamble after the ring had been nailed by Operation Slapshot. "I remain concerned as to whether Mr. Tocchet is adequately sensitive to the seriousness of the admitted misconduct, especially in his role as a highly visible and prominent employee in a professional sports league," Bettman said.
Smarmy, isn't it? This summer's sexual harassment trial brought against the Knicks and their coach, Thomas, was a stain on the NBA, on the once-proud Knicks and on Thomas. Through three weeks of profane testimony, what we learned is Thomas is not a guy you want to be around in the workplace, and the Knicks are not the kind of workplace you want to be around. Congrats, Thomas. You win the 10th annual SI.com Turkey of the Year award.