2011 Turkeys Of The Year
In honor of Thanksgiving, as fans give thanks to the athletes and teams that made for a memorable year in sports, SI.com turns its attention the other way: to the 2011 Turkeys of the Year. Our parade of fowl bumblers starts with the Boston Red Sox, who staged one of the greatest collapses in baseball history by blowing a nine-game lead in the season's final month. Among the culprits: Carl Crawford, who batted .255 following his $142 million free-agent signing, and starting pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester, who were accused of eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games.
The year 2011 was not kind to college sports (witness the horrific Penn State scandal) or the man in the sweater vest. After it was revealed that he failed to notify Ohio State of numerous NCAA violations, including a memorabilia-for-tattoos arrangement that dated back to 2002, Tressel was asked to resign as Buckeyes head coach. Following his Memorial Day departure, the program vacated all of its wins from 2010 and imposed a two-year postseason sanction.
There are bad holes, and there are atrocities. At this year's Australian Open, John Daly experienced one of the latter. He hit seven consecutive shots into the water on the 11th hole before storming off the course and drawing the ire of tournament officials. After his round -- or lack thereof -- Daly tweeted, "when u run out of balls u run out of balls."'
Dwyane Wade and <br> LeBron James
The NBA's most despised team (outside of Miami, that is) ended its season in ignominious fashion when LeBron James and Dwayne Wade mocked Dirk Nowitzki's fever before Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Dirk's response? Scoring 50 points over the next two games as his Mavericks beat the Heat, four games to two.
After a summer free agent shopping spree that added cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, quarterback Vince Young (photo), defensive end Jason Babin and running back Ronnie Brown to an already potent roster, Young proclaimed the Eagles "a dream team." Said Babin,"I feel like we're the Miami Heat of the NFL." Many agreed, and Philadelphia was widely considered to be a top Super Bowl contender...until the Eagles started 4-6 while blowing five fourth-quarter leads and leaving their playoff hopes on life support.
Rosenhaus may be many things, but understated he is not. In a 60 Minutes interview that aired on Oct. 9, the controversial agent proclaimed, "I really believe that the NFL would fall apart without me," referencing his role negotiating between owners and players. And to think, he was nowhere to be found during the 130-day lockout that beset the league from March 11 through July 25.
Owens is still known for his mouth, but apparently, he's no longer valued for his talent. When the NFL's second all-time leading receiver arranged a workout to show off his surgically repaired left knee, only media types attended. He finally received an offer on Oct. 26 -- from the Arena League's Chicago Rush.
Bayi Rockets and Georgetown Hoyas
So much for goodwill. A Beijing exhibition turned ugly as both teams engaged in a benches-clearing brawl. With the game tied at 64, fisticuffs broke out and punches flew as fans hurled water bottles at the floor. Georgetown center Henry Sims was reportedly hit with a chair. The melee defeated the game's intended purpose: furthering international sports diplomacy.
There were many turkeys to choose from in a 2010-11 NHL season littered with brawls, headshots and concussions, but Gillies stands out among the repeat offenders. In his first game back from a nine-game suspension for his role in an epic Feb. 11 donnybrook with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islander goon laid an illegal shot from behind on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild on March 4 and was promptly served with a 10-game ban by the NHL. The two suspensions sidelined Gillies for nearly a quarter of the season.
During an October broadcast, the bombastic Hockey Night in Canada lamented the NHL's effort to eliminate dangerous headshots and concussions. After saluting several crippling checks, Cherry accused the league of taking physical play out of the sport and attacked former enforcers Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson as "turncoats," "hypocrites" and "pukes" for, he claimed, wanting to ban fighting. ( CLICK HERE for his rant .) Cherry drew a firestorm of criticism, even in Canada, where he is beloved, and apologized ( video here ) after the CBC distanced itself with a statement and Grimson, Nilan and Thomson threatened legal action for misrepresenting their concern that the recent deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak may have been linked to their roles as fighters.
Jay Cutler's critics
After going down with a knee injury in the NFC Championship Game, a 21-14 loss to the Packers, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler felt the wrath of his NFL peers. (Top to bottom on left) Maurice Jones-Drew, Darnell Dockett and Asante Samuel, among others, chimed in via Twitter to rip the signal-caller for his perceived lack of toughness. Cutler silenced his doubters by leading Chicago to a 7-3 record in 2011 before suffering a season-ending broken thumb in a game against San Diego on Nov. 20.
In a year plagued by college football scandal, the Fiesta Bowl was no exception. In March, it came to light that CEO John Junker not only set up a scheme to reimburse nearly $47,000 in improper political contributions, but also used bowl expenses to fund several lavish expenditures, including $33,000 for his 50th birthday party and $1,200 for a trip to a Phoenix strip club. Needless to say, he was promptly fired.
Another case of Manny being Manny? After testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs -- his second violation of MLB policy -- the 39-year-old slugger opted to retire rather than serve a 100-game suspension. He hit 555 home runs during his prolific career, but may be better remembered for his wacky -- and often inexplicable -- behavior.
Peyton Hillis' lackluster 2011 goes beyond the Madden Curse. After bursting onto the scene with 1,594 all-purpose yards last season, the 6-2, 250-pound Cleveland Browns back missed six games with hamstring and strep throat issues so far this year. On Halloween, his absence was more unflattering. Hillis failed to show up for a scheduled appearance at the Cleveland Boys and Girls Club, pleading "miscommunication."
Poor Kevin Na. Despite posting a four-under 64 over 17 holes, his first round of the Texas Open will be remembered for a wholly different reason: his meltdown on the ninth hole. Na hit one terrible shot after another, finishing with a tour-record 12-over-par 16. He summed it up best: "One bad hole can basically shoot you out of the tournament. That's what I just did."
Tony La Russa's phone
A duel between two premier pitchers, Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson, Game 5 of the World Series was determined by a communication breakdown. With the game tied in the eighth inning, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa phoned the bullpen to call for Jason Motte. Instead, out trotted Marc Rzepcyzynski and then Lance Lynn. Three pitching changes later, the Cardinals lost 4-2 and fell to the brink of elimination. La Russa enjoyed the last laugh, however, as his Cards rallied to win Game 6 before capping their improbable run with a 6-2 victory in Game 7. He announced his retirement just days later.
The Peyton Manning-less Colts
How much is Peyton Manning worth? If the 2011 Colts are any indication, somewhere between 10 and 14 victories. With Manning sidelined by a neck injury, Jim Caldwell and Co. have been woefully inept, limping to an NFL-worst 0-10 record. On the bright side, the Colts are in prime position to select Stanford wunderkind Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in next April's draft.
So close, so yet so far. That's the story of the 2011 Pirates. After racing to an NL Central-leading 48-43 record on July 16 -- and achieving status as baseball's darlings -- the Bucs floundered down the stretch, going 24-47 to finish in fourth place. The Pirates have now endured 19 consecutive losing seasons, the longest such streak in professional sports.
While many NFL players questioned the lockout, few did so as controversially as this Minnesota Vikings running back. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Peterson huffed, "It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way." Life must be tough. In September, Peterson and the Vikings agreed to a seven-year, $100 million contract extension.
If Adrian Peterson's remarks were offensive, Steelers linebacker James Harrison's lockout comments were simply dumbfounding. In an interview with Men's Journal , Harrison bashed Ben Roethlisberger, the Patriots and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, calling the latter "a crook and a puppet." Three months later, No. 92 was named the meanest player in the NFL in a Sports Illustrated players' poll.
A Turkey of the Year regular , Chelsea's John Terry (second from right) returns to SI.com's annual list after making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time, his mouth did the damage: a racist remark at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand (left). Terry was subsequently placed under a police investigation in November.
With a corruption scandal and racial incidents tarnishing soccer's image, FIFA's President made like Cornelius Fudge, the ostrich-like Minister of Magic in the Harry Potter book and movie series, by denying that racism is a problem on the pitch. In interviews with CNN and Al-Jazeera ( click here for video ), Blatter claimed that any incidents could be settled by a handshake because it's only a game. The result was an international wave of criticism and ridicule that included cutting words from British Prime Minister David Cameron and star player David Beckham. Blatter, 75, resisted calls for his resignation and issued an apology.
Tiger Woods' former caddy of 13 years exacted some catty and unseemly revenge for being sacked because he'd worked on the side for golfer Adam Scott. After Scott won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in which Woods finished tied for 37th, Williams declared, "It's the greatest week of my life caddying over 33 years and I sincerely mean that. I sort of believe in destiny sometimes." Later, at an awards banquet in Shanghai, Williams raised eyebrows and a ruckus when he gloated that his declaration was meant "to shove it up that black [bleep]." He later apologized via his website, lamenting that his comments "could be construed as racist." Ya think?
During a Nov. 9 between-periods broadcast on Versus, the blustery hockey analyst known as Mad Mike walked off the set a la disgruntled CBS newsman Dan Rather to protest the Tampa Bay Lightning's 1-3-1 neutral zone trap defense and the Philadelphia Flyers' response to it. The Flyers repeatedly refused to move the puck in hope of luring the Lightning out of their trap only to have referee Chris Rooney blow his whistle and order a face-off after 30 or so seconds of bizarre inaction. By midway through the first period, the two teams combined had taken three shots on net. "I'm sick and leaving. This was ugly! I'm leaving! Goodbye!" Milbury fumed. ( Watch him here. )
The Atlanta Braves pitching coach created an ugly incident before an April 24 game at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Fan Justin Quinn was with his wife and 9-year-old daughters when he saw McDowell making homophobic remarks and crude sexual gestures at three men during batting practice. When Quinn shouted about the presence of his kids, McDowell told him kids don't belong at a baseball park, brandished a bat, and asked, "How much are your teeth worth?" Quinn's lawyer (center, above) sent Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig an epistle asking for an investigation and disciplinary action. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also demanded an inquiry. "I am deeply sorry that I responded to the heckling fans in San Francisco on Saturday," McDowell later said. "I apologize to everyone for my actions."
In one of the year's most embarrassing showboat productions, the maddeningly clownish Manchester City striker tried to backheel the ball into the back of the L.A. Galaxy's net during the World Football Challenge, flubbed the clear, easy shot ( CLICK HERE for video ) and was promptly subbed out by manager Roberto Mancini.
The notoriously hotheaded driver, who had run-ins with driver Kevin Harvick and owner Richard Childress during the season, was fined $50,000 and suspended by NASCAR for the Nov. 4 Nationwide Series and Nov. 5 Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway after deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday in a Camping World Truck Series race on Nov. 3. ''This is just stupid,'' said Hornaday, whose title hopes were dashed. ''He just drove me into the fence.'' ( Click here to watch the video. ) Added Harvick: ''I think Kyle definitely showed his immaturity and why he's just one of those guys that just can't stand to lose, and just a poor loser,'' Busch, who had his license suspended in August for driving 128 in a 45-miles-per-hour zone in North Carolina, became the first driver to be parked by NASCAR since its "Boys, have at it" edict of 2010.
The New Jersey Nets power forward starred in a farcical gossip page soap opera after being sued for divorce by celebrity Kim Kardashian only 72 days after their elaborate "fairytale wedding" was aired on E!. According to one saucy report in US Magazine Kardashian's "husband from hell" had "soaked up the perks of being married to one of the most successful reality stars ever -- staying out late at clubs in NYC and L.A., and demanding free bottle service and more wherever he went." Besides egomania, a source told US that Humphries "could be downright cruel to Kardashian. He even took exception to her world-famous posterior, calling her 'fat ass,' the source says."
Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz
After handing Schwartz's Lions their first loss of the season, in Detroit on Oct. 16, the 49ers coach gave his counterpart a dismissive backslap and shove as they met on the field. ( Click here for the video. ) Incensed, Schwartz pursued Harbaugh and the two had to be separated. The NFL looked into the incident, but declined to discipline the coaches. "Personally I can get better at the postgame handshake and we'll attempt to do that," Harbaugh admitted. "I don't think that there's any reason for an apology. We spoke about it after the game, and at some point we will talk in private. Apologies always seem to me like excuses."
David Stern and Billy Hunter
Taking a page from the NHL circa 2004, NBA owners and players squared off over a new collective bargaining agreement and ended up jeopardizing the entire 2011-12 season with an angry stalemate. While the owners dug in on their hard line and Commissioner David Stern issued ultimatums, the players union led by Executive Director Billy Hunter rejected a 50/50 revenue sharing deal that would have meant a seven percent cut, split into factions, and filed two antitrust lawsuits. Meanwhile a Poll Position telephone survey found that 76 percent Americans say they don't miss the NBA.
Falling one win shy of the first Stanley Cup in the franchise's 41-year history did not sit well with the Canucks faithful, thousands of whom rioted in the streets of Vancouver after their team lost Game 7 of the Cup final, 4-0, at home to the Boston Bruins. Windows were smashed, stores looted, and cars set afire amid $1 million-plus in damage. At least 140 people were injured. Some "revelers" were later publicly identified after photos of them running amok were posted on the web. One, a 17-year-old water polo player at the University of Calgary, was suspended by his team.
The head football coach at Missouri, a spokesman for the state's "Arrive Alive" safe driving ad campaign, was busted for DWI on Nov. 16 in Columbia, Mo. Adding insult to indignity, the video of his field sobriety test went viral on the internet. Pinkel, who was suspended for one game and docked up to $306,538 in salary, issued a public apology.
Cue Jerry Reed's old country classic "She Got The Gold Mine, I Got The Shaft" . A high-profile Tinseltown divorce from his wife of more than 30 years cost the Los Angeles Dodgers' hardly beloved owner his team, $131 million and four of his six homes. Rather than go quietly into that good night as Major League Baseball took over the Dodgers' day-to-day operations, McCourt, who had been taking millions in loans from FOX to meet payroll and debts, filed for bankruptcy in a bid to keep the team. In the process, he threatened to force other clubs to open their books, a dangerous and disruptive thing with collective bargaining negotiations looming. A judge denied the move and MLB is hoping the Dodgers will be sold by Opening Day 2012.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
A busy year of ducking and taunting Manny Pacquiao, profanely running his mouth, and burning a $100 bill in a nightclub was capped by his classless knockout of Victor Ortiz in the fourth round at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 18. Mayweather landed the KO punch a split second after Ortiz apologized for a headbutt by touching gloves with his opponent. As the crowd booed, the still-undefeated welterweight champ took on HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant, who hit him with tough questions. "You never give me a fair shake. HBO needs to fire you!" Mayweather raged. "You don't know [bleep] about boxing!" to which the 80-year old Merchant replied, "I wish I was 50 years younger and I'd kick your ass!" ( CLICK HERE to watch video .)
During a scrum at the end of the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Canucks winger Alex Burrows appeared to put the bite on the finger of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. The NHL later declined to suspend Burrows after reviewing the incident and finding "no conclusive evidence" of the chomp -- judge for yourself by watching the video -- although Bergeron was seen wearing a bandage on his digit after the game.
The former all-pro defensive tackle, a notorious $100 million free agent bust with the Washington Redskins, was given another chance by the New England Patriots, who acquired him for a fifth-round 2013 draft pick in July. But not even Bill Belichick's vaunted redemption factory could wreak the desired effect. In six games, Haynesworth had two tackles and no sacks and was served with his release on Nov. 8. Now the Tampa Bay Bucs, who claimed him on waivers, will see if they can squeeze anything out of him. "The thing that I would think about Albert, the way his last three years have played out, is that he hates football," Chris Cooley, his former Redskins teammate told CBS Washington.