On the other side of things, sports writer Zach Short also covers the 10 worst happenings of the last calendar year, from the NCAA to European Soccer.
10. Competition dies in MLB (four 100-win teams, four 100-loss teams)
To clarify, this is not in reference to the Houston Astros cheating scandal. The death of competition in Major League Baseball comes from a less obvious enemy: the money-making machine of professional sports. In the right market, the owner and investors in a given sports franchise may stand to profit more from producing terrible results than from trying to win. Despite this truth, the executives that be will often take enough pride in what they are doing to be competitive. For example, Mike Ilitch owned the Detroit Tigers from 1992 to his death in 2017, at which point ownership was transferred to his son Christopher. From 2014-2016, the Tigers won 250 games. From 2017-2019, after the father-son transferral, the Tigers won only 175, averaging a loss of 25 wins per season. The Tigers, one of four 100-loss teams in 2019, lost no less than 114 games last season. Whereas a 100-win season used to be a terrific feat, success has been devalued with the advent of the money-making junior varsity teams.
9. Maximum Security is disqualified
Not requiring as much explanation as the last, the stripping of Maximum Security’s title at the Kentucky Derby was a difficult subject for all who watched. The opinions ranged greatly, with some saying that the rule called into question (that the horse drifted into a competitor’s lane) was a lousy way to disqualify a racer, whereas others would say that the repercussions (terrible as they may have been) were deserved and would set an example for future would-be rulebreakers. Regardless of personal opinion, it is undeniable that all would have gone much more swimmingly had Maximum Security just stayed in his lane.
8. Kobe Bryant calls out child in Instagram post
This one may have flown slightly below the radar of many sports fans, but it was not a great moment for the Black Mamba. In an Instagram post discussing a tournament in which a young girls’ basketball team, coached by Kobe Bryant, took fourth place, the former Lakers superstar took no steps to hide his displeasure with one of the girls on the team. In a caption that was later amended, he said, “The 7th player (not in pic) missed this game for a dance recital so that should tell you where her focus was at this time.” She was a child and he was a household name: it was a breach of etiquette.
7. Antonio Brown
When the band broke up in Pittsburgh, Antonio Brown probably should have just called it quits. This year gave the former superstar a brief stint in New England, a handful of sexual assault allegations, a whole slew of ire coming both before and after the allegations and a weird return to college (that may have been a weak attempt at positive press). Nobody outside of a Pittsburgh locker room can say who is at fault for the death of a dynasty, but it could not have been so bad as to make this year any kind of improvement for Brown. Going from years of brilliant success to a regular TMZ target is certainly a downgrade, making Antonio Brown tonight’s biggest loser.
6. Tua Tagovailoa injury
Alabama is a dynasty in the college football circle, and the argument could be made that they have had a few seasons that could have been average NFL performances in lieu of dominant college records. With this level of success, every team that gets to play them is either quaking in their boots or, more likely, itching for a chance to take down the formidable foe. However, despite how badly any given team may want to beat them, no one wants to win because of an injury. Tua Tagovailoa was one of the most talked about quarterbacks in college football last season and was looking like a top prospect for the NFL. That is, until his tenure at Alabama was cut short by a dislocated hip. The injury took one of the best quarterbacks active out of the game and effectively eliminated Alabama from real championship contention. No one ever wants to win like that.
5. Russell Westbrook Altercation with Jazz Fan
While it is still ambiguous to the public what actually happened that fateful night, it is no secret that what happened was a difficult moment to watch. An exchange between the then-point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and a Utah Jazz fan ended with Russell Westbrook offering a slew of threats to the fan. Westbrook claimed that the fan was out of line and used racially-charged taunts, and an investigation by the Jazz found enough evidence of deplorable behavior to justify banning the fan for life. It was a stark look at the uglier side of sports.
4. England and Bulgaria Soccer Match
Speaking of that ugly side of sports, fans were seen behaving at their absolute worst at the October match between the English and Bulgarian soccer teams. Fans of the Eastern European team engaged in a wide array of racist chants and actions that continued after repeated threats of game cancellation from stadium announcements. It was enough of an issue that the UEFA was prompted to take action and the head coach of the Bulgarian soccer team resigned not long after. Heckling may be a part of sports, but racist taunts are way over the line.
3. The Super Bowl
Possibly the biggest snoozefest of 21st Century Super Bowls and definitely the worst game of the respective postseason, Super Bowl LIII was a colossal disappointment. Almost everyone in the world was cheering for a final game devoid of all Patriots, especially after the Eagles had supposedly ended the reign of terror the year before. However, with almost all of football nation on their side, the Chiefs failed to stop the monstrous franchise from returning. On the other end, fan favorite Drew Brees appeared cheated out of another appearance with the now infamous no-call for pass interference, so there was bad blood with both teams entering the game. Regardless, millions of Americans tuned in to watch anyway, and they were left with one of the lowest-scoring and most incredibly boring Super Bowls of all time and another ring for Tom Brady.
2. Astros’ scandal
There are few parts of sports that are despised more than cheating, and while there are differing viewpoints on the PED-fueled sluggerfest of the ‘90s, it is probably safe to say that no one is okay with what the Astros were doing. Stealing signs is dirty, and it, unlike the aforementioned days of big hitters doping, does not make the game more fun for fans at all. The scandal did nothing but give one team an unfair advantage and possible rob the Dodgers of a title they rightfully deserved back in 2017. At least they did not win another title.
1. The NCAA and James Wiseman
The NCAA has been a heavily criticized organization for years, much of it to do with their strict rules on what can be given to a player to persuade him or her to go to a certain university, whether those means be from said university or not. California’s legislature took on the organization last year with the passage of a bill guaranteeing compensation for the use of a player’s likeness, but the outcome of that is still in the air as the rule will not take effect until January 2023. The problem with the biggest association of college sports reached a nasty boiling point with the plight of young basketball prospect James Wiseman. The issue in question was that Penny Hardaway, current coach of Memphis college basketball, gave money to Wiseman’s family in moving expenses a couple years ago when they moved to the city of Memphis, a time when Hardaway was the coach at Memphis East High School. The NCAA dubbed this improper and suspended Wiseman for 12 games. For coming from an organization that has been controversial for many years and for taking the number one prospect out of college hoops, this ranks as the worst moment in sports for 2019. To make it personal, Wiseman would have been a conference competitor against Tulsa. Golden Hurricane fans have now been robbed of a chance to see a potential number one pick, and the players have been stripped of a chance to compete with a future top NBA pick.