A-Rod. Kobe. Johnny Football. Luis Suarez. FOX Sports' Sam Gardner takes a look at the people who made us #smh this year.
The Ray Rice case was horribly mismanaged by the NFL, and as the face of the league, Commissioner Goodell took the majority of the heat, and deservedly so. Initially, Rice was only banned two games for the elevator assault on his fiancee, Janay Palmer, a penalty that was only increased after the second video, of the actual punch, was made public. Goodell has maintained that the league never saw the in-elevator footage, but an informal straw poll of NFL fans would probably reveal that few believe that defense. In the wake of the Rice case, there were plenty of calls for Goodell’s job, but Goodell, who made a reported $44 million last season, doesn’t seem to have much interest in stepping down.
Getty ImagesAndrew Burton
In a matter of a few weeks, California Chrome went from unknown to America’s favorite horse as he chased the Triple Crown, but in a matter of a few seconds after Chrome’s fourth-place finish at the Belmont, his owner, Coburn, turned heel and embarrassed himself with an impassioned rant on national TV. In an interview during the NBC broadcast, Coburn slammed some of the horses opposing Chrome as 'cowards' for not competing in earlier Triple Crown races, leaving them rested to beat him in the Belmont. To many, his point was fair enough, but the delivery was a disaster, and after doubling down on his comments in subsequent days, Coburn eventually apologized for his actions.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
United States Ryder Cup team
The United States has struggled of late in the bi-annual Ryder Cup, winning the competition only once since 1999, and after another loss at this year’s event in Scotland, tensions among the US team members reportedly grew high. For starters, team captain Tom Watson benched Phil Mickelson and led a reportedly contentious team meeting during the tournament. In a news conference later, Mickelson fired back, saying that the team was run better and was more successful when Paul Azinger was the captain. A couple weeks later, the PGA of America formed a Ryder Cup task force to assess the US team’s recent failures against the Europeans, but we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see if it pays off.
Getty ImagesDavid Cannon
The controversy over the Washington Redskins’ nickname has been one of the most hotly debated topics of the last year, and the man at the middle of it is the team’s owner, Snyder, who has shown total resistance to the idea of changing the name, despite criticism from all sides about the historically offensive nature of the moniker. You don’t have to look hard to find a story about Snyder’s difficult and controlling tendencies, and he doesn’t seem too concerned with the ways in which the continued use of the name Redskins might further sully his reputation.
Getty ImagesPatrick McDermott
One of the most vilified players in baseball, A-Rod has been denying the use of performance enhancing drugs for years, despite plenty of reported evidence to the contrary. Finally, last year, baseball cracked down, suspending him for the entire 2014 season. Then, earlier this month, a report came out detailing Rodriguez’s confession to DEA agents that he had been using steroids for years. He’ll be eligible to return to the Yankees lineup next season, but don’t expect him to receive a warm welcome back when he does.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
Brazilian Soccer team
No one was more glued to this year’s World Cup than the soccer-hungry country of Brazil, which also happened to be hosting the 2014 event. Unfortunately, its national team decided to leave its skills at home in the Cup semifinal against Germany, allowing four goals in six minutes and falling behind 5-0 in the first half before going on to lose 7-1. The result was devastating for the country and the team, which saw several players apologize for the team’s performance. The team’s manager would also resign in the wake of that defeat and the team’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the third-place game.
AFP/Getty ImagesFABRICE COFFRINI
The United States’ most recognizable swimmer, Phelps was busted for DUI in September after he was clocked by police officers driving 84 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone in Baltimore. The DUI was Phelps’ second — the first coming in 2004 — and earned the 18-time gold medalist a six-month ban from USA Swimming. Phelps had previously been suspended by USA Swimming in 2009 after a photo of him using a marijuana pipe made the rounds, and had announced earlier this year that he was coming out of retirement to begin preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games.
AFP/Getty ImagesPATRICK HAMILTON
If you thought that leaving Texas A&M would keep the Cleveland Browns backup quarterback out of the headlines, you were dead wrong. Manziel, the glutton for attention that he is, found himself in the midst of plenty of controversy yet again this year. He was drafted by the Browns in May, and shortly thereafter, he had a reported wild weekend in Vegas. At various points, he was photographed drinking champagne while riding an inflatable swan float, holding stacks of cash up to his ear like a phone and rolling up money to appear as though he was using cocaine. Just yesterday, a report came out about an altercation in his apartment building with what his agent called an "aggressive" fan. One report described the Browns as 'alarmed' by Manziel’s antics, but I’m not so sure what they expected.
Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
It’s never good when your team stinks and there are calls for you to be replaced by an over-the-hill backup quarterback, and it seems Jets QB Geno Smith agrees. As Smith came off the field following the Jets’ Week 4 loss to the Detroit Lions, news cameras caught the second-year player yelling 'f--k you' to some fans in the stands at MetLife Stadium. It’s unclear what the fan said to warrant such a reaction, but it probably had something to do with the Jets being 1-3 at the time and Smith’s 68.9 quarterback rating in the game. Smith was later fined $12,000 for his troubles, and by the end of the month, he’d lost his starting job to Michael Vick.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
For all of the things Kobe is, there are a lot of things he isn’t. Patient is one. Willing to let someone else shoot is another. He’s also been known to be a bit of a control freak, and now that his career in Lakers purple and gold is starting to wind down, his act is said to be wearing thin on many in the basketball world. An ESPN report earlier this fall slammed Bryant and named him specifically as one of the major reasons for Dwight Howard’s departure from LA, as well as the reason why so many big-name free agents appear to be giving the Lakers the cold shoulder. Kobe has responded in kind, taking more shots than ever as LA is off to one of the worst starts in team history.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Mike Priefer and the Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings parted ways with controversial punter Chris Kluwe more than a year ago, and this year, Kluwe returned fire, threatening a lawsuit claiming that the team illegally released him on the basis of religious and sexual orientation discrimination, among other reasons. At the center of the claims was Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, whom Kluwe alleged was intolerant of Kluwe’s gay rights activism and once said in a special teams meeting that, 'We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.' In August, Kluwe announced that he and the Vikings had reached a settlement to avoid the lawsuit.
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The owner of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested earlier this year and charged with DUI after he was pulled over in March while high on painkillers. He would later go to rehab and plead guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation, but that wasn’t the only penalty he faced. Irsay was also suspended by the NFL for six games and fined $500,000.
Getty ImagesJoey Foley
Only in America can you get caught shoplifting and turn it into an endorsement deal, but that’s what happened to Randle, the Dallas Cowboys running back who signed an endorsement deal with a company called MeUndies after he was busted stealing a bottle of cologne and a two-pack of Polo underwear from a Dillards in Texas. As part of the endorsement deal, Randle, who was fined $29,000 by the team, promised to donate $15,000 worth of underwear and apparel to kids in the Dallas area. If you’re going to get caught with your pants down, I guess that’s the way to do it.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
I’m sure every hockey coach has had a moment where he wanted to burst into the other team’s locker room during intermission and raise a little hell, but it takes a special kind of guy to do it, and that guy is John Tortorella. In January, Tortorella, the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, had to be restrained from entering the Calgary Flames locker room during intermission after a line brawl during the first period of a game between the teams. The NHL responded by suspending the controversial Tortorella for 15 days (covering a total of six games) without pay, calling his actions 'dangerous and an embarrassment to the league.'
NHLI via Getty ImagesJeff Vinnick
The former Boston Bruin Thornton was suspended 15 games following one of the ugliest moments of the 2013-14 season, an attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in December. During the first period of a game between the teams, Thornton confronted Orpik because he felt Orpik had laid a dirty hit on one of Thornton’s Boston teammates. Orpik didn’t engage, so later in the period, Thornton grabbed Orpik from behind, threw him to the ice and punched him twice in the head. Orpik was stretchered off the ice with a concussion and did not return to game action for three weeks. Thornton signed with the Florida Panthers during the offseason.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
The eccentric Rodman has considered himself something of a basketball ambassador in North Korea over the past few years, developing a friendship of sorts with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and in early 2014, Rodman brought a few of his friends with him to the DPRK for a set of exhibition games in honor of the dictator’s birthday. The idea was not popular among most Americans, for obvious reasons, and Rodman later said he would not return to the country, only to backtrack on that promise again later, when he talked about planning a trip in November.
AFP/Getty ImagesWANG ZHAO
For some reason, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda did not think anyone would notice when he took the mound against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in April with pine tar on his neck. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone with a working set of eyeballs saw it, Pineda was ejected from the game, and then later got a 10-game suspension for his trouble.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
Never one to walk on eggshells, the Phillies closer Papelbon was suspended seven games and fined by the league after making a lewd gesture while he exited the field after blowing a three-run lead during a home game in Philadelphia. Papelbon would later say that the obscene gesture wasn’t what it looked like, but it sure looked a lot like he was grabbing his crotch to me.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
One of these days, baseball players are going to stop putting banned substances in their bodies, but that day hasn’t come yet for Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who was suspended 25 games this season after testing positive for amphetamines. Davis reportedly had taken Adderall, which is not permitted without an exemption from the league. On the bright side, at least he wasn’t taking steroids, but that still doesn’t mean people won’t forever assume that he did, particularly after he regressed so badly in 2014 after an eye-popping 2013 in which he hit 53 home runs.
MLBPA via Getty ImagesNed Dishman
I’m sure that sacking the quarterback in an NFL game is a whole lot of fun, but it almost certainly ceases to be enjoyable when you jump in the air to celebrate, land, and then immediately realize that your season just ended. That’s what happened to Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who tore his ACL as he celebrated a sack of Aaron Rodgers during a game against the Packers earlier this season. For his part, Tulloch says he has no regrets about the incident, calling it random, and at least the Lions were winning when he Gramatica’d himself...
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
… the same can not be said for Lamarr Houston of the Chicago Bears, who essentially did the same thing Tulloch did during an October game against the New England Patriots — except in Houston’s case, his team was down by 25 points and he had just sacked New England backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He was later placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
One of the most electric playmakers in football, Harvin got himself shipped out of Seattle mid-season in exchange for a conditional mid-round pick from the New York Jets. Off-field issues were reportedly a major factor in the Seahawks’ decision to part ways with Harvin, who was said to have had similar problems with his temper during his years with the Vikings. Harvin had been known to get physical with teammates, including a reported confrontation with fellow receiver Golden Tate before last year’s Super Bowl, and apparently the culmination of all of the headaches sparked by the migraine-prone Harvin was enough reason to punish him by making him play for the Jets.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Another guy with unquestionable talent who doesn’t seem to be getting along with anybody in Seattle is Lynch, the team’s silent standout at running back. Various reports have described Lynch as insubordinate with Seahawks officials, with some saying that he doesn’t even talk to coach Pete Carroll. But then again, he doesn’t seem to really talk to anyone, and was recently fined $100,000 by the league for ignoring the media all season. For his part, Carroll has toed the company line, referring to Lynch as 'unique,' which Marshawn most certainly is.
Getty ImagesSteve Dykes
And so begins the 'weird injury' portion of this list. Also making the cut is Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who had to have surgery on a broken hand in September. Sure, injuries happen, but not usually like his. There was a rumor that Rondo had been at a trampoline park the day before his injury, leading some to speculate that that was the source of the break. Rondo would later say that he slipped in the shower and broke his hand that way. Either way, it’s not a great look for someone whose livelihood is dependent on his coordination (and his hands).
Getty ImagesMike Lawrie
You know what, sometimes in life, a cactus just jumps out in front of you, and you’ve just got to drop-kick it. I’m not sure that’s exactly how K-Rod came to end up with a bunch of cactus needles in his foot during the Brewers’ spring training in Arizona, but I also can’t come up with a viable explanation for how one actually does come to step on a cactus, so that’s what I’m going with. The Cactus League, indeed.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Suarez, a striker and star of Uruguay’s national soccer squad, was suspended for four months after biting Giorgio Chiellini of Italy during a World Cup match between the teams. Suarez was not given a card by the referee at the time of the play and initially pretended he didn’t sink his teeth into an opponent’s shoulder on purpose — which, uh, yeah you did — but he wasn’t fooling anyone, especially considering that this wasn’t even his first biting-related incident. He was suspended for seven games in 2010 for a similar incident. But he says he won’t do it again, so at least there’s that.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY SportsWinslow Townson
San Antonio Spurs air-condition mechanic
LeBron James might still be sweating from Game 1 of the NBA Finals, in which the air conditioning failed in the AT&T Center, leading to temperatures above 90 degrees inside the arena for much of the night. Ultimately, LeBron would have to leave the game with cramps for a stretch, and the ironically-named Heat lost to fall behind 1-0 in the series, which they would eventually lose in five games. Now there’s a slew of new fans on the Cavs bandwagon wondering what might have been in Miami had it not been so damn hot in San Antonio that fateful June night.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY SportsSoobum Im
Florida Panthers 'fans'
The seats are rarely filled for Panthers games down in Sunrise, Fl, with entire sections often nearly vacant, and the Cats are regularly among the lowest-attended teams in the league. On Oct. 13, during a Columbus Day matinee against Ottawa, Florida set a team record — but not the good kind — with an announced crowd of 7,311 that was, in all likelihood, actually even smaller than that.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
You don’t need me to tell you that Putin is not necessarily what one might call a 'great dude,' but the anti-gay laws he enacted in Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics made him even more unpopular than he was before — and that’s no small task. Add to that the shoddy accommodations in Sochi — remember when American bobsledder Johnny Quinn got stuck in both an elevator and a bathroom during the Olympics? — and it wasn’t a great month for Russia’s or Putin’s reputation.
AFP/Getty ImagesDMITRY ASTAKHOV
The Chiefs running back Charles probably thought he was done dealing with dorm rooms the second he moved out of the University of Texas, and after injuring his foot carrying boxes out of a dorm room at Western Missouri University, where Kansas City held training camp, he probably wished that was actually the case. Charles would miss the Chiefs’ next preseason game as a precaution after bruising his foot, and was then injured again early in the regular season — this time, the injury happened playing football at least — but fortunately for KC (and fantasy owners) he’s been mostly back to normal since.
Getty ImagesPeter G. Aiken
In June, the A’s lefty Pomeranz went on the DL with a fractured right hand, and if you were looking for a logical excuse for the injury, you won’t find one here. Turns out, Pomeranz broke the hand when he punched a chair in the clubhouse after giving up eight runs in 3⅔ innings in a loss to the Rangers. Pomeranz finally returned to the mound in late August, but by then, his spot in the rotation was gone after Oakland acquired Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs. Pomeranz threw just 13⅓ innings the rest of the season, but at least he didn’t break his pitching hand.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Is there a guy in football who finds a way to fall up more often than Kiffin? After failed head coaching stints with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Vols and USC Trojans, Kiffin found a way to weasel in with the University of Alabama, where he was subsequently hired as the team’s offensive coordinator. Now, he’s running the O for the No. 1 team in the country. But he hasn’t been able to leave his past totally behind him: In September, former USC player Brian Baucham filed a lawsuit against Kiffin and USC, claiming that caused cardiopulmonary damage and brain injury when they forced him to play in a game when he was sick. Can’t wait to see who offers this guy a head coaching gig next.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
One guy who would love a job right now is Will Muschamp, who couldn’t catch a break during most of his time at Florida and was finally fired for his efforts after a loss to South Carolina earlier this month. Muschamp’s main source of frustration came from the quarterback position, where he couldn’t seem to decide between two equally uninspiring options in Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris (whose own sexual assault allegations could make him turkey-like in his own right). Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy, two other quarterbacks deemed not good enough for UF, have gone on to find considerable success at North Carolina State and Boston College, respectively.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
A popular adage among coaches is to not start something unless you plan to finish it, but apparently that doesn’t apply to June Jones, who bailed on SMU two games into his seventh season with the team. Jones’ resignation came after a 45-0 loss to Baylor and a 43-6 loss to North Texas, and things haven’t gotten much better for the Mustangs since. They’re 0-10 on the year heading into Friday’s game against Houston, and most of the losses haven’t even been competitive. I guess Jones could sense the inevitable and just beat SMU to the punch.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
LeGarrette Blount and Le'Veon Bell
The former Bucs and Patriots running back Blount didn’t do himself any favors during his short stay in Pittsburgh this season. First, Blount — who is perhaps best known for cold-cocking a Boise State player after a game during his time at Oregon — was busted for marijuana possession along with teammate Le’Veon Bell when the two were pulled over in a car together on the way to catch the team plane. Then earlier this month, Blount made a scene yet again, leaving a game between the Steelers and Titans early because he was upset with his lack of touches. He was released by the team soon after, but amazingly, he was scooped up by New England just days later.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Among the things you probably should not do upon being drafted into the NBA, cursing on national TV about the team that picked you would have to be the least advisable. But that’s what LaVine appeared to do when the Minnesota Timberwolves took him with the 13th overall pick in June, as cameras caught him appearing to say, 'f--k me' after the pick. Later, LaVine would cover his behind, saying that he uttered the words in disbelief after having his dreams of reaching the NBA realized. But come on, man, it’s cool — I wouldn’t want to have to deal with Minneapolis winters, either.
NBAE/Getty ImagesJesse D. Garrabrant
Houston Astros management
There wasn’t a whole lot that went right for the Astros this season, as their 70-92 record proves, but one bright spot for Houston was pint-sized star Jose Altuve, who won the National League batting title with a .341 average. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t even manage to just let that happen without screwing up, and faced backlash from an irritated Altuve, himself, after they initially told him he was going to be held out of the lineup on the season’s final day to preserve his lead in the race. You would think that the team would want to take care of what few stars it has — especially considering that the team also managed to miss out on signing No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken — but that’s apparently not how the ‘Stros roll.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Another thing that’s not smart? Getting hurt doing something you shouldn’t have, then making up an elaborate lie that not only covers the incident up, but makes you look like a hero, instead. That’s exactly what USC cornerback Josh Shaw did earlier this year, when a story leaked that he had suffered high ankle sprains in both ankles when he jumped off a balcony to save a 7-year-old cousin who was reportedly drowning. In actuality, Shaw hurt himself jumping from a balcony after a heated argument with his girlfriend. He was just reinstated to the Trojans team last week after police declined to press charges in conjunction with the argument.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
It’s always fun to watch a coach completely melt down on the sideline, and that’s exactly what the Syracuse coach Boeheim did late in a February game against Duke. The call in question was a charge-block play that went against the No. 1-ranked Orange, and Boeheim responded by totally losing it, ripping off his jacket and charging the court before eventually being ejected. After the game, Boeheim called the whistle the 'worst call of the year.' That, alone, probably wouldn’t have put Boeheim on this list, but then in October, Boeheim called out former ‘Cuse star Carmelo Anthony in his book for having bad grades during his only year at Syracuse. Not cool, dude.
Getty ImagesBrett Carlsen
The Heat reached the Finals for the fourth straight year since building the Big Three, and after blazing through the playoffs, they got a rematch with the Spurs, who they beat for the title the year before. Should be no sweat, right? It turned out to be just the opposite in Game 1, when the A/C failed in San Antonio and LeBron cramped up. The Heat rebounded to tie the series in Game 2, but it was all about the aging Spurs the rest of the way. So much for Miami's dynasty. At least LeBron got to go home to Cleveland. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh weren't so lucky.
NBAE/Getty ImagesIssac Baldizon
Somewhere, Boeheim probably couldn’t help but smile when karma caught up to the Blue Devils during their NCAA Tournament opener against Mercer. In that game, the 14-seed Bears stunned the No. 3-seed Duke 78-71. It was the Dukies’ second round-of-64 elimination in three seasons — they lost as a 2-seed to 15-seed Lehigh in 2012 — and only stood to further support the claim that the Blue Devils are a regular-season juggernaut with no staying power in March.
Getty ImagesLance King
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart got himself in a world of trouble while still in college in February, when he was suspended for three games by Oklahoma State University after he shoved a heckling fan during a game against Texas Tech. Smart claimed the fan called him a racial slur — which, if true, is certainly reason enough to be upset — but attacking a fan, for any reason, is never going to be tolerated.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano
These two deserve each other. Sterling, the longtime Clippers owner, was recorded making racist comments by Stiviano, who's been sued by Sterling's wife and accused of being a high-maintenance mistress. The NBA immediately banned Sterling for life and, despite a legal battle by the former lawyer, was able to force the sale of the Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Stiviano, meanwhile, made the interview rounds and was dismissed by most observers as just another gold digger milking her 15 minutes of fame.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Denver Broncos scoreboard operator
It's pretty safe to say that if you work for the Denver Broncos, your first job is simple: Don't make Peyton Manning mad. But the Broncos' scoreboard operator blew it during an Oct. 23 win over the Chargers, when he incurred Manning's wrath for 'playing music, showing players dancing and getting the crowd fired up when we had the ball,' the QB complained. 'I'm gonna have a little talk with him.' Uh-oh.