What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As we enter a new year, once more we find ourselves having just completed what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months. That makes this the perfect time to take a look back at the stories which had or promise to have the most impact on the world of sports as we head into the new year. That’s why it’s an annual tradition here to run down 15 such stories in sport we think mattered the most. Not all of them are positive stories, but not every movie has a happy ending.
In other worlds, it’s our list. So if you don’t like it, go make your own.
Death Sale of the XFL
There’s a lot of people who would like to believe the collapse of Vince McMahon’s XFL was due to external forces nobody anticipated. That’s an easy excuse…it’s also a complete load of crap. McMahon’s first attempt at a football died 20 years ago because it was too cartoonishly like pro wrestling. The 2020 incarnation of the XFL bit the dust because it “got out over it’s skis;” it tried to be the NFL before it could put a quality product on the field.
If the the 2020 XFL had only learned from 2019’s Alliance of American Football (AAF), it would have known that you’ve got to walk before you can run. The AAF knew it was a developmental minor-league and marketed itself as such. The product on the field was enjoyable to watch, you knew what it was…not what it was trying to tell you what it was.
That’s why McMahon’s $500 million investment only avoided the auction block with a last-minute purchase by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for only about $15 million. On the plus side, the XFL gave us a sneak-preview of what professional football in a completely empty stadium would look like.
14) Tom Brady Goes to “Tompa Bay”
Speaking of the XFL, there was a time that Vince McMahon was so trumpeting his new league as a “new rival for the NFL” that I suggested he should sign a mega-star player from the big league. After all, Tom Brady was available.
Brady’s signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signaled a major changing of the guard in the NFL. Brady and the Patriots have been synonymous for nearly two decades.
He’s the most iconic player in franchise history and may very well be more associated with to a single franchise than any other historic NFL player. As such, to some it was truly surprising to see Brady decide to leave the only NFL team he’s ever known to sign with the Bucs. While the move has Tampa in the play-offs for the first time in ages, they still look like a team with some work to do; they still don’t look like a team that can beat the Saints or the Packers. Not to mention, Brady is showing the signs of age.
But the real transformation happened in New England. In no time, the Patriots became a team out of the play-offs, have a losing record, and the marriage between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Cam Newton is 50 shades of over.
13) Tyson Fury Destroys Deontay Wilder
When I was a kid, boxing was awesome. But then it’s popularity nose-dived. That’s why on the rare occasions when there is a “big” heavyweight title bout, part of me hopes it will mark the beginnings of the sports Phoenix-like rise from it’s own ashes.
And then it doesn’t happen.
This year’s second fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was supposed to not only erase the controversial end of the their first fight in 2018, but set the stage for a potential third bout to cement Fury/Wilder as one of the great boxing rivalries of all time.
That was until Wilder’s corner threw in the towel in the 7th round because…there’s really no other way to say it…he was getting his ass kicked. Wilder got beat so badly in that fight that the Fury camp has abandoned the idea of that third fight, and boxing loses yet another chance at a big attraction.
12) The Coming Globalization of Golf
This is a process borne of the increasing number of players from the European Tour coming over to America to play in Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) events. This started with the “major” events years ago, but when purses exploded in the era of the “Tiger Boom,” the pace accelerated. Once that happened, a vison for a formal inter-mingling of the two tours was inevitable.
2020 saw the first major step toward such a vision when the PGA acquired a stake in the European Tour’s media production company. Being linked in media production efforts by definition means the two tours will collaborate on marketing, media content production and all rights therein. Executives from both tours have contemplated this for years, and this arrangement…while still being years away from the formation of a singular “world” tour…will allow the two tours to begin the journey toward being partners rather than rivals and to begin eliminating schedule conflicts and strengthening events on both sides of the Atlantic
11) The Swiss FIFA Corruption Trial
If you aren’t familiar with Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, you can find a photo of him in the dictionary under “scapegoat.” FIFA, the governing body of world soccer is as corrupt an organization in all of sports; it’s as dirty as the International Olympic Committee or the NCAA. FIFA has been flinging cash at political figures around the world since cash was invented; singling out Lauber is like pointing out the “tall guy” in a basketball game.
To that end, the Swiss government convicted a former high-ranking on corruption-related charges. Jérôme Valcke, President of French club Paris Saint-Germain was acquitted of of accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement while he was FIFA secretary general from 2007-15, but was found guilty of a lesser charge of forging documents linked to World Cup broadcasting deals in Italy and Greece.
Since nobody cares about soccer in America, this story has gone largely unnoticed. But imagine what would happen in the U.S. if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suddenly found himself facing years in prison on multiple charges. The Swiss government continues to investigate both political figures and FIFA executives; this story is far from over.
10) The Horse Racing Doping Scandal
Earlier this year, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York unsealed indictments charging 27 individuals with offenses concerning the administration of illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to racehorses competing across the United States and abroad. Specifically, the charges stem from alleged shipment and administration of adulterated and misbranded drugs designed to enhance the racing performance of horses beyond their natural ability, a practice that places the lives of the horses in grave danger.
Based on the findings of the investigation, an organized ring existed among several racehorse trainers, veterinarians, PED distributors, and others to manufacture, distribute, and receive PEDs and to administer those PEDs to racehorses competing at all levels of racing. By evading Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, federal laws against non-prescribed use of PEDs, and by deceiving regulators and horse racing officials, participants in these schemes sought to obtain prize money from racetracks across the United States and other countries by illegal drugging the horses.
The allure is obvious; there’s a staggering amount of money in professional horseracing. Owners are all about collecting prize purses; that’s what owning a racehorse is all about. Trainers who participated in these schemes can make millions earning a share of their horses’ winnings. Veterinarians and drug distributors profited from sale and administration of the PEDs.
Now, a bunch of them are going to jail.
9) Jeff Luhnow Sues The Houston Astros
When a scandal breaks in sports, there’s often times a complete over-reaction in the “heads will roll/blood-lust” department. Nearly ever major sporting scandal in the past 20 years has at least one example, and the “sign-stealing” mess with the Houston Astros is no exception.
Former Houston Astros’ General Manager Jeff Luhnow filed a lawsuit against team owner Jim Crane in Houston’s Harris County District Court in November. Luhnow is seeking $22 million in lost salary claiming Crane committed breach of contract for firing Luhnow in January 2020.
The crux of the suit alleges there was “a negotiated resolution” between Crane and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred which essentially made Luhnow a scapegoat.
“…[the deal] enabled the team to keep its World Series championship, went to great lengths to publicly exonerate Crane, and scapegoated Luhnow for a sign-stealing scandal that he had no knowledge of and played no part in. The sign-stealing activities were not directed by the Astros’ front office. Rather, they were devised and executed — as noted by the commissioner’s own findings — by baseball operations employees in collaboration with coaches and players.”~ Excerpt from Jeff Luhnow’s lawsuit against the Houston Astros
There’s two “smoking guns” in that paragraph as far as Crane and Manfred are concerned. First, Luhnow is using the polite term “negotiated resolution” to open the door for a legal term which isn’t usually used in a positive way. A big component of “legalese” comes from Latin; quid pro quo is just a more sophisticated-sounding way of saying “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” If Luhnow can back up that claim, Crane has a problem…and by extension, so does Manfred.
That extension leads to “smoking gun #2.” Luhnow is exactly on-point in his suit when he notes that Manfred’s very own report pointed the finger at coaches and players, and not the Astros’ front office. That means Luhnow can used Manfred’s report to beat at least a settlement of Crane.
And that’s when the real fun will begin.
If there was “back-room” deal between Crane and Manfred, and if Crane has to pay Luhnow because Manfred’s report pulled the rug out from underneath him, you can bet Crane is not about to let Manfred walk away from this “Scot-free.”
Stay tuned to this story…
8) The “Football Flip-Flop” of the B1G Ten
B1G Ten commissioner Kevin Warren forgot one crucial fact. He serves at the leisure of the members of the conference. When he issued his dictatorial edict cancelling the football season, he failed to anticipate the backlash that would come from the Brobdingnagian athletic departments for which football represents the primary financial feeding seasons. The revolt began with Nebraska players threatening a lawsuit, then came petitions from parents of players from several schools, and the coup de grâce came when the athletic directors from “big dogs” such as Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin threatened to leave the conference.
On top of that, the B1G Ten fumbled big-time when it came to the protocols Warren and the rest of the conference politburo established for handling virus-related issues. What they put in place quickly proved to be unworkable, and they spent the entire season rolling back their own incompetence.
7) The Impending Death of ESPN
It’s no secret ESPN has been a sinking ship for years, and it doesn’t require the services of the FBI Crime Lab to deduce why. The reasons have been discussed before on Dubsism. However the reason which got the most attention revolved around the network’s choice to embrace politics. As I’ve said before, the issue isn’t about which side they picked, it’s about the fact people on either side use sports as a refuge from the drudgery that is every-day life. Once ESPN took the escapist value away from sports, there was no need to for sports fans to continue to consume the non-live sports product ESPN produces.
By turning off sports fans, ESPN has become a financial millstone around the neck of it’s parent company Disney. When he assumed control of the network, Jimmy Pitaro made bold pronouncements about “no politics,” then doubled-down on what is killing “The World Wide Bottom Feeder.”
As a result, ESPN has undergone multiple rounds of lay-offs and it’s beginning to look as if Disney may be preparing to sell off the network piece-by-piece, if not dump it outright.
6) The Los Angeles Dodgers Finally Win Another World Series
Anybody who has read this blog knows how I feel about the Los Angeles Dodgers; if not you may want to check my original treatise on the subject.
Anyway, the goddamn Dodgers won the World Series for the first time since the Reagan administration, which means I am forced to retire a meme which was getting almost annual use recently.
33 years from today, I will probably be dead…but hopefully there will be another Dodger-hating blogger in the future who will be able to celebrate another Dodger drought by recreating this meme with a DVD.
5) Kansas City Chiefs End Half-Century Super Bowl Drought
Remember those people who criticized the Kansas City Chiefs for moving up in the 2017 draft to get Patrick Mahomes. At least ESPN’s Mike Golic owned up to his miss, but he’s the only one I know. Andy
Reid did the one thing that coaches who built dynasties in the NFL did…he found his “true” franchise quarterback, THEN built an offense around that guy. He hasn’t completed the dynasty yet; that will require a few more Lombardi trophies. But it’s getting harder and harder to deny he’s finally got the quarterback who can do it.
Since being drafted in 2017, Mahomes has won the league MVP award, established himself as guy with a trajectory for being an all-time great, and at 24 years and 138 days old became the youngest quarterback to Super Bowl MVP.
Just like with the Dodgers, I may be running out of time to use the “Andy Reid/Big Boy” meme
4) Liverpool Finally Wins the Premier League
There’s a theme developing here about teams taking titles after long waits; America doesn’t have a monopoly on that. English Premier League titans Liverpool are among the most decorated clubs in all of European football; the Reds are the reigning kings of Europe, and they have consistently won in all competitions throughout their history.
However, Liverpool had not hoisted a trophy in the top-flight domestic league in 30 years, which means they had never won a title since the establishment of the Premier League in 1992. Jurgen Klopp’s squad blazed through the beginning of the 2019/2020 campaign; the only thing that stopped them was the hiatus created by the pandemic. Liverpool topped the table with 99 points, 18 clear of second-place Manchester City. Such an insurmountable lead made Liverpool the team to clinch the title at the earliest point in the season thus far.
3) The China Fiasco and the Cratering Viewership of the NBA
Now that we are passed the holidays, most people should have a recent experience which drives home this analogy. Almost every family has that one member who simply can’t get out of their own way. They don’t want to be a complete fuck-up; they just can’t help themselves. That’s got to be the life-story of National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver.
Deep down, I don’t think he wants to be the bumbling idiot his actions portray him to be. There’s an old saying about actions speaking louder than words; the problem is every time Silver speaks, his words double-down on his actions.
His latest catastrophe began in 2019 with the China Fiasco which bled over into 2020, and dove-tailed nicely into the television ratings disaster known as the “Bubble.” That begs the following question: How did the NBA manage to hemorrhage viewers when they were the first sport to return to action after the virus-related shutdowns?
One word explains everything problem the NBA has right now: Politics. Perhaps Adam Silver should get together with ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro because they have exactly the same problem. Once again, the issue isn’t about which side of the political fence they picked, it’s about the fact people on either side use sports as a refuge from the drudgery that is every-day life. Once that’s gone, both their products lose a great deal of their appeal…which is why they are both bleeding out right now.
2) Kobe Bryant Killed in Helicopter Crash
When somebody gets this kind of tribute at a Super Bowl, and they weren’t even a football guy, it’s pretty clear that person transcended sport.
What else can I say that hasn’t already been said? The fact of the matter is there was not a single factor which impacted the sports world more than this did. Period.
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