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The NFL's Replacement Referees were in a position to fail, and did just that, earlier this year.
There were plenty of epic failures in 2012. Players, coaches and even entire sports leagues embarrassed themselves in a variety of ways. With Thanksgiving Day in mind, here’s a rundown of the 10 biggest turkeys of the year.
1. NFL Replacement Referees
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the root of this evil. But he wasn’t the one throwing the yellow flags, handing out fourth timeouts, putting more or less than the right amount of time on the clock, spotting the ball on the wrong yard-line, calling college football rules in an NFL game or creating an environment of casual chaos on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays from Weeks 1-through-3 this season. The Replacement Refs went out with a bang, however, making a controversial call of simultaneous possession on a game-winning touchdown “catch” by the Seahawks’ Golden Tate to beat the Packers in prime time on Monday Night Football.
2. Gary Bettman, NHL clueless commissioner
The NHL owners have declared a lockout of the NHL Players’ Association, canceling the scheduled Oct. 11, 2012 start of the season. The Bettman-led NHL owners want to reduce the NHLPA’s previous guaranteed share of 57 percent of hockey related revenues. Having already canceled NBC’s Thanksgiving Showdown on Black Friday as well as the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, the league has already missed out on two of its highest-rated events of the year. Losing all momentum and turning on a loyal fanbase are not the best moves for a league struggling to keep the “Big Four” team sports from shrinking to the “Big Three.”
3. Jeffrey Loria, Marlins bait and switch conman
After spending over $500 million in public money from taxpayers and the city of Miami in order to build Marlins Park, Loria pulled a classic bait and switch — trading away nearly every player on the roster worthy of having his own baseball card. Is a ball club better with or without Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buehrle, Omar Infante, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, Heath Bell, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez? Doesn’t take a Sabermetrics statistician to answer that one.
4. Bobby Petrino, Hog wrecker and home wrecker
The ultimate April Fool, the 51-year-old married father of four wiped out on his motorcycle with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a blonde former Arkansas volleyball player turned football program employee. When the neck brace was off, it turned out that the young Dorrell had accepted some $20,000 in gifts used for a car, vacation and wedding expenses — that’s right, she was engaged to be married. Petrino lost his job, but not before making himself into a national punch-line and reminding everyone not to use a company phone (especially if working for a state school) when trying to keep an inter-office affair hidden from your wife and boss.
5. Bobby Valentine, Red Sox mental manager
In his first season managing the Red Sox, the funny Valentine led the proud franchise to its worst winning percentage since 1960. But it wasn’t just what he said and did, it was how he said and did it. He mismanaged pitchers, position players and the Boston media every chance he got en route to a 69–93 record and last-place finish in the AL East. The lovable slugger David Ortiz even questioned Valentine’s mental stability after hearing the lame duck manager’s double-talk on television and via text message. “I said to myself, ‘This guy must have some mental issues or needs medicine or something?’ I said, ‘I am dealing with someone crazy and I am not going to drive myself crazy, so it is better if I leave it alone.’” Good eye, Big Papi.
6. Melky Cabrera, Giants juiced All-Star Game MVP
San Francisco enjoyed home field advantage in this year’s World Series thanks to its own suspended outfielder. Cabrera went 2-for-3 with two RBIs on his way to winning MVP of the All-Star Game. Soon after, the then-MLB hits leader and NL batting champ contender was suspended 50 games for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. And while the Giants distanced themselves from their disgraced hitter in the midst of a tainted career year, the damage had already been done. No one benefited more from Cabrera’s indiscretions — which also included creating a shady fake website in an attempt to win his appeal of suspension — than San Fran, who reaped the rewards with a World Series home field edge and a batting champ in MVP Buster Posey.
7. Hope Solo, Olympic net-minder and never-mind-her
The Team USA goaltender was in rare form this year. First, she got into the Olympic spirit by ripping former Team USA star, sports bra flasher and NBC commentator Brandi Chastain via Twitter. “Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb” Followed by, “Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb”
Then, she made waves by dishing dirt about athletes getting down and dirty in the Olympic Village. “There’s a lot of sex going on,” said Solo, of Olympic Village. “I’ve seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.”
Finally, Solo became a duo with former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens one day after her husband-to-be was arrested following a domestic dispute. Stevens has a long history of run-ins with the law; Solo has a history of run-ins with whoever will pay attention to her. If those two kids can’t make it…
8. Lolo Jones, Olympic virgin and media whore
Wrongfully targeted but targeted nonetheless, the Lolo backlash was a brutal example of “build ‘em up to tear ‘em down” media. Jones had a phenomenal rags-to-riches story and a chance at redemption at the 2012 London Olympics. Instead, the self-proclaimed virgin became America’s media darling and was a victim of premature adulation. When Lolo finished a disappointing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, even her teammates turned on her. “I’ve had family issues as well, but I’m not willing to say all of them just so it can be in the papers. I don’t want that for myself or my family,” said silver-medalist Dawn Harper on the Today Show. “The three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” added bronze-medalist Kellie Wells. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.”
9. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees pinstripe Ponzi schemer
The world’s most overpaid athlete hit .120 (3-for-25) with two walks and one run scored over seven games in the playoffs. Plus, A-Rod produced the ultimate A-Rod moment when he allegedly attempted to get the phone number of Australian model Kyna Treacy by sending a souvenir baseball to her in the stands during Game 1 of the ALCS. A-Rod shut down his flirting bar fly from the bench routine when the Captain, Derek Jeter, broke his ankle hustling for the team in extra innings.
10. U.S. Ryder Cup team, international choke artists
In an epic meltdown that Greg Norman, Jean Van de Velde, or any member of the 1999 European Ryder Cup team could relate to all too well, the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team folded like a Medinah spectator’s golf chair at the 38th Ryder Cup. On the comfortable confines of U.S. soil and in front of 40,000 rowdy American fans, Team USA led 10–6 on Sunday — needing just 4.5 points out of 12 singles matches.
But the lineup assembled by Captain Davis Love III struggled out of the gate and never regrouped. When Germany’s Martin Kaymer beat Steve Stricker in the penultimate group, the U.S.’s closer Tiger Woods became essentially irrelevant. Woods’ missed putt on the final hole — which came after an over-the-top Euro celebration — gave Europe the outright win rather than just a retained Ryder Cup after one of the worst letdown’s in the 85-year history of the international competition.