Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sports Turkey of the Year: Sorting through candidates and picking a winner

It's an annual tradition.

A big bird with all the stuffing and gravy. Side of potatoes, side of yams, side of cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie (with whipped cream, not ice cream) for dessert. Then maybe go out to the front yard and throw around the pigskin. Or fall asleep watching the Lions.

That's what we do on Thanksgiving.

And, oh yeah, there's one more thing we do. We hand out Sports Turkey of the Year.

A tradition started years ago then perfected by the great Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, the Sports Turkey of the Year has been something we've been doing at the Tampa Bay Times since 2007.

Past winners include Phillies fans, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, referees and even a youth football team that didn't bother to do background checks on coaches with checkered pasts.

So welcome to this year's award.

Typically, each year offers an abundant selection of candidates.

Usually, we get warmed up with a couple of teams that just didn't win enough.

For example, the Golden State Warriors didn't win enough games despite setting an NBA record for wins in a regular season. They didn't win enough playoff games. They came up one victory short and watched what could have been the greatest NBA season in history swatted away by LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Speaking of Cleveland, the Browns didn't win enough. In fact, they haven't won at all. They seem a good bet to become the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 in a season, mostly because they appear to prepare for the draft by casually flipping through some magazines. How'd that Johnny Manziel pick work out, fellas? Even the executive in charge says it's not about winning this season. Good thing.

Then, our usual Turkey nominee list circles around to some nincompoops whose boorish or idiotic behavior ruined everybody's good time.

We'll go back to the Olympics for that and start with swimmer Ryan Lochte. We're still not sure exactly what happened that night when Lochte and his buddies decided to fight a gas station restroom. And I'm still not convinced the Brazilian authorities were all on the up-and-up. At the end of the day (well, a long night), it seems as if this whole thing wasn't that big of a deal, but it still looks bad that a 32-year-old man was acting like a frat boy. Nothing good happens after 1 a.m., especially in Rio.

Meantime, U.S. women's soccer keeper Hope Solo took a lot of heat and was even suspended for dissing the Swedish team after the Americans lost to Sweden. You might think that I'm adding Solo to the list, but I'm not. I'm putting U.S. Soccer on blast for suspending Solo. She called the other team a name. Are you kidding me? This is sports, not a Miss Manners class. I still contend a man would not have been suspended for the same thing.

A few more nominees:

Those from Oklahoma City aren't especially happy with Kevin Durant and his decision to go to Golden State. You had Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista whining about how the baseball playoffs might have been rigged. And add the European Ryder Cup team to the list because it's the European Ryder Cup team. It can dish it out but can't take it without bellyaching.

Yet, even looking at the list so far, there are no clear-cut winners. So we dig deeper.

Maybe put Tom Brady on the list because he eventually served a four-game suspension for Deflategate, but the more you think about it, the more ridiculous Deflategate was. The NFL loused that thing up since the beginning.

Much of that has to do with commissioner Roger Goodell, who is an annual candidate on our Sports Turkey list. Goodell has somehow mishandled every important decision the league has had in recent years, from silly things such as Deflategate to critically important issues such as domestic violence.

Meantime, have you seen NFL ratings? Probably more of you have seen the ratings than have seen the games. NFL ratings are down about 14 percent, according to Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback, although they have perked up since the presidential election.

There are plenty of theories about the decrease in TV ratings: the election, the Cubs' historic drive to a World Series, the Colin Kaepernick national anthem protest among them. I'm not buying any of those.

My belief? The games, particularly the marquee prime-time games, are dogs. Thursday Night Football, which is the worst football idea since the XFL, is full of crummy matchups and too many lousy teams. No wonder nobody wants to watch on Thursdays, and that malaise is carrying over to Sunday and Monday.

Anytime a player tries to add some spice with an inventive celebration, he's penalized. And, now that we mention penalties, is there a worse officiated sport than the NFL, which still doesn't have officials whose only full-time job is to be an NFL official?

Then we have constant reminders about just how violent the game is. Concussions remain the scariest part of the game and the biggest threat to the future of the sport. Seeing Panthers star Luke Kuechly carted off the field while sobbing uncontrollably was just another reminder of the gruesome part of football. Yet, seconds later, it was next man up and the game continued.

That's cold, man.

So, who is the Turkey of the Year? Actually, it's rather simple. Bad ratings, violence, poor leadership, awful officiating, dumb decisions? Only one choice:

The National Football League

     
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