As we sit here looking toward the beginning of September and the fall months to follow, we can only continue to look over our shoulders at what might have been the worst few months in sports history.
In a span of a few months, we have witnessed everything from a historical record that will forever be tainted, referees no longer being the unbiased opinion, athletes “making it rain,” and one NFL quarterback who threw away a life that millions could only dream to have.
Heading into spring what loomed ahead in the baseball world was eminent. Barry Bonds was rapidly approaching baseball immortality, as he chased down Hank Aaron to take over the No. 1 spot as the sport’s all-time home run king.
We then watched the circus of reporters and networks following Bonds around the country from game to game, waiting for the moment to happen. We were privy to the on-again, off-again dispute over whether Aaron himself should be there to witness the event, and if Commissioner Bud Selig would follow Bonds when he neared the record.
Each game that passed, Bonds got closer, and the speculation of continual steroid use from Bonds got bigger; all things that were foreseen, as one of the greatest records in sports was soon to be followed with an infamous asterisk.
Typically, this story would be enough to not only control the headlines both before and after the record was broken, but in no way be overshadowed by sports not even in season. This year was different.
Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee of 13 years, pleaded guilty Aug. 15 to two felony charges for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. We would find out that Donaghy not only began placing bets four years ago in games around the league, but also games he himself refereed including, according to the indictment, two games in particular in December of last year which Donaghy informed conspirators of who to bet on.
How could two stories of this magnitude almost go overlooked? Enter the National Football League. The NFL has taken over this year in sports with what seems like suspension after suspension, and more than enough off-field player issues to make new Commissioner Roger Goddell hand the reins over to someone else.
After Goddell made an example out of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry by suspending him half the season for multiple league violations, he put his foot down harder suspending Tennessee Titans’ cornerback, Adam “Pacman” Jones, for the 2007 season.
Jones, who was involved in a number of run-ins with the law, most notably a brush with the law that occurred outside of a strip club in Las Vegas in late February. After Jones and members of his entourage visited the club, an altercation broke out between Jones and a club security guard eventually leading to shots being fired that would leave a club employee paralyzed. Although Jones has been suspended by the league, he has not been convicted on any charges.
Then it happened, one of the biggest stories to hit sports in recent years, with one of the NFL’s biggest stars behind it.
In early July, speculation began to surface of an alleged dog fighting operation taking place at a house owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. While friends and family members of Vick were being investigated for the day-to-day operations, the finger was being pointed at Vick as the financial backer and CEO of “Bad Newz Kennels.”
The investigation would eventually lead to the July 18 indictment of Vick and three others by the federal grand jury. The four men, if convicted, faced up to five years in prison and up to $350,000 in fines.
Since the July indictment, Vick has had his contract with Nike suspended and eventually terminated, his career put on hold as he has recently been suspended indefinitely by the NFL, and now, after entering a guilty plea Monday of last week, he may soon say goodbye to his freedom.
The country’s three most popular sports, had some of the biggest scandals and events ever in sports history. While we would typically relish the fact that we have been witness to historical events, under these circumstances we can only hope to be so lucky as to soon forget.