These days it seems the sports world is hit with a scandal every other day. Given the sensationalist tone preferred by the media, it's safe to say that not all of these so-called scandals are created equal.
By its very definition, a scandal is "an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage." Which means we've been playing it fast and loose when applying that label.
Morality is a tricky thing. Something immoral to one may be just fine to another. And public outrage is difficult to measure because those who are outraged tend to scream it from the rooftops, while the rest of us just sit back and shake our heads at the spectacle.
Even if a story fits the general description of a scandal, that doesn't necessarily make it interesting. In fact, many of sports biggest scandals are, at their core, downright dull.
Here are 10 that are much ado about nothing.
Remember that big scandal that was set to rock the perennial powerhouse Oregon Ducks awhile back? We're talking MAJOR violations that the university and the NCAA reportedly agreed on in August 2013.
Apparently Oregon released 515 pages of documentation which proved they paid some money to some shady dude and a Houston-based scouting service that had a connection to a recruit. But there was no finding of unethical conduct or a lack of institutional control.
The violations were SO major that Oregon agreed to a self-imposed two-year probation and a loss of a single scholarship over the next three years.
It sure doesn't sound like it was self-imposed. And former coach Chip Kelly basically got banned from ditching the Eagles and returning to college for at least one season.
Wow. Talk about major...majorly boring.
Raise your hand if you're sick of baseball players being such vindictive little babies. I really hope all your hands are up right now, because the current state of the MLB is just sad.
It seems like every week there's yet another story of feigned outrage making headlines, providing pitchers with the opportunity to do the one thing they do best—peg someone with a baseball with absolute impunity. On the rare occasion a suspension is dealt, they miss 0-1 starts.
The most recent shock and awe scandal was brought to us by the Dodgers, who had the nerve to jump in the Diamondbacks' tacky outfield pool after clinching the division with a 7-6 win.
It everyone in the state of Arizona seeing red—including John McCain, the Senate's highest ranking angry old man.
D-backs infielder Willie Bloomquist said, "It's surprising because they have a lot of veteran guys on that team that I thought were classier than that." Uh…classier than that pool in your outfield? And by the way, he's lying.
You may have heard that NBA free agent Lamar Odom has been struggling with some sort of drug problem for awhile. The exact drug isn't really known because different reports have had him hooked on everything from meth to prescription sleep medications.
A few years around the Kardashians is enough to drive anyone to drugs. Hopefully he loses that wife of his and gets some help.
Of course what started off as a Lamar Odom problem quickly snowballed into a league-wide "scandal."
In early September RadarOnline ran this exclusive story: "NBA Drug Scandal: Heroin Use Rampant Amongst Star Players, Dealer-To-The Stars Claims."
The "whistle-blowing" dealer, also known as Odom's dealer, claimed as many as 50 other stars were hooked on heroin. Which, no doubt, he was doing out of the goodness of his heart. Seriously—show us a picture of LeBron James with a needle in his arm, or shut the heck up.
Considering the unceremonious ouster of former coach Jim Tressel and former quarterback Terrell Pryor from Ohio State, it's hard to believe the whole thing boils down to a few players trading memorabilia for tattoos—eight players, to be exact. But…it does.
In addition to tattoos, the players were said to have taken in approximately $14,000 in cash, which comes out to $1,750 each. Despite being mind-numbingly boring and something that seems to be going on at pretty much every school, the story blew up.
The university offered to vacate the 2010 season and return the bowl money (among other concessions) to avoid NCAA sanctions—how do free tattoos make an entire season null and void?
Naturally the NCAA wasn't satisfied—they never are—and opted to further punish the Buckeyes.
In August ColumbusLive ranked OSU's Top 10 football scandals, "Tattoo-Gate" ranked No. 1. Four places ahead of the Maurice Clarett saga—who you may recall landed in jail for a stretch after being caught driving around with a loaded AK-47 and an open bottle of vodka.
In September Sports Illustrated published what they obviously felt was a bombshell of a story which detailed various NCAA violations at Oklahoma State. They were so enthused about it that they published one page at a time, as if it was some summer Blockbuster the public had been waiting on for months.
Except it wasn't. And we weren't.
That's not to say the report didn't identify serious violations—it did.
"Rampant drug use and academic fraud, a recruiting program in which hostesses may or may not have been encouraged to have sex with recruits, and a program that discarded players when they were no longer useful to the football team," are among the activities outlined.
It's just that no one really seemed to care. These "bombshell" reports that universities are skirting NCAA rules to protect their football programs simply are not revelatory anymore. Right or wrong, most of us have come to accept this is going on all over the country.
So what's the big deal about Oklahoma State? Should they be punished for not hiding it better or because someone there has a score to settle by leaking the information? No. Of course, they will be, but it's just ridiculous.
Eventually these schools are just going to revolt from the NCAA, leaving those idiots with no one left to arbitrarily sanction. If that's not an Onion headline waiting to happen, I don't know what is.
Back in 2001 the Little League World Series was ROCKED by 12-year-old phenom Danny Almonte, a superstar from the Bronx that pitched for the team that finished third in the series. Except for it turned out the Dominican left-hander wasn't 12, he was 14.
Almonte's team, the Ronaldo Paulino All-Stars, was stripped of its district, state and regional titles. And American baseball was stripped of its innocence! Yeah…because one kid on the third place team lied about his age.
A few years ago ESPN's Page 2 listed the 10 Worst Sports Scandals. Here they are in order:
- 1919 Black Sox
- College basketball point-shaving scandal of the late-'40s and early-'50s
- Tony Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
- Salt Lake City bribes IOC to get 2002 Games
- Danny Almonte
- Ben Johnson fails his drug test
- University of Minnesota hoops academic cheating scandal
- Jim Thorpe loses his Olympic gold medals
- Pete Rose betting-on-baseball scandal
- Canadian and Russian pairs skaters share gold medals
So one player in one year on the third place team is not just worse than Pete Rose, but way worse. Yeah.
The Saints Bountygate scandal was the result of an NFL investigation, which began in 2010, into allegations that players were given financial compensation for deliberate attempts to injure their opposition during the 2009-10 playoffs.
The findings of the investigation were released in early 2012 and commissioner Roger Goodell slapped the Saints with the most severe sanctions in league history. General manager Mickey Loomis, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, head coach Sean Payton and a handful of players were all subjected to his wrath.
It may have been fine if it didn't immediately become clear that the practice had been commonplace in the NFL forever—it did.
Or if the league would have been willing to release vital evidence to the public—they weren't.
Or if Goodell's player suspensions weren't overturned by Paul Tagliabue, the man he personally appointed to oversee their appeals—they were.
Loomis, Williams and Payton served their time because they don't have a powerful union in their corner, but the fact that Williams—who faced an indefinite ban—was immediately reinstated after the 2012 season, speaks for itself.
The whole incident amounted to nothing more than a witch hunt and a huge waste of time given the NFL's current concussion problems.
The league has silenced the issue for now with a huge payout, but that hush money (or blood money if you want to be dramatic) was not the final chapter in this story.
Over the summer allegations surfaced that Texas A&M's Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel had been profiting from the sale of memorabilia with his signature. The autographs in question involved those being sold by South Florida broker Dave Tieman.
After meeting with the QB in August, the NCAA issued a report which stated they found "no evidence Manziel received monetary reward in exchange for autographs." Yet they still suspended him for one half of one game for what was described as an "inadvertent violation."
Meaning they made something up in an attempt to save face and A&M didn't feel like arguing about it.
The nation's Manziel obsession fueled the initial story and is, apparently, still keeping it alive. Recently ESPN's crack team of news-creators obtained a photo from last January that features Manziel signing something in the presence of Tieman.
So it looks like the story of Johnny Football's profitable John Hancock is never going away. Thanks, ESPN.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton left Florida for relatively scandalous reasons back in 2008, opting to transfer to a Texas junior college rather than deal with the fallout in Gainesville. If every Gator recruit of Urban Meyer who ran afoul of the law became a national scandal, there wouldn't be time for much else.
But it wasn't until Newton transferred to SEC rival Auburn, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and a BCS Championship, that allegations of misconduct—which were conveniently and entirely separate of his misconduct at Florida—surfaced.
The NCAA conducted a 13-month investigation into pay-for-play scheme involving alleged payments to Cecil Newton, Cam's father.
They combed through bank records, IRS statements, phone and email records and conducted 50 interviews in just over a year. Their findings? Nothing. The NCAA said they found no evidence supporting the allegations and cleared Auburn and the Newton family of wrongdoing.
What's really interesting about this otherwise really boring story is that the allegations surfaced during a year in which the Gators went 8-5 (4-4 in the SEC). That just so happened to be the worst year of coach Urban Meyer's tenure at Florida, not to mention his last.
Citing health concerns, Meyer retired to spend more time with his family in January 2011.
In October 2011 he retired from his family to spend more time with coaching, accepting the position left vacant by Jim Tressel at Ohio State. The investigation would have been a lot more interesting had it been into the false allegations and the person at the root of them.
In August 2011 Yahoo! Sports published an investigative report outlining nearly a decade's worth of NCAA violations at the University of Miami, based on 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with a former Hurricanes booster. The alleged violations were said to have occurred from 2002-10.
The booster who detailed the deeds was Nevin Shapiro, a scummy thief doing 20 years for his role in a billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
A career conman who, according to him, spent a decade financially funding the activities of college football players, before landing in prison and "threatening to pen" a tell-all called The Real U: 2001 to 2010. Inside the Eye of the Hurricane.
That sounds like pay-for-play alright.
It sounds like a middle-aged criminal who amounted to nothing paying teenagers to hang out with him. Surely the NCAA wouldn't build a case around the allegations of a slimy thief with a score to settle. No wait…they would.
Not only did they attempt to build a case against Miami on Shapiro's statements, they even "hired one of [his] personal lawyers, who leveraged her subpoena power in Shapiro's ongoing bankruptcy case to obtain information for the association it couldn't otherwise get."
The NCAA pled ignorance and Rich Johanningmeier, one of the two enforcement reps assigned to the case, suddenly retired in the middle of the investigation. The investigation into their investigation revealed enough boobery to permanently call into question anything revealed about what did or did not happen at Miami.
So the report, which many said could/should be the death nail in the Hurricanes football program, has many wondering if it will ultimately be the death nail in the NCAA. Maybe next time they'll take the words of a jailed conman for what they're worth—nothing.
**Speaking of menacing boobery, you should follow me on Twitter because that's what I specialize in: Follow @blamberr