On the heels on the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate, what scandals have most tarnished their sports?
Donaghy still a hot topic when it comes to NBA
By Adena Andrews
Tim Donaghy's 2008 prison sentence for betting on NBA games and making calls that affected the point spread did more damage to the league than any Malice at the Palace could. By revealing the possibility games could be fixed, it caused fans to lose faith in the fairness of the NBA.
It felt futile to cheer for a team when it was possible the referee was purposely making calls to affect the outcome. Four years later, I still have NBA naysayers tell me they don't watch the league because they think referees are betting on games. I feel bad because I can't refute the claim. I want to believe it doesn't happen anymore, but one man -- Donaghy -- blemished the game for years to come.
Referees are supposed to be the equalizing factor on which the game is built. Their influence is meant to be felt but not to the point where it negatively effects the game. Donaghy's actions put referees at the forefront and made fans skeptical of their judgment calls. Fans would ask questions like, "Was it really a foul or is he trying to affect the point spread? Is the home team getting more calls than the away team?" One man's action caused thousands to question the game they loved.
For me, discovering a referee was fixing games was the sports equivalent to saying there is no Santa Claus. It ruined my perception that all was fair and right in the NBA. I've gotten over it, but when I see a questionable call by the men (and woman) in stripes, the pain resurfaces.
'Black Sox' remain black mark on baseball
By Amanda Rykoff
It's been almost a century, and yet there remains no bigger black mark on baseball than the 1919 World Series "Black Sox" scandal involving the Chicago White Sox. Of course Pete Rose betting on baseball (and his subsequent banishment from the game and the Hall of Fame) and the "Steroid Era" both warranted strong consideration. Even 90 years later, the idea that star players -- including one of the best in the game -- from one of the best teams took bribes to throw the World Series simply boggles the mind.
It's important to remember baseball truly was America's pastime in those days. The game had no competition from other sports. Following World War I, the game enjoyed even more popularity, as attendance grew and the World Series emerged as the premier event in sports. For the biggest event in sports to have been manipulated by gamblers because players felt like they weren't being paid enough sounds impossible. And yet the Cincinnati Reds defeated the White Sox, five games to three (two of the fixers combined to lose all five of Chicago's losses).
The legacy of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson represents another reason the Black Sox scandal still resonates today. Jackson was one of the best and most-popular players of his time. Though he played well in the World Series (12 hits, a .375 batting average and no errors), he admitted to agreeing to the fix. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Jackson -- and seven of his teammates -- from baseball in 1921. Shoeless Joe remains on MLB's ineligible list today, destined to be kept out of the Hall of Fame and forever associated with scandal.
"The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball" states, "baseball suffered a near-fatal blow upon the revelation that the infamous Chicago 'Black Sox' had thrown the 1919 Series." Of course baseball survived and the game is booming today, but the 1919 World Series remains the biggest scandal in its long history.
Scandal makes college sports hardest to watch
By Sarah Spain
There's fraudulence on all levels of sport, from the high school hockey dad recently caught shining a laser into the eyes of the opposing team's goaltender all the way to the Patriots' Spygate scandal and the recently discovered Saints' bounty system. Names like Jerry Sandusky, Tonya Harding and Tim Donaghy bring to mind the worst of sport on the individual level; corruption on the organizational level is epitomized by the Olympic Committee.
Every major sport in America has suffered the effects of crooked owners and players. From the 1919 Black Sox to performance-enhancing drugs and Pete Rose betting on games, baseball seems constantly touched by scandal. The NFL, NBA and NHL have dealt with murder, domestic and animal abuse, gambling rings, drugs and weapons-related offenses. And don't get me started on sports like cycling and track and field. There, stars have been stripped of so many titles, it's getting harder and harder to remember clean champions.
Despite all the scandals, I still go watch my favorite pro teams, but when it comes to big-time college sports, the flaws in the system have left me cynical and bitter. After all the instances of improper benefits and recruiting violations, it's hard to believe any of the top football or basketball programs are clean anymore. It's impossible to win without cheating and that's a sign the system needs to be fixed. I'll admit I still enjoy some of the big bowl games and get into March Madness every year, but it's always with a tempered enthusiasm and a sadness for the loss of true, high-level amateur sport.
NFL side bets not as disturbing as steroids in baseball
By Jane McManus
You know when even hard-hitting, fine-magnet James Harrison is abashed, the NFL has a problem on its hands. It looks as though the Saints might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to side bets, and it's easy to see why.
These guys are already paid to knock the snot out of each other. Football is a violent sport, and each play carries with it the possibility of injury. From the information currently revealed, it doesn't seem like the player pools paid out for illegal hits but for stuff that happened in the course of doing their jobs on defense.
I play a contact sport, and there is little more satisfying than the crunch of your opponents' pads crashing to the ground after you hit them. So I understand the revelations make some current players and fans shrug.
It's hard to promote the contact part of football, where greatest hits videos and injury replays hit YouTube at the speed of light, and then be appalled when some of the sport's players encourage each other with dollar bills to be as effective as possible.
That said, it's troubling to think a player would be privately celebrating a hit that earns them 1,000 bucks as an opponent is carted off the field. And I'm always concerned about minimizing player injury. If the bounty system encouraged any kind of illegal hitting, and it may have, then I can muster some outrage.
But I doubt that this system of side bets will leave the stain on football that, for example, steroids did on baseball.
Scandals of integrity are most damaging
By Michelle Smith
The biggest scandals in sports history have been the ones in which the integrity of the actual games have been tarnished.
Could there be a bigger scandal than the Black Sox scandal of 1919 or point-shaving scandals in college basketball in the 1940s and '50s? Are those worse than the drug scandals of recent years involving Olympic athletes and baseball players? Yes, because they go far beyond attempting to gain an individual competitive advantage. Cheating is cheating, but throwing games is the top rung of the ladder.
Bountygate is a scandal of integrity in a different way. The behavior of providing financial rewards to injure another person is simply wrong. It doesn't matter whether or not everybody is doing it and those who suggest the people who are outraged are out-of-touch or naive are insulting the intelligence of anyone who has ever tried to walk on the right side of right and wrong.