Good morning all! The news is wild this morning (this is true all the time in HellWorld, but particularly so today), so welcome to your sports oasis, where today we’re going to count down the dumbest, most baffling, most idiotic sports happenings of the past two months. I will inevitably forget something here, and I invite you to remind me by comment or email or whatever, but I’ll take the first stab at memorializing the worst of the worst from an era that will one day (hopefully) be lost in the mists of time.
10. That’s right, I’m going to make you watch this Dabo Swinney video again
Apparently, I hate my readers:
God help me, it gets worse every single time.
9. MLB owners doing owner things
I’ve written about this too much already to go into great detail, but all you have to know is this: The owners agreed to pay their players a prorated salary based on how many games were played—already a concession by the players, by the way—so that if 81 games were played, they’d make 50% of their salary. Then, when it became clear that fans might not be able to return, they wanted more, and tried renege on the deal and institute a bizarre progressive tax where richer players would lose more money. Not only is it a cost-saving device, but it’s designed to put pressure on the superstars and hope that the “greedy players!” narrative takes root in the public. All of this, by the way, a year after MLB posted record revenues exceeding $10 billion. The owners can take the hit, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned time and again this last decade, it’s that enough is never enough for the wealthiest people. Luckily, the players are telling them to fuck off, thus far successfully.
8. NASCAR drivers gets suspended for saying the n-word on a video game
When NASCAR started implementing e-races (online video game races between drivers) as a way to kill time, it seemed like a harmless idea. For all I know, it was even entertaining. But, because this is 2020, it was probably inevitable that the lasting legacy of the whole venture would be some driver getting suspended for saying the n-word. The honors go to Kyle Lawson, and short of a professional golfer whipping his butler in public, it’s hard to imagine an incident that would so perfectly cater to the worst stereotypes associated with a particular sport.
By the way, honorable mention here goes to the Formula E driver who hired a ringer, cut his feed, and won the video game race…only to be caught and fined more than 10 grand. (Thanks to Lionel and Kyle for the reminders on these two.)
7. Manchester City’s Kyle Walker holds lockdown sex party
There’s something about Kyles in this pandemic, folks. I know I have at least one Kyle who will read this today, and I hope he can answer for his people.
Drew Harris (of Bundesliga flow chart fame) reminded me of this one: Man City’s Walker decided that lockdown was the perfect time to have a buddy over, invite some sex workers to the house, and have a big party. The best part is that less than a week earlier, he’d tweeted this:
To be fair, Walker did stay at home.
6. All the video game sports
Don’t hate me for telling the truth: They’ve all sucked. Regardless of the sport, athletes facing off virtually, on TV, has been a complete dud. I may sound like an angry geriatric in the opinion section of a small town paper here, but if I ever had a slight inclination to get into E-Sports before, that has been totally extinguished. It’s the worst spectator experience going, and that’s coming from somebody who watched
5. Dana White doing Corona skepticism
White, the UFC chief, was on the front lines of the “oh come on, this is bullshit!” brigade shortly after the pandemic shut everything down, and insisting that his biggest events would go on as scheduled. It wasn’t just the decision, but the tone:
The aggrieved, defiant, “I’m too tough for this shit!” freedom-flogger is a definite archetype in America today, and as I wrote for Digest, White was the first public sports figure to go out of his way to embody that worldview that anyone cowering from the virus was weak and a coward. Worse, because he rules UFC with an iron fist and can make or break a fighter’s career, he was essentially coercing all of them to fight too. How do you say no?
4. The NCAA, in general
Summary: “It’s the nature of business to seek higher profits, and it’s insanely hypocritical that the NCAA can simultaneously run a system where cheating is both incentivized and inevitable (due to unpaid yet extremely valuable workers), and then have the gall to punish the cheaters.” More here and here and here. You may be able to tell that the NCAA is a *slight* pet peeve of mine.
3. Novak Djokovic claiming that people can change polluted water with their emotions
I wish this were not true, because I like Djokovic quite a bit, consider him the greatest tennis player in world history, and believe him when he says he’s going to break the grand slam record. But after showing resistance to a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which was bad enough, he invited a new-agey guru on his show and started talking about how you can transform polluted water with the power of prayer and gratitude. Seriously, watch:
To be clear, Djokovic himself was the one who first introduced this stuff about water changing from emotions into the conversation on his Instagram, saying that mindfulness can make unhealthy food more nutritious, and that dinner table arguments can make good less nutritious. pic.twitter.com/LyJbJTvb9W— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 7, 2020
Not good, Novak! The problem with this is not necessarily that Djokovic has become a faith healer, but that so many people believe this stuff when they see it online. You don’t like to believe it, but the influence here is enormous, as Rothenberg’s previous tweet showed, and clearly it’s a short road from believing this stuff to doing something extremely dumb like consuming toxic food or drink. (And in case you were wondering, the guru’s response was even more insane.)
2. Brett Favre grifting his entire state, then getting the national star treatment
Somehow, this might have been the most maddening thing of the past two months, and I went into more detail here. The short version: A group of politicians in Mississippi were stealing federal money (as in, almost all of it) designated for poor welfare recipients, and after meeting with them, Favre received more than $1 million in fees for speeches and appearances he never made, got a $2 million investment in his concussion research company, and secured a $5 million improvement to the volleyball center at the college where his daughter played. All of this money came from the welfare fund, so it was almost literally taking food out of people’s mouths. At the very best, Favre had to turn a blind eye to obvious corruption, and at worst he knew exactly what was happening. The main players have all been arrested, but there’s a good argument that Favre should have been too.
1. Rudy Gobert touching the microphones…with coronavirus
It’s hard to imagine anything more stupid, dangerous, or emblematic of the worst parts of this pandemic.
We know the post-script: Gobert had interacted with people traveling from France, he had the coronavirus, did the same HILARIOUS “touch everything” act in the locker room, and managed to infect Donovan Mitchell (who was so made he wouldn’t talk to Gobert for a month). Unlike many people on this list, he at least apologized, but he’s still going down as the athletic symbol of idiotic corona-era behavior.