Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 Ball-Drops in Sports for 2011

Every year, in New York's Times Square, at one minute to midnight on New Year's Eve, a ball is dropped to signal the New Year.

Since the Mets are so good at dropping balls, which one will be chosen for the Times Square drop?

Here are the Top 10 Ball-Drops in Sports for 2011. By "ball-drop" I mean on-field blunders or management miscues.

Dishonorable Mention: Cliff Lee. He decided the Philadelphia Phillies had a better chance of winning the World Series than the Yankees. Well, both teams ended their season in Game 5 of the League Division Series. So, as it turned out, they had exactly the same chance. Nice going, you dumb hillbilly. And you've still never won a ring.

10. Jim Tressel. He had a great thing going at Ohio State, and he blew it. And it didn't have to be. All he had to do was tell the NCAA what he knew, and he could have saved his job, and probably saved THE... Ohio State University from shame and the more serious of sanctions that it ended up facing. He refused.

9. Michael Gearon. The owner of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, he can't be totally blamed for having to sell the team and have it be moved to become the new Winnipeg Jets. But the fact is, this was the 1st move of an NHL team in 14 years (1997 Hartford Whalers to Carolina Hurricanes), and the 1st move of any team in any North American major league sport in 7 years (Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals).

Not an easy thing to do, considering the precariousness of the situations of the NHL's New York Islanders and MLB's Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays. Speaking of the latter...

8. Tampa Bay Rays Fans. Your team made the Playoffs for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. And yet you finished 29th out of 30 in MLB attendance. You averaged 18,878 fans per home game, only 646 out of last place. You've got 2.8 million people in your metropolitan area. That's more than MLB markets Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City. And you trailed all of them in attendance.

This, after waiting so long to get a team, with (depending on how you define it) anywhere from 3 to 8 near-misses (most notably the 1992 San Francisco Giants). You have a good team now, and the population to support it. And you don't. Shame on you. You deserve to lose your team.

7. NBA Owners. They came thisclose to canceling an entire season. True, the NHL has bounced back well from canceling the entire 2004-05 season, and MLB recovered from canceling the last 1/3rd of the 1994 regular season and the entire ensuing postseason to be bigger than ever, and the NFL recovered from their own preseason lockout.

But the NBA's problems go beyond the lockout and the cancellation of the 1st 1/5th of the regular season. They've effectively taken the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and, at least potentially, the secondary teams in New York and L.A., the Nets and Clippers, and turned them into a mini-major league, and turned the other 22 teams into a feeder league. Essentially, those 8 clubs are the Premier League, and if you're not in the Premiership, you're in the minors.

6. Rex Ryan. All that talk, and the Jets probably won't even make the Playoffs this season, after blowing 2 straight AFC Championship Games. Rex, you've failed as head coach of the New York Jets. Do the honorable thing and resign, and let someone else guide this team.

And there's 5 people and/or teams that can top (or bottom) that? Yes.

5. Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves (joint entry). Say what you want about Girardi and Lee, but at least they got into the Playoffs. According to, the Red Sox had a 99.85 percent chance of making the Playoffs on September 2 -- at which point they were still, ever so slightly, in 1st place in the American League Eastern Division. Shortly before that, the Braves had a 94 percent chance of making the Playoffs.

And both blew it, completing their blows on the last night of the regular season. Both of these franchises are known for chokes, but this year, they outdid themselves.

And there's 4 worse than that? Oh, yes.

4. Texas Rangers. You would think that, having won its 2nd straight Pennant, this one without the incredibly overrated Cliff Lee, after not having won any Pennants in their history before, the 2-time defending American League Champions would be immune from this list.

But they had 2-run leads in Game 6 of the World Series. In the 9th and 10th innings. In other words, like the Boston Red Sox in 1986, they were 2 runs up in what should have been the last inning of Game 6, clinching the World Championship without needing a Game 7.

But whereas the '86 BoSox blew such a lead once, the '11 Rangers blew such a lead twice, in back-to-back innings. And lost Game 6 in the 11th, and lost Game 7. If the 2004 and '07 World Series didn't get the '86 Red Sox off the hook, the '11 Rangers surely did: It was the greatest choke in World Series history.

And there's 3 worse than that? You better believe it, and one of them is in baseball. Barely.

3. Fred Wilpon. You would think that, having finally fired general manager Omar Minaya, the Mets' owner would be immune from this list.

But he had a new ballpark, and his own TV network, in the biggest market in the country, with some of the most passionate fans in the country, and started the season with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez (but not Johan Santana, out for the season due to injury), and finished below .500, with only the first of those star players. Turns out, even with trading Beltran and K-Rod, and all those potential big-revenue sources, the Mets lost $70 million.

Granted, it was due to a stupid decision well before this year (Fred trusting his pal Bernie Madoff), but with all the possible ways to produce revenue in major league sports, you gotta be a real moron to own a major league sports team and lose money. Or perhaps really crafty at trying to write it off as a tax break. And I don't think Freddy the Freeloader lost that money on purpose, for tax reasons.

And there's 2 worse than that? I think you'll agree.

2. LeBron James. You know why. I'm not going to give you a long answer. I'm only going to give you three-quarters of an answer. After all, that's all LeBron ever gives. "King James"? Yeah, right!

So what could be worse than that?

1. The administration and football staff at Pennsylvania State University, led by Joe Paterno. Even a big Rutgers fan like myself, as much as I hated Penn State and Ol' Ratface before, could not have imagined something like this.
I had said Paterno was not the squeaky-clean man running a squeaky-clean program like he claimed, so, yes, I TOLD YOU SO. But who could possibly have imagined something like this?

Let's hope that, when I do this piece in December 2012, it's about mere incompetence, on the field or in the boardroom. And not about what used to be known as "unspeakable acts."


Tom Shea said...

The Whalers moved to Carolina. The old Jets became the Coyotes.

Uncle Mike said...

And you didn't catch my "2008" error? Then don't criticize MY ball-drops! We should both hang our heads in shame.