As 2014 draws to a close, it is time to pause and reflect on the year that was in the world of sports. The allure of all sports, with the possible exception of tennis, is that you can expect the unexpected, but this year seemed to an abnormally large number of shocking and unexpected news stories. Most of 2014’s biggest stories, even though they involve different sports and seemingly much different circumstances, seem to have a common theme – comeuppance. From Donald Sterling to Roger Goodell to Kobe, Carmelo, and Heat fans everywhere, some of the biggest targets of sports fans’ ire have all been taken down a notch in 2014.
Though the theme is common to most of the major sports, it was by far the strongest in the NBA. First came the bombshell secret recordings of Donald Sterling, the most hated owner in all of North American sports, where he is caught telling his mistress that doesn’t want her bringing black people to games, although he apparently was ok with her sleeping with them. Sterling had long been a pariah as his legions of detractors had accused him of racist behavior and blamed him for making the Clippers the laughing stock of the NBA for decades, so when the tapes broke, he had absolutely nobody in his corner and was forced out of league, left with nothing only a real estate empire and a check for 2 billion dollars.
After Donald Sterling, the most hated group of people in the sports world are Miami Heat fans. Perhaps the most undeserving sports fans on earth, they were nevertheless suddenly blessed with a dream team four years ago when LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwayne Wade and subsequently went to 4 straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. Even after stealing the world’s best basketball player from Cleveland, they still didn’t bother to show up to games, and when Miami staged a remarkable last second game 6 comeback win in their first championship season, half the fans in the building didn’t even see it as they preferred to beat the traffic on the ride home. This summer, LeBron ditched the Heat and returned to Cleveland, which caused hypocritical Heat fans to rage against LeBron’s opportunism in ditching his aging team for a talented young team in his home town. That neither the Heat fans nor the Miami sports media could hide their angst only made it all the more enjoyable for all their haters.
The Lakers and the Knicks, who play in the two biggest markets, have millions of fans, but since most people do not live in New York and Los Angeles, most people outside those markets tend to resent teams from those cities who always have more money and an easier time attracting and retaining top talent. The dislike that most sports fans already have for these cities is compounded by the fact that both the Lakers and Knicks are led by two of the most polarizing players in all of basketball.
Carmelo Anthony, who along with being considered one of the most talented players in the league, has always been considered a selfish ball hog who could never take a team to a championship. Having previously forced his way out of Denver to get to New York, he resigned with the team for 120 million dollars and is now the best player on one of the worst and most dysfunctional teams in the league, only a few games ahead of the 76ers, who are not even trying to win this year.
Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA titles but every bit as polarizing as Carmelo due to his comically giant ego, is currently wrapping up his career as the league’s highest paid player on one of the worst teams in the NBA. It is believed that Kobe’s ego and general dis-likability caused Dwight Howard to leave and big name free agents like Carmelo from joining the team. All of his haters who had to endure him winning all those championships over the years can now revel in Kobe’s misery as he curses out teammates and the GM in practice and sets the all-time record for missed shots.
Thought the NBA has been the most enjoyable league for haters, perhaps the biggest fall from grace was in the NFL, which has long been both the most successful and most arrogant of the sports leagues, and is run by the highest paid and more arrogant commissioner, Roger Goodell. Goodell, unlike the commissioners in other leagues, put himself in charge of meting out punishment for player misbehaviour. This blew up in his face when he completely botched the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, and made things worse by giving the impression that he was being less than honest about his reasoning and when he viewed the video of the assault.
On top of all of that, you can throw in the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs, Brazil suffered one of the most epic blowout losses in the history of the World Cup, and Tiger Woods had perhaps the most disappointing season of his career. This truly was a dream year for haters.