It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus is hitching the reindeer up to the sleigh and preparing for his annual flight around the globe tonight. He is also making his list and checking it twice. Where some sports figures naughty or nice? I’ll help you out, Santa. It’s the 2012 Daily Sports Obsession Naughty or Nice list for the sports world.
The NHL owners and players. When it comes to Christmas this year, both sides of the NHL would probably go, ”Bah, humbug!” The inability to come to an agreement to end the NHL lockout has made every hockey fan in America pretty upset. Selfishness is not big up at the North Pole, and Santa will no doubt be putting some coal in Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr’s stockings.
- Melky Cabrera. Melky Cabrera got on one of the hottest starts in the big leagues in 2012. In May, he tied the record for the most hits in a month in Giants history with 51. He was the highest vote-getter among NL outfielders for the All-Star Game and was the front-runner for the batting title. All of that was cut short on August 15 when he was suspended 50 games without pay for testing positive for high levels of testosterone, violating baseball’s PED policy. He was ruled ineligible for the batting title and the Giants won the World Series without him. Talk about a Scrooge to his team. Melky goes on the naughty list.
- Lane Kiffin. How to land on the naughty list? Oh, tell reporters you wouldn’t vote for your team number one in the Coaches Poll, when you already did. When USA Today then says you lied, don’t apologize or anything, that would be ridiculous. After that, suspend a reporter from practice and an upcoming game because he did his job and reported on an injury. How dare he, right? Top it all off by having a player switch his jersey number in the middle of a game to confuse a team on a two-point conversion in a 50-6 blowout, then have your student manager deflate footballs for a game and pretend you had no part in it and that he acted alone. How many times did Kiffin cheat in 2012? Naughty list.
- Lance Armstrong. The man duped us all. Winning seven straight Tour de France titles enthralled us. We became cycling fans every time he went up those Alps and represented our country like no one had before in the sport. When doping allegations came out every year, we denied them and passed them off as ridiculous, nonsensical rumors. Lance couldn’t possibly cheat; he was a cancer survivor, our hero. Well, this was proven false when Lance stopped his fight against the allegations, basically confirming the steroid reports the whole time. Very disappointing fall for a man who had a high moral standing as an inspirational story. Fakers and cheats land on the Naughty list, Lance.
- Ozzie Guillen. In a place like Miami, with the biggest Cuban population in the United States, it’s not a good idea to share your affection for the man Cubans despise, Fidel Castro. Guillen went so far to say, ”I love Fidel Castro, I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [S.O.B.] is still there.” For those comments, Guillen got an angry response from yours truly and most importantly, a five-game suspension. At the end of the year, Ozzie was fired by the Marlins and went straight to the Naughty list.
- Bobby Petrino. After likely being on Santa’s Nice list in 2011, former Arkansas coach Petrino was in some hot water in 2012. At the end of April he was involved in a bad motorcycle crash resulting in a major injury to his neck. After the accident, Petrino said that he was the only rider in the motorcycle. This was proven incorrect when he admitted later that he had another passenger: 25 year-old Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player the 51 year-old married coach had been having an affair with, even hiring her as an assistant with the program. Petrino was fired and looked at as one of the biggest jokes of the year, with good reason. Big lump of coal in his stocking tonight.
- Manti Te’o. Manti gets at the top of the Nice list for being the most inspirational college football player there is. Heisman or no Heisman, Manti’s performance in the Michigan game after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend is something no one will soon forget. And now his leadership and pursuit of excellence have led him to the BCS Championship Game on January 7. Make room for Te’o on the top of the Nice list, Santa.
- Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants. Kung Fu Panda was named the World Series MVP after leading San Fran to a title for the ages. The comeback against Cincinnati, the three homer game by Sandoval in Game 1, and a real commitment to his diet in 2012 give Pablo and the baseball Giants a spot on the good list.
- Miguel Cabrera. Sure he lost the World Series, but Miggy had one of the best seasons of all time in 2012, being the first player since Carl Yastrzemski to hit for baseball’s Triple Crown, leading the majors in the three major statistical categories to win the AL MVP.
- LeBron James. Proving the doubters wrong, LeBron finally won the big one by leading the Heat past the Thunder in the Finals and getting his first ring. After that, he teamed up with the man he beat (Durant) and won the Olympics just two months later. I’ve been hard on LeBron, but there is no doubt that he deserves his stockings full of goodies this Christmas.
- London 2012 Olympics. The Queen was on hand, Britain was jumping, and these were the best Summer Olympics in some time. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever, Ryan Lochte had a breakout month, Team USA won Gold in both men’s and women’s basketball, and Oscar Pistorius captured us all by being the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius didn’t win a medal, but he was arguably the most inspirational competitor there. The man showed us what the Olympics are all about.
- Victor Cruz’s touching tribute to Jack Pinto. After the saddest story of the year, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, sports came secondary for sure. We all stepped back from our focus on the playoff race and focused more on the victims and the question of why such a horrible act could have occurred. Tributes were planned across the NFL, but none was more touching and inspirational than Victor Cruz’s to six year-old Jack Pinto. After finding out that Pinto was a big fan of the Giants and that Cruz was his favorite player, the wideout made sure to write “RIP Jack Pinto” on his gloves and cleats, then visited the family during the week after the game. Out of all of the nice guys in the game of football, Victor Cruz is one of the nicest. There will be plenty of presents under Cruz’s tree.
Lot of naughty people in the world of sports in 2012, but to make up for it we had plenty of great and inspirational moments. In the end, that’s what matters. Merry Christmas everybody, from our family to yours.