You don’t have to be a praying man to believe that what goes around comes around. And, considering professional sports is the medium where it’s easiest to associate good from bad, karma has reared its head on numerous players and teams over the years. Make no mistake, bad guys win a lot more than we’d like to admit. But in these ten cases, at least, something larger than Roger Goodell or David Stern came looking for retribution.
1. Zero World Series Rings For Barry Bonds
The impact of steroids on baseball needs no elaboration. Barry Bonds, forever branded the poster child of chemically-enhanced advantages, holds one of sport’s most hallowed records in his tainted hands by hitting 762 home runs throughout his historic career. All of the personal accolades mask the fact that only once did he lead a team to a World Series; a Fall Classic that would see him walk away empty-handed. His failure to beat the Angels in 2002 – and, really, lead his team to the top of the mountain any other year – is a reassuring reminder that, despite how far an individual is willing to degrade the game, the art of winning cannot be taught by sticking a needle in your butt. — AJ
2. The Fab Five Choking
At the time, Chris Webber’s infamous timeout didn’t seem more than an ill-timed brain fart. Years later, his University of Michigan Wolverines seem to have gotten their just desserts. And, if you want to go the karma rout, all thanks should be given to school booster Ed Martin, who engineered a scandal that included everything from money laundering and gambling to drugs and prostitution. Lay blame at Webber and Jalen Rose, Martin or the school officials that allowed such sketchy recruiting to happen, but it’s hard to feel sorry for this team’s failures when you look at what was happening behind the scenes. — AJ
3. Brett Favre Losing With The Vikings
The story consumed national attention for all of 2009. After months of speculation, Brett Favre came out of retirement to bolster a Vikings team one quarterback away from contention. In joining Green Bay’s hated rival, he gave a figurative middle finger to legions of fans who were more than willing to name their firstborn sons after him.
And, for a second, it looked like Favre would have the last laugh, until a couple of costly, “only-Brett-Favre-would-throw-into-triple-fucking-coverage-like-that” interceptions sunk the Vikings against the Saints in the NFC Championship. While close to that second Super Bowl ring, Favre ultimately failed on an incredibly huge stage, further tainting his once-sterling reputation. Sending dick picks to a Jet intern probably didn’t sit well with the karma gods, either. — AJ
4. Beckham & Ferguson: Was The Cleat Kicked Or Thrown?
It’s the sort of rumor that the British tabloids fiend for. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson became so fed up with United’s poster boy, David Beckham, following a 2003 FA Cup loss to Arsenal that he kicked (or threw) a cleat at Beckham, striking him above the eye and fueling Becks’ departure. It was the final straw after Beckham became more celebrity than athlete following his marriage to Posh Spice. And that’s a shame because Beckham was one of the most prolific United wingers ever, scoring 85 goals and winning six EPL titles in nine seasons.
Not that United fans are that upset. Beckham only won one La Liga championship at Real Madrid before washing up in Los Angeles. Was the cleat kicked or thrown? Who cares. Fergie’s got four more EPL crowns and another shiny Champion’s League medal. — Ryan J.
5. Wayne Gretzky Leaves Edmonton, Never Wins Another Cup
Wayne Gretzky’s chokehold on the “Greatest Ever” label for his sport is rivaled only by Michael Jordan’s in the NBA. Still, for the vast success that he found on the ice, his unceremonious departure from Edmonton left a foul taste in the mouths of Canadian hockey fans everywhere. The details surrounding his departure are still far from certain – the Oilers ownership more or less flipped him for cash, but Gretzky definitely embraced the departure to a larger market – but his lack of success in America lead many to think that he got what he deserved. — AJ
6. The New England Patriots’ “Spygate”
To quote ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown crew, “C’mon, man.” The Patriots didn’t need to cheat. Stocked with an in-his-prime Randy Moss, an incredibly deep defense and all-world quarterback Tom Brady, the 2007 Patriots flirted with the only undefeated record in NFL history. Getting exposed for videotaping Jets defensive signals was almost laughable, because by all counts they didn’t need to resort to such petty behavior. The Patriots are as intimidating in 2012 as they were in 2007, but the lack of Super Bowl parades in downtown Boston since 2004 reinforces that karma will not hesitate to bitch-slap a franchise for cheating. — AJ
7. Phil Jackson & The New York Knicks
The Zen Master’s recent public disrespect towards the New York Knicks is just another chapter in a long-standing feud that dates back to Jackson’s earliest days as a coach. Looking for an NBA team with whom to start his coaching career, Phil was rejected by the team he won two championships with, forever creating a wedge between himself and Knicks ownership. Needless to say, denying one of their own came back to bite the Knicks in a big way. Jackson can rightfully wear one of his championship rings on a toe if he so chose (and, given his extracurricular habits, you can’t put that past him). The Knicks have been slightly less fortunate. — AJ
8. Patrick Ewing & The New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing’s status on the New York Knicks’ Mount Rushmore goes without debate. Which is why it was kind of heartbreaking to see the team that he carried for years trade him to Seattle. Sure, the NBA is a business first and foremost, but considering the return the Knicks got (an aging Glen Rice and draft picks, amongst other bits and pieces), one has to think that the Knicks would have been better served by, you know, not dogging the face of their franchise. Considering the murky post-Ewing years – highlighted by the dual antics of Stephon Marbury and Isaiah Thomas – it seems safe to say that the Knicks paid for their disrespect. — AJ
9. Thunder Lose
Minus a certain Justin P. Tinsley, every casual NBA fan wanted the Heat to lose to the Thunder. Everybody outside of the state of Washington, that is. As if getting your (historic) team hijacked wasn’t enough, the Seattle faithful had to sit and watch as Kevin Durant and co. transformed into the NBA’s next big thing, seemingly as soon as they swapped colors. Oklahoma City will, in all likelihood, be an NBA Finals staple for the next decade, but for one more year at least Supersonics fans won’t be bothered by footage of Russell Westbrook dousing Kevin Durant with Moet. — AJ
10. John Cena’s Losing Streak
A few months ago, John Cena was in the middle of a weird angle where he was making out with Eve behind Zach Ryder’s back. It was pretty weird for everyone looking like “wait, isn’t he married?” Things got weirder a couple of weeks later when he introduced his wife to the crowd in his hometown. The whole angle seemed like a big, gaping plot hole that WWE ignored. Like, nobody said, “hey, Cena’s totally cheating on his wife here.” Welp. A month later, Cena and his wife filed for divorce in real life and she accused him of cheating to boot. WITH A WWE DIVA! It’s not always cool when life imitates art. — David D.