4. Nolan Ryan: Texas Ranger
My favorite baseball story of the year, and possibly the decade – The Texas Rangers were bankrupt early in the 2010 season because owner Tom Hicks had run the team into the ground years ago and spent the past few seasons covering the scorched remains with fresh paint. Despite the financial woes and franchise uncertainty, team president Nolan Ryan traded for pitcher Cliff Lee and kept the team playing first place baseball, behind the MVP season of Josh Hamilton. The move paid off, as the Rangers made it to the World Series and reignited a shamefully stagnant fan base along the way. Of course, the Rangers lost so it was fun while it lasted.
However, the greater story involved Ryan behind the scenes. With Hicks on the run from a number of creditors demanding his head, Major League Baseball planned to auction off the Rangers to qualified ownership groups that could keep the team above water, and also pay back some of the incredibly pissed off creditors. Eventually, the bidding came down to Ryan and his group and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his group. After hours of intense and less-than-friendly bidding, Cuban caved and let the Hall-of-Fame pitcher take control of the franchise. Then Ryan failed to sign Lee and just possibly overpaid for Adrian Beltre. Ladies and gentlemen, the Texas Rangers!
3a. Cam Newton’s Law
There was no bigger story in college football this year than Cam Newton and his father, Cecil, and the allegations that Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State University player, had helped them solicit at least $180,000 to play at MSU. Obviously Newton never took that money since he played at Auburn and led the Tigers to the National Championship (I couldn’t wait long enough for a result). However, the accusations were enough to leave the spotlight on Newton, who had already had problems when he was a freshman at Florida and was accused of stealing a laptop, late in the season, with rumors that as many as 6 teams had been involved in the illegal recruiting of Newton for as much as $200,000.
Eventually, the NCAA declared Newton ineligible based on MSU’s accusations, but he was reinstated after an Auburn appeal. In all, he was ineligible for one day and his father was banned from Auburn’s remaining games. That’ll teach kids and their fathers to demand money from schools. Finally, we can close this terrible chapter of illegal gifts in NCAA football.
No we can’t…
3b. Terrelle Pryor’s Expensive Ink
On December 23, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates were suspended by the NCAA for the first five games of the 2011 season because they exchanged rings, trophies, jerseys and autographs for tattoos. But of course the NCAA allowed them to play in the Sugar Bowl, and they’re lucky for it. After all, the student-athletes have no business profiting from their play. That’s the job of the NCAA and its sponsors.