We've known Rocket for more than 20 years now, and we can honestly say one of the best things about him is his willingness to fire off lengthy missives on a whim. This is one of them, on the decade of scandal that was the 2000s. Rocket?
We are now in the midst of the period of time when we are inundated with “best of” and “year end” lists and other grandiose statements about a distinct period of time. This particular season is even more intense as it is touted as the end of the decade. I generally find these lists to be amusing, if often frivolous. Yet, there are those postmodern deconstructionists who yammer on about the fallacy of cordoning off events into the predetermined (and often unhelpful) boxes of “years” and “decades” and such. And then there are those ninnies who insist that December 31 will not mark the end of this decade, but that technically we have another full year to go before we can declare “the aughts” a thing of the past. While the people in both of these camps have valid points to make, as far as I am concerned they can [redacted] themselves. I think that we are well within our rights as a society to begin thinking about how to conceptualize and interpret the past ten years of our lives for ourselves and for future generations.To that end, is there really any other reasonable way to describe the last ten years other than as the decade of the shocking sports scandal?
Obviously, other decades have had their weird, unusual, and often even horrifying sports events. But has any other decade in history had so many unbelievable, jaw-dropping, slap-your-forehead-in-disbelief moments as the 00s? Sports fans and the general public alike are in the middle of the capstone event of most definable characteristic of the aughts. I am writing, of course, of the Brady-Bundchen baby. If this child isn’t gorgeous and an athletic superstar then we will all be ashamed and disappointed.
No, no, no. It’s obviously the Tiger Woods firestorm to which I am referencing. In some ways, it is fitting end (or, at least I hope it is the end) of a tumultuous decade of sports. It has grown into an epic story about a seemingly once-unassailable athletic deity. This is not your average, gritty, plucky, Little Nicky Punto we are talking about here. This is, quite possibly, the best ever to play his sport, whose biggest peccadillo prior to this was to let his language get a little salty on the course, now being exposed as a philandering, careless cad.
This is a big deal.
And yet, it is hardly the biggest deal in sports, and hardly the worst we have seen over the last ten years. Several other scandals easily jump to mind. While steroids did not begin this decade, it (along with Barry Bonds’ gigantic head) cast an incredible shadow over baseball for the better part of the aughts. The taint of PEDs, and the folks who were either caught or implicated, essentially called MLB’s entire record book into question. Tim Donaghy and his ridiculous exploits called the integrity of an entire league into question. There was also the Malice at the Palace, where Ron Artest first started a fight on the court and then started a fight in the stands. Rick Tocchet’s gambling issues not only caused him his own problems, he nearly dragged Wayne Gretzky and his wife into legal trouble as well. Minnesota even contributed to the mess with the Love Boat Scandal, which made plenty of national headlines and provided tons of fodder for the late night comedians.
And then there was Michael Vick. Vick was arguably the most popular and marketable player in the entire NFL when he was arrested and convicted for running a dog fighting ring. Has any other athlete ever been so revered and then so reviled in such a short period of time, particularly in the prime of his career? Anybody? The only person who I can think who comes close is Mike Tyson, but even then I think Vick’s fall from grace was probably further. And still even yet, Vick’s legal troubles were not the worst of the decade. Ex-St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton pled guilty and was sentenced to prison for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his agent in 2004. He is currently on parole. And while the events that led to his incarceration occurred in 1999, it is nonetheless true that Rae Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of his seven-months-pregnant girlfriend in 2001.
The 00s must go down as the decade of the shocking sports scandal. These are just some of the biggies; I’m sure that I’ve missed plenty of others. Sports has always had its rogues and scoundrels and strange happenings, but in no other decade in history has sports gone so completely bat-[redacted] insane.
By the way, I vow that the 10s will be the decade when I finally vanquish my arch-nemesis, Stu.