In case you are wondering, there is no scientific formula to being named loser of the year. It’s more of an artform. So consider this a Van Gogh of losers.
NBA Loser of The Year — LeBron James
You might have thought I was going to pick the fans because of the lockout carrying over into the start of the regular season, but who the hell watches NBA games before Christmas anyway?
No, this distinction belongs solely to “King” James, who set himself up for a fall last year when he signed with Miami and then predicted the Heat would go on to win no less than seven championships during the stupid pep rally the team staged after signing him and Chris Bosh.
That fall did not come until the NBA Finals, when the Heat were vanquished by the Dallas Mavericks to the delight of a nation, thanks in large part to LeBron’s disappearing act during the fourth quarter that made him a punchline to the late-night TV crowd.
Put simply, if Jay Leno can make fun of you, you belong on this list.
NHL Loser of the Year — Brains
Concussions have become an unavoidable topic as hockey’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby, was forced to sit out nearly all of 2011 thanks to the injury he suffered at the Winter Classic. And he’s far from the only one to be felled by a concussion– Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and Predators defenseman Shea Weber are the two latest stars to go down.
It was a much scarier scene off the ice.
Three former enforcers — Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard — all died by their own hand in 2011. Boogaard’s death was by accidental overdose rather than suicide, but researchers who studied his brain after it was donated by his family found symptoms of the severe trauma that was also found in the brain of former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, who killed himself with a gunshot to the chest and told his family to donate the brain to science.
What the NHL does to prevent these brain injuries in the future may well be the league’s most important storyline in 2012.
MLB Losers of the Year — Boston Red Sox
The BoSox are truly the poster children for what it takes to become losers of the year.
Holding a nine-game lead on the Rays heading into September, Boston somehow missed out on the playoffs as the season was pissed away in a haze of beer and fried chicken that reached its crescendo when closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed the Orioles to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to blow the final game of the year.
Manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein, the guys who guided the Sox to their first World Series titles in 86 years, were promptly run out of town in the ensuing lynch mob.
The best part? In 2012 the Red Sox still would have made the playoffs since baseball is adding yet another wild-card team to the mix.
NFL Loser of the Year — Raheem Morris
Remember when Raheem Morris was the hottest young coach in the NFL?
It was, like, less than 365 days ago. However, 2011 turned out to be a very bad year for Mr. Morris. On Jan. 2, the Bucs appeared headed to the playoffs after knocking off the defending world champion Saints in Week 17. The joy was gone three hours later after the Packers beat the Bears to earn the last spot in the NFC, then ultimately won the whole damn thing.
The rest of the year only got worse.
After starting off 4-2, Tampa ended 2011 on a 10-game losing streak. The last five of those losses were all blowouts, giving the appearance that the team had completely quit on Morris. Now it is hard to imagine him ever getting another head coaching gig. True, he wasn’t technically fired until 2012, but his fate was sealed long before then.
Golf Loser of the Year — Steve Williams
The combustible Kiwi caddy was dumped as Tiger Woods’ bagman this summer after a dozen wildly successful years — OK, more like 10 wildly successful years — but that is hardly where this story ends.
Williams became the caddy for Adam Scott and helped him win the Bridgestone Invitational. It was shortly thereafter that Stevie jumped off the deep end, as he told CBS interview David Fehrety “This is the greatest week of my life!!!”
Things only got worse at a banquet in November, where he stated his aim at the Bridgestone was to “shove it right up that black arsehole.” Woods absolved Williams of charges that he’s racist, but it is clear that Stevie is an arsehole. And the biggest loser in golf in 2011.
Boxing Loser of the Year — Floyd Mayweather
Floyd Mayweather has long maintained he won’t fight Manny Pacquaio until Pacquaio undergoes pre-fight drug testing.
Apparently Mayweather’s girlfriend must have passed her drug test, because in December Floyd was sentenced to 90 days in the county poke for committing battery against her.
Before raising the ire of the law, Mayweather raised the ire of boxing fans in June as many felt he beat Victor Ortiz thanks to a sucker punch. Overall, not a very good year.
2011 Loser of the Year — Innocence in College Sports
OK, it’s probably naive to think that there has ever been such a thing as innocence in college sports. Even the 1932 Marx Brothers movie “Horse Feathers” is built around the premise of a college buying a football ringer so it can beat its rival for the first time since the turn of the century.
The thing that makes 2011 different is we now find those kinds of scandals to be quaint. The sordid allegations against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine were unlike anything ever experienced in college sports. It may well be the most sickening episode in the history of sports altogether, and was ultimately the symbol of sports in 2011 as a whole — a depressing mess.