Decade Debate: 10 Biggest Betrayals

To betray is to “be disloyal to one’s country, organization, or ideology by acting in the interests of an enemy.” In the world of sports, a betrayal can refer to any number of things: a beloved star choosing to play for a bitter rival, someone who breaks the public’s trust or even a head coach who lies to his boss about where his loyalties lie. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, we chose the ten biggest betrayals of the last ten years. (By the way, we’re focused on sports business related betrayals only, so Tiger Woods, Mike Vick and Roger Clemens are safe. For now.)

10. NHL cancels the 2004-05 season.

After failing for months to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL finally canceled the 2004-05 season in February of ’05. The dispute between the owners and the NHLPA covered a number of issues, but the biggest was the owners’ proposal of a salary cap that was tied to league revenues, similar to the NBA salary cap. The NHLPA rejected every offer that included a salary cap and the season had to be canceled. A majority of fans blamed the players due to their out-of-control salaries and unwillingness to accept a cap, which is something that both the NBA and NFL – two very successful leagues — have in different forms. Finally, in the summer of 2005, the players association ratified an agreement (which – surprise, surprise — included a salary cap tied to league revenue) and the lockout ended after 310 days. It marks the only time that a North American professional sports league ever canceled and entire season over a labor dispute. In the end, the NHLPA’s stubbornness was fruitless; the owners got their salary cap and the fans got screwed out of year of hockey. Way to go, guys. – John Paulsen

9. Damon skips Bean Town for the Big Apple.

There are some things in life that are just wrong. One is watching any of the “Twilight” movies alone as a single man. Another is flossing in public. Wearing sandals with a nice pair of slacks is also a terrible idea. Regardless of your opinion of these faux pas, we can all agree that a player jumping ship from the Red Sox to the Yankees (or vice versa) is a huge no-no. Babe Ruth never wanted to leave – he was sold. But guys like former Red Sox manger Ed Barrow (took over as Yankees GM), Wade Boggs, and Johnny Damon – they had a choice. Only one season removed from helping the BoSox capture their first World Series since 1918, Damon signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox Nation cried “foul,” but Damon claimed his former team didn’t push further than their initial four-year, $40 million offer. Nevertheless, the fans felt slighted. Damon had flourished in Boston, racking up career numbers and gaining celebrity status. He hit the memorable leadoff homerun in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast was all the Red Sox needed to extinguish the curse. (They would go on to win the game 3-0 and the World Series in a sweep.) But he was gone, ready to face the chorus of boos from former fans, and prepped to win a championship in pinstripes four years later. In the end, a t-shirt I saw at a Fenway Park merchant’s booth said it all. A crude picture of Damon adorned the front: “Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.” – Christopher Glotfelty

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Five biggest traitors in sports

Nina Mandell of FanNation ranks the five biggest traitors in sports.

Nick Saban1. Nick Saban: We all know that sports figures, and public figures for that matter, are capable of denying the truth at any given time. But none did it quite as brazenly as then-Dolphins coach Saban before jumping to a multi-million dollar offer at ‘Bama, after five weeks of repeated denials. “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach. … I don’t control what people say. I don’t control what people put on dot-com or anything else. So I’m just telling you there’s no significance, in my opinion, about this, about me, about any interest that I have in anything other than being the coach here,” he said on Dec. 21, 2006. Less than three weeks later, came this statement: “What I realized in the last two years is that we love college coaching because of the ability that it gives you to affect people, young people. … If I knew that my heart was someplace else in what I wanted to do, I don’t think it would be fair to the [Dolphins] organization if I stayed.” Thus proving, Nick Saban’s heart = his wallet.

2. Bobby Petrino: When the going got tough, this former Atlanta Falcons head coach got going. Coming off a blowout loss and strapped with a team that was reeling from the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, Petrino took off to become the head coach at Arkansas, piling onto the Falcons’ woes. “He preached team and he preached family and then he quit on us. That’s not what a man does. He lied to us,” said then-quarterback Joey Harrington.

5. Carlos Boozer: Looking for a raise? Try what’s been deemed the Carlos Boozer negotiating tactics. After two years in Cleveland, Boozer was about to move up to the penthouse after reportedly making a verbal agreement to a $40 million deal. That’s when the Utah Jazz suddenly announced they’d locked up Boozer for six years at $68 million. “We are both very surprised and very disappointed by what is now being reported,” said the Cavaliers in a statement. Apparently the hatred spread worldwide. When one Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter decided to revisit the betrayal at the Beijing Olympics, she found that Boozer was known as “Fan Gu Zai,” which, loosely translated, means “Betrayal Skull Dude” in China.

And now Nick Saban is a hero in Alabama. Guess he got what he deserved.

College football coaches might be the greediest men in sports. They’ll sell their souls to the highest bidder and then lie through their teeth any chance they get. As it turns out though, Petrino did the Falcons a favor. Mike Smith has done a great job in Atlanta so far and Petrino was overmatched in the NFL from the start.

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