The biggest turkeys in sports in 2019
It’s been a fantastic year for some in sports, and a bit of a bust for others. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, let’s reflect on the biggest turkeys of the year, including an unlucky kicker, polarizing NFL figures, a historical fail in the postseason and one master tennis troll.
Let’s go back to January 6, when the Chicago Bears battled the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
In Matt Nagy’s first season, Chicago surprised the league and went 12-4, good for first in the NFC North, and needed only a 43-yard field goal to move to the next round of the postseason. Kicker Cody Parkey attempted the game-winning kick in the final seconds, but the ball hit the upright then ricocheted off the crossbar. It’s quite possibly the saddest ending to a Bears season in history.
The Bears’ ending was bad, but it doesn’t get worse than the final play of the NFC Championship Game featuring the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.
With the game tied 20-20 and less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey blatantly interfered with receiver TommyLee Lewis on third and 10. Had pass interference been called, the Saints would have been granted a first down and been in position to either kick a game-winning field goal or score a touchdown. Instead the Rams moved on to the Super Bowl.
Referee decision making hasn’t improved much in 2019. See the Detroit-Green Bay game on October 14 for more examples of inexcusable officiating.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning accomplished a record-setting regular season only to serve up a huge dud in the postseason. During the regular season Tampa Bay became the second team in NHL history to win 62 games and earned the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history. The team entered the playoffs as a No. 1 seed and as a heavy favorite to win the Stanley Cup but fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets—in a sweep—in the first round.
Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry and Golden State successfully built a dynasty, with five straight NBA Finals appearances and three championships. In 2018 the Warriors added another weapon in DeMarcus Cousins, but injuries plagued the center and eventually got the best of Kevin Durant, as well. In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Klay Thompson tore his ACL, and it became obvious the Toronto Raptors would get the best of the hobbling defending champions.
Golden State has reached a new low this season. Durant left for Brooklyn, Thompson is still recovering from his injury and Curry broke his hand in October. The Warriors are 3-15 and will almost surely get a lottery pick in 2020. My, how the tables turn.
The controversial wide receiver had already made negative headlines at Pittsburgh. Then Brown landed at Oakland and caused a whole lot of mess, including but not limited to: filing a grievance to wear a banned helmet, incurring a $54,000 fine for missing practices and getting into a verbal altercation with general manager Mike Mayock.
Brown demanded a release from Oakland, posted a video on Instagram to leverage the move and signed with the New England Patriots but ended up almost instantly unemployed after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.
Brown has since claimed he’ll never again play in the NFL, but he is probably still hoping the Patriots fork over the $10 million guaranteed in his contract.
The Russian tennis pro surged to the final of the U.S. Open, where he met 19-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal. Along the way Medvedev became a sort of villain of the tournament for his on-court behavior.
The 23-year-old received a $7,500 fine for verbal abuse in the first round and a $2,500 fine for equipment abuse in the second. Then he paid out $5,000 for forcefully snatching a towel from a ballperson and another $4,000 for flipping off the New York crowd in the third round.
Medvedev drew louder boos with each new match and relished it. If you’re a fan of WWE heel promos, his courtside interviews are must-see.
The Astros led the MLB with a 107-55 record and were such a popular pick to win the World Series, one man placed a $3.5 million futures bet on the team. All Houston had to do was defeat the Washington Nationals, who started off the season 19-31 and got into the playoffs as a wild-card team.
The Astros won the title in 2017 and owned home-field advantage against a team that had never appeared in a World Series. Houston dropped the first two games at home but won the next three on the road, before Washington defeated the Astros in Games 6 and 7 back in Texas. Houston found itself on the wrong side of history in one of the weirder World Series in recent memory, in which the road team won all seven games.
The Cleveland Browns could have made the list themselves for falling drastically short of expectations in 2019. But in Week 11 Myles Garrett gave Cleveland its most embarrassing moment of the season, when he attacked Mason Rudolph and hit the Steelers quarterback on the head with his own helmet. The Browns were just seconds away from sealing a 21-7 win over a bitter rival when Garrett lost his cool. The NFL suspended him indefinitely without pay and handed Browns lineman Larry Ogunjobi and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey one- and two-game suspensions, respectively.
The HokieBird has done nothing wrong in 2019. The Virginia Tech mascot has had plenty to celebrate, as his football team is 8-3 and could earn a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a victory over Virginia on Friday. HokieBird makes the list because he is the one and only turkey mascot in college football. Not many people know Virginia Tech’s nickname was the “Gobblers” back in the 1900s, but over time a fictitious animal called the HokieBird came to prominence and has been an icon of the program ever since.
The Miami Dolphins were pegged to go down as one of the worst teams in NFL history in 2019. But the Cincinnati “Bungals” messed with fate and now appear destined to go winless this season. The Dolphins already own two victories and have put up more of a fight each week, but the Bengals are bumbling along with 11 losses and a fat zero in the win column. Here’s hoping they don’t flub that No. 1 draft pick in 2020, too.