Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If I should fall from grace with God where no doctor can relieve me...

Professional athletics comes with many perks - fame...fortune...toadies to stroke the inflated ego. There are, however, other things that some with it - sycophants that do one no favors, increased scrutiny from being in the public eye, and a very high perch from which to fall.

With the increased media scrutiny and leagues becoming more and more image conscious, it has felt like a lot of people have fallen from grace lately. Some from greater heights than others.

Let's take a look at eleven of the biggest falls...

Roger Clemens -

Accused of...
Baseball cheat
Witness tampering
Multiple counts of philandering

Creating a new synonym for the term clemency - It started with the Mitchell Report tainting who some were calling the greatest pitcher of all-time (I won't even address the inaccuracy of the hyperbole involved there), which has snowballed. Due to the accusations of Celmens being a steroid cheat for approximately a decade of his career, The Rocket filed a defamation suit against his accuser. This was one of the first of many legal missteps which include a crash-and-burn-act in front of a Congressional committee (including potential witness tampering), and has culminated in the unearthing of a series of affairs with a country singer, a former bartender, the ex-wife of golfer John Daly (were they married at the time?) and possibly the (ex?)wife of a pro wrestler. As Mike Lupica noted, Rusty Hardin must be the Isiah Thomas of lawyers. A smart lawyer would advise his client to cut his losses and settle the defamation suit at this point, a suit based on the premise that his client is a good family man.

With a federal perjury investigation hanging over his head and a new mistress revealed daily, Clemens has gone from one of the most revered pitchers in the history of baseball - often talked about in the same breath as the likes of Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax - to being little more than a punchline.

Jose Canseco -

Copped to/nailed for...
Steroid use
Probation violation

Accused of...
Slander and libel

At one time one of the most feared power hitters in the sport (we'll be kind and not talk about his defense), Canseco crashed and burned due to steroid use some time ago. He was a punchline, until his book Juiced turned out to be a fairly accurate catalyst for the Mitchell Report. Unfortunately, his second book came out to allegations of a blackmail operation that was intended to raise money for a film project of his - you give me money, I say you didn't use.

As a key character witness, and the one of the few character witnesses Clemens has been able to produce, Canseco has once again managed to paint himself into the corner of sleazy opportunist with a series of claims that seem to be contradicted by other witnesses and, in some cases, hard evidence.

Michael Vick -

Copped to/nailed for...
Dog fighting
Cruelty to animals
Illegal gambling
Drug use
Transmitting an STD

Once the anointed savior of the Atlanta Falcons and highest paid player in the NFL, is now a jail-bird in a federal prison. After getting nailed to the wall for being the money behind a dog-fighting operation, Vick violated the terms of his house arrest when he was caught toking up a Bob Marley special. Since the criminal issues came to a resolution, Vick has continued to be plagued with legal issues as everyone from the Hawks to companies with which he had sponsorship deals have been trying to recoup their investment in him.

OJ Simpson -

Copped to/nailed for...
Wrongful death (civil)
Domestic violence
Unpaid income tax
Broadcast piracy
Contacting a co-defendant

Accused of...
Murder (criminal)
Gun charges
Conspiracy to commit crimes

Once one of the best running backs in the NFL, Simpson was able to parlay his fame on the football field into a respectable film career, appearing in close to 30 films over a 20-year span from 1974 to 1994. His post-football career included rolls in Roots and box-office hits like The Towering Inferno and the Naked Gun series.

The film career stopped abruptly when Simpson was put on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. Acquitted despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Simpson vowed he wouldn't rest until he brought his ex's real killer to justice. Despite the acquittal, Simpson was found responsible of the murder in civil court and ordered to pay damages to the families of the victims.

To date, his "search" has revealed no leads and he is now in court for violent criminal violations for the second time in little more than a decade.

Pete Rose -

Copped to/nailed for...
Gambling on baseball
Tax evasion

Charlie Hustle was the hardest working man in professional sports. A player with limited tools and talent, Rose put up Hall-of-Fame-worthy numbers during his career - retiring the all-time hits leader. He was used, for a period, as an example of how to play the game by every little league coach as to how kids should play the game.

Rose was bounced from baseball for violating the game's cardinal rule. Nailed for gambling, and on charges of tax evasion, Rose has become a polarizing figure among sports writers debating his place in the canton of ball-players.

Maurice Clarrett -

Copped to/nailed for...
Gun charges
Armed robbery
Intimidating a witness
General stupidity

Sure, Clarrett never made it to the pinnacle of professional sports, but he was expected to be a high draft pick. Clarrett screwed the pooch in college, violating any number of NCAA rules in accepting money, and cars from Ohio State boosters, not to mention academic violations.

In danger of being kicked out of school, and already suspended by the NCAA from play, Clarrett unsuccessfully sued the NFL for entry into the draft. It went downhill from there for him.

Barry Bonds -

Accused of...
Steroid/HGH use
Tax evasion

Once a five-tool player with Hall-of-Fame written all over him, Bonds wanted more, and apparently turned to steroid and HGH use to get it. He went from a svelte, fast player who could play defense to a lumbering muscle-bound freak who could hit the ball a ton, but was a defensive liability prone to injury.

Now Bonds appears to be baseball kryptonite and facing a potential trial on federal charges of perjury. On the plus side, no one ever has accused Bonds of being a nice guy or sterling family man. His fall from grace appears to be almost totally tied into the professional.

Marion Jones -

Copped to/nailed for...
HGH use
Check fraud

The one-time Olympic competitor, and occasional magazine cover-girl saw everything come crashing down with the BALCO investigation as well as a separate investigation into a check fraud scheme. Now serving time on federal perjury charges, Jones' issues brought not only herself down, but her relay teammates who were stripped of their Olympic gold due to her cheating.

Mike Tyson -

Copped to/nailed for...

Iron Mike was the most dominant force in boxing from the '80's into the '90's. Granted, it's not like there was a whole lot of competition in the heavy weight division during that stretch, but really, no one else came close.

Tyson ended up in jail in the early 1990's for raping a beauty queen, and has since squandered his fortune, and been mocked for using Evander Hollyfield as a chew toy during a late-career boxing match.

Isiah Thomas -

Copped to/nailed for...
Sexual harassment
Destruction of a storied franchise

Accused of...

Thomas' tenure as the general manager and coach of the New York Knicks was an unmitigated disaster. During his time running the show at Madison Square Garden, Thomas has pretty effectively wiped his Hall-of-Fame playing career from the public's minds with his ineptitude, his failure to defend himself against allegations of sexual harassment, and the allegations of racism that surfaced as a result of the case against him.

Along the way Thomas undermined the authority of a Hall-of-Fame coach, destroyed his own credibility, the credibility of the Knicks owner, and put together one of the most overpaid and underachieving teams in the history of professional sports. He has, since, been effectively neutered by the team's new president. His nickname should be changed from Zeke to Gelding.

Mark McGwire -

Accused of...
Steroid use

Big Mac is the only guy on the list whose fall had virtually no impact on his private life. McGwire was a likely lock for the Hall-of-Fame, despite borderline numbers, when the steroid hearings on Capitol Hill started.

His Hall candidacy was mostly predicated on his power numbers. His hall votes dried up when he would not address accusations of using in order to pad his power numbers. To date, McGwire will not address questions regarding his use of supplements during his playing days, and does his best to stay out of the spotlight.


Dishonorable mention: Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Steve Howe, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Leaf, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, and a bevy of other idiots.

Almost all of those mentioned above in some way or another, brought the fall on themselves - whether through questionable choices, stupid associations, or what have you - the only place these people can realistically lay blame is at their own front door.

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