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The proliferation of the media has drastically changed what the public digests when it comes to sports news and information. Gone are the days of covering for the big stars, like womanizer Babe Ruth, in an effort to preserve their spotless images and ensure their play on the field remains the story. In some ways, the sports media has become the enemy of athletes due to its lust for controversy. Mundane write-ups featuring brief locker-room interviews and accompanying box scores don't sell subscriptions. On the other hand, it still serves as a check and balance, highlighting issues that affect fairness and the well-being of athletes on and off the field. The following 10 sports controversies were covered ad nauseum by the media, for better or for worse, in 2010.
- The Decision: The unprecedented ESPN special, "The Decision," masterminded by LeBron's longtime friend Maverick Carter, proved to be both a PR disaster and ratings hit. Sports fans were stunned by LeBron's announcement that he was taking his "talents" to South Beach to form a super-team with friends and fellow highly-coveted free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Just in the matter of a few minutes, LeBron James went from perhaps the most liked athlete in NBA to the most resented, becoming a pariah in his second hometown of Cleveland where he previously was thought to be the savior. His decision regarding where he'd sign during free agency, which had been anticipated for years as teams were clearing payroll and planning elaborate ways to court him, revealed his massive ego before the American public.
- Cam Newton's Eligibility: Some rival fans might say that Cam Newton was the best college football player money could buy in 2010. Of course, that could be sour grapes due to his domination of their teams en route to one of the greatest seasons of all-time by a quarterback. The allegations that Cam's father, Cecil Newton, had solicited money during his son's recruitment surfaced in the second half of the season when Auburn was undefeated and surging toward a conference title and perhaps national title. They were brought forth by Mississippi State, which at one point had seemingly secured Cam's commitment. Reports were that Cecil was asking for "anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000," and accusations arose that he may have received the money for steering his son to Auburn. Regardless, Newton was declared eligible by the NCAA, and he proceeded to win the Heisman Trophy and lead his team to the BCS Championship Game. It remains to be seen whether or not those achievements will count in the long run.
- Brett Favre's Messages to Jenn Sterger: Favre's difficult year started with a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, in which his costly interception ended the Viking's chances of winning in regulation. His misfortune continued before the 2010 season began, when rumors surfaced that he had sent pictures of his "junk" to former Jets sideline reporter, Playboy Playmate and FSU superfan Jenn Sterger. Eventually, text messages and supposed pictures were posted online, eliciting a tearful apology from the 41-year-old quarterback to his teammates. The Vikings proceeded to lose seven of their first 10 games of the season, resulting in the firing of head coach Brad Childress. Although the team's struggles can be blamed on football-related issues, the distraction of an ongoing NFL investigation into Favre's sexting certainly hasn't made a difficult season any easier for the 20-year vet.
- Ben Roethlisberger's Extracurricular Activities: Eight months after a civil suit was filed accusing Roethlisberger of sexual assault, he was again accused of the misdeed by a college student in Georgia. The accuser claimed that Roethlisberger invited her and her friends into the VIP section of a Milledgeville nightclub, where he provided them with numerous shots of alcohol, exposed himself and followed her into a restroom. Eventually, it was determined that Roethlisberger would not be charged due to insufficient evidence, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was less than pleased with the quarterback's behavior, suspending him for the first six games — later reduced to four games — of the 2010 season.
- Ines Sainz's Mistreatment by the Jets: More bad behavior from NFL players resulted in negative publicity for the league, and again, it centered on the Jets. Ines Sainz, a Mexican journalist for TV Azteca and former Miss Spain and Miss Universe contestant, claimed footballs were thrown in her direction by coaches and players during practice, and afterward she was subjected to catcalls and rude comments from Jets team members while waiting to interview Mark Sanchez in the locker room. Team owner Woody Johnson subsequently offered Sainz a personal apology, which she accepted. No players were accused or disciplined, but Johnson was required to sponsor a league-implemented training program that stresses proper conduct in the workplace. The situation not only revived the concern of how female reporters are being treated on the job, but also brought forth the issue of whether or not they should be required to wear more conservative attire.
- Tiger's Not-So-Triumphant Return: After the controversy surrounding Tiger's chronic marital infidelity in late 2009, he decided to take a lengthy break from golf and the public eye altogether. His first public appearance since the news of his affairs broke occurred on February 19th, when he delivered a speech in which he admitted to being unfaithful to his wife Elin. A month later, he announced that he would compete in the Masters. Many golf purists were unhappy with the prospect of his presence because of the inevitable media distraction and wanted him suspended for a significant period of time. Despite the resistance, Tiger returned in positive fashion, finishing tied for fourth place after shooting 11 under par. Three weeks later, he shot his second-worst round as a professional and missed the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship. It was a sign of thing to come, as he failed to win an event during the 2010 season, losing his No. 1 world ranking for the first time 281 weeks. Some claim the decline was due to the lingering divorce and family upheaval; others say it was simply karma.
- USC Put on Probation, Reggie Bush Forfeits 2005 Heisman: The most accomplished program of the last decade was administered a crushing blow from the NCAA in June after it concluded its four-year investigation of allegations of improper benefits for Reggie Bush. It was determined the star running back and his family had received money and illegal gifts from two agents during his junior and season seasons, in which he won the Heisman Trophy and the Trojans won two Pac-10 titles and the 2005 Orange Bowl — which was also the national championship game. All wins in which he participated as an ineligible player were vacated and the program was placed on four years' probation, which included a two-year bowl ban and 30 docked scholarships over three years. Three months later, under pressure, Bush decided to forfeit his 2005 Heisman Trophy. It was the first time the award had been returned by a recipient. Debate persists as to whether USC's punishment was too harsh or not harsh enough.
- NFL's Effort to Prevent Head Injuries: Given the instances of former players suffering through life-altering and possibly even life-ending head injuries, the NFL decided to take action in order to prevent overly-reckless play. During the last offseason, the league instituted new rules that, according to an NFL.com Wire Report, "prevent defenseless players from taking shots above the shoulders." Players are prohibited from launching themselves head-first into the head or neck region of an opponent when attempting to make a tackle. In one week during the 2010 season, the league levied a total of $175,000 in fines for such hits, causing players and fans to question if the rules are possible to follow given the violent nature of the game. To them, injuries are inevitable and rules dictating how to hit will only dilute the quality of play.
- Armando Galarraga Robbed of Perfect Game: On June 2nd, Armando Galarraga was only one out away from completing the third perfect game and fourth no-hitter of the 2010 season, but umpire Jim Joyce wrongly ruled the would-be final out as an infield hit. Replays showed that Indians shortstop Jason Donald was clearly beaten to first base by a toss from Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera to Galarraga. The Tigers and their home crowd at Comerica Park erupted in outrage, causing immediate concern for the safety of the beleaguered ump. Joyce, however, handled the situation perfectly after the game, apologizing to Galarraga face-to-face. The pitcher later told the press "Nobody's perfect. Everybody's human. I understand," and that he gave Joyce a hug. Joyce admitted that he missed the call, saying "I just cost that kid a perfect game." Commissioner Bud Selig, who's never been a fan-favorite, refused to reverse the call and award Galarraga the perfect game, though he did promise that MLB would look at expanded replay and umpiring.
- Frank Lampard's No-Goal: There isn't a sporting event in which players and fans have more of an emotional investment than the World Cup, so one missed call can draw the ire of an entire country. Such was the case during the match between England and Germany during the round of 16, when a shot by England's Frank Lampard in the 39th minute was not awarded even though replay indicated that it crossed the goal line. A goal would have been the equalizer; instead, Germany went on to win 4-1. Like the Galarraga perfect game controversy, debate ensued as to whether some kind of artificial aid, goal line technology in this case, should be used. And like Bud Selig, FIFA President Sepp Blatter had previously opposed such measures that would remove the human element of the game.