There have been enough trashy, tabloid-type stories floating around major sports and news networks over the past week surrounding the events behind Tiger Woods' car crash. But are Tiger's alleged actions really that bad? Are we still surprised when star athletes and supposed role models have a dirty little secret, or in Woods' case, several dirty little secrets? You would hope not. Instead of focusing on the marital faults of the world's No. 1 golfer, let's take a look at some of the worst scandals in sports history.
The O.J. Simpson murder trialReally? You think O.J.'s innocent? Yeah right, and there wasn't anything important on the 18 minutes of tape that President Richard Nixon erased after Watergate.
Rick Pitino's extortion caseThe highly successful men's basketball coach accused a woman in April 2009 of attempting to extort millions of dollars in order to cover up an extramarital affair. Pitino was also accused of rape, but no charges were filed. He holds the distinction of being the only men's coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four.
Pete Rose betting on baseballThere is no greater sin in the game of baseball than betting on the game. Even players who use performance-enhancing drugs are eventually forgiven in time, or in just a few months in the case of Alex Rodriguez. Rose, who's the game's all-time hits leader, is banned from the game forever and therefore the Hall of Fame as well. Perhaps someday Rose will make it to Cooperstown, although the Hall of Fame voters have a very long memory.
Jim Thorpe stripped of his Olympic medals Thorpe was quite possibly the best natural athlete in the 20th century. He played baseball, football, lacrosse and basketball at the highest level in the early 1900s. He won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in the pentathlon and the decathlon. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee stripped Thorpe of his medals when they discovered he had played two seasons of semi-professional baseball. This violated the IOC's rule that all Olympians must be amateur athletes. The IOC eventually corrected its decision and returned the medals to Thorpe's family in 1983, 30 years after his death.
The 1919 Chicago Black Sox This scandal set the mark for all future sporting scandals, especially those involving gambling. Eight members of the team were banned for life from baseball for their alleged involvement in a plot to throw the 1919 World Series. Afterward, two players - including star outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson - recanted their confessions and swore that they were either ignorant of the plot or didn't participate in it.
Danny AlmonteThis one is ranked fourth for several reasons. First, it took the willing participation of his coaches and his father to intentionally forge Almonte's paperwork so that he could pitch in the Little League World Series as a 12-year-old when he was in fact 14. If that's not setting an awful example for young athletes I don't know what is. Second, it destroyed the picture of innocence surrounding the LLWS and showed it to be as cutthroat as any other level of competition in baseball. The nostalgic image of kids just playing the game that LLWS officials attempt to market has clearly become a thing of the past.
Tonya HardingThere's been a lot of strange and perhaps crazy sports scandals but not too many can top Harding hiring thugs to beat up rival Nancy Kerrigan to keep her out of the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Harding went on to place eighth while Kerrigan recovered to take second place.
Michael VickVick was at the height of his NFL fame when he was arrested in 2007 for running a brutal dog fighting ring out of his home in Virginia. Vick and others tortured, electrocuted and drowned dogs that lost in the ring and buried them in his backyard. Vick served 18 months in federal prison before returning to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles this fall.
The Steroid Era in Major League BaseballThis scandal rocked the nation, causing congressional hearings, inspiring countless books and causing a generation of stars to be called in to question. Players such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi all allegedly or admittedly engaged in the use of performance enhancing drugs. Every one of these players were All-Stars, nearly all were on World Series teams and Bonds broke baseball's holiest record, the all-time home-run record.
Professional athletes aren't perfect. They sleep around, they do drugs, they get arrested and, heck, some even get caught with prostitutes. In other words, even a media darling such as Woods can't be expected to be perfect. What he did was wrong, dishonest and stupid. He is blessed with an amazing talent, a beautiful wife and an incredible career. Maybe it was a way to escape the pressure, or deal with some deep insecurity. It doesn't matter; pop psychology isn't going to answer that question and we don't need that answer.Give Tiger his space, let him save his marriage and just hold on until Miley Cyrus puts out a sex tape. At least that won't be all over ESPN.