The sad and ugly of 2011

This fading year was supposed to be the calm before the London Olympic storm of 2012. Instead, tragedies on and off the field, scandals, lockouts and big stars making bigger mistakes kept sports in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, Tym Glaser writes.

1. Russian tragedy Before leaving for his first job as a head coach in professional hockey, Brad McCrimmon, asked a fellow American coach with experience in Russia's Kontinental League (KHL) what to expect. The response, according to a Sports Illustrated article, was that the money is green, but the knuckles are white due to the travel.

On Sept 7, the chartered flight carrying McCrimmon and his highly rated Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed on the way to the opening game of the season in Minsk, Belarus - ultimately killing all on board, including 37 team personnel.

A famous franchise fell from the sky and the Russians now say rapid reforms will be on the way to improve air safety in a country that has a record among the worst in the world.

2. Horror on campus

Penn State University was a paragon of collegiate athletic virtue in an otherwise shady world. Its highly successful American football program, under legendary coach Joe Paterno, the man with the most NCAA wins of all time, was also known for graduating its student athletes.

That Ivory Tower crumbled this year when a former assistant coach of Paterno's, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with 40 counts of child molestation involving eight young men. That in itself would not have been a problem for the university or Paterno, except it has been reported the university and coach knew of at least one alleged incident that happened in the showers on campus for almost a decade but had not reported it to police. Paterno was told of an incident and informed his superiors (although Paterno runs the show there); and that's where he left it, and they did as well. When word came out publicly, the lack of any follow-up action cost the college's president and Paterno their jobs, while two other staff members have been charged with perjury.

Sandusky, who is under house arrest, has pleaded innocent to the charges and claims he was just "horsing around". Adults should not "horse around " with juveniles in showers - full stop. And officials involved in the overall welfare of young people should not brush such matters under the carpet or try to ignore them. This stain on Penn State will never be cleaned.

Sadly, the Penn State scandal opened a can of worms, with allegations being made against Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who was fired in November, and even prominent Philadelphia sport journalist Bill Conlin, who resigned his post at the Daily News in that city just before the allegations emerged.

3. Cricket bowled over

Three Pakistan cricketers are enjoying the delights of time in an English jail after being found guilty of spot-fixing during a Test match against England at Lord's in 2010.

Spot fixing is not the altering of a result, but the orchestrating of a stage or facet of a match that can be bet upon. The Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were found guilty of conspiring to cheat at gambling and accepting corrupt payments after Butt ordered the two pacemen to bowl no balls at certain times

4. Deadly rides

Life racing at high speed comes with even higher risks. Unfortunately, the world lost three prime racers this year.

Dan Wheldon, the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and father of two young children, died in a horrific crash during the Indy 300 race in Las Vegas in October. The Englishman, 33, was a special invite to the field and was racing from the back of the pack in pursuit of a special $5 million prize offered to a non-series driver who could win the season finale at a track many of the drivers said was sure to cause crashes. Sure enough, early in the race, Wheldon drove into a wreck, became airborne, hit the side wall and died instantly.

MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli died as a result of injuries he suffered in a crash at the Malaysian Grand Prix, also in October. The mop-haired Italian was just coming off his best MotoGP result with a second-place finish the week before in Australia.

Popular Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt crashed and died during a steep decent during the Giro d'Italia in May. He was 26 and left behind a girlfriend five months pregnant with their first child.

5. Basket cases

The NBA tried to shoot itself in the foot this year with an unseemly lockout The owners cried poor and wanted concessions from the players, which they by-and-large got. The league tipped off on Christmas Day with a 66-game schedule, but it's left a bitter taste in many fans' mouths as they wonder how millionaire players and billionaire owners can fight when they are supposed to be entertaining the public, not ignoring it. Commissioner David Stern and his NBA has some serious making up to do to fans.

6. Star stumbles

Everybody around the globe was wondering what time Usain Bolt could run in the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea - it turned out to be a DQ.

Under the IAAF's ridiculous one-and-out false start rule, Bolt broke and was disqualified. The world was cheated of watching the most-anticipated race of the meet and its biggest star. Bolt admitted it was his fault after his rising Jamaican stablemate, Yohan Blake, took the gold in 9.92, but that rule needs a serious review.

Meanwhile, in the world of baseball, the NL's newly crowned MVP, Ryan Braun, tested positive for a much higher level of testosterone than normal. The Milwaukee Bucks star is appealing the findings, of course. Thank goodness that steroid crisis in the game is over with now!

7. Foot in mouth

Ole Uncle Sepp had a tremendous year, what with a one-man presidential election (himself - after his only opponent, Mohamed bin Hammam (pictured), pulled out after allegedly being caught trying to bribe CONCACAF officials for their vote) and issues about corruption and racism in the sport. But don't let us tell you about it; we'll let Blatter blather.

"I will take care of it personally, to ensure there is no corruption at FIFA." What a guy.

"Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis."

In May, Blatter denied claims FIFA was in crisis amid corruption allegations directed at bin Hammam and Jack Warner. Two months later, bin Hammam was banned for life and Warner resigned.

"I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities." "Joking" that gay people should not indulge in "sexual activities" at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state.

"He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination." Sepp's simple solution to on-field racism ... why didn't we think of that?

(China Daily)