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How to Make a Sports Scandal Worse

Matt HaupertFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

How to Make a Sports Scandal Worse

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Getting involved in a sports scandal is easy.

    Once you've got the fame and the prestige, all you need to do is take a few performance-enhancing drugs, put together a quick affair or say something racist and your name will be covering the headlines.

    The trick, however, is finding a way to make this scandal worse.

    Once you've hit rock bottom, how can you go any lower?

    Once you've been banned forever from your sport and you're resented by all of your former fans, what more is left to do?

    The answer, my friends, can be found in the next few slides.

    Using advice from some of the best experts in the field—including Donald Sterling, Lance Armstrong and more—I've put together a quick "How-To" guide with 10 easy steps that can take your next sports scandal to a new level.

1. Deliver an Insincere Apology

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    There's really nothing simpler and more effective than a really intensely insincere apology.

    Donald Sterling really became the master of this when he decided to do an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN last month.

    As reported by CBS News, Sterling started perfectly, accepting responsibility for his actions: "I made a terrible, terrible mistake."

    He then took his first big step toward making things worse by ironically using racial remarks in his defense against his alleged racism: "Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people—and some of the African-Americans, maybe I'll get in trouble again, they don't want to help anybody."

    Sterling finally pulled out the big guns when he called out Magic Johnson for his promiscuous behavior, via Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver:

    If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry. [Magic is] a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it, he’s great. But I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.

    He has outdone himself! A true work of art! A masterpiece!

    Not only did Sterling make racist remarks in an "I'm not racist" speech, but he decided to scold the biggest hero in Los Angeles by saying he wasn't doing enough for minorities. It's like the Joker calling out Batman for not doing enough to protect Gotham.

    Needless to say, this didn't make things any better for Mr. Sterling's public image, which makes it a foolproof first tip for making your sports scandal worse than you had ever previously imagined. 

2. "Bet Your Life" on a Good Lie

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    When the going gets tough, lie.

    When the lying gets tough, lie harder.

    These are the hard-hitting life lessons that we learned from Ryan Braun during his steroid episode in 2012.

    After being accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs and suspended 50 games, then appealing his suspension on the basis of a technicality and somehow winning that appeal, Braun held a press conference in which he attested to all his purity and innocence.

    In this press conference, Braun put on one of the most impressive displays of blatant lying in the history of professional sports. Among some of the highlights from his speech, courtesy of MLB.com:

    "If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it.'" Um, not quite, Ry-Ry. Turns out you wouldn't even be the second person to step up and say you did it. Or the third person. Or the fourth. Or the...you get the idea. 

    "By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life..." If? IF?! IF YOU'VE MADE ANY MISTAKES?! Come on, buddy, nobody thinks you're that perfect.

    "I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point." Okay, Ryan. Time to pay up. What's your preferred method of quietus?

    We may never see another liar quite like Ryan Braun, so it's important that we celebrate him adequately today.

    Eventually, the truth was revealed, and his public address became a great big punchline.

    May he now live out his life in eternal embarrassment and shame.

3. Claim That Everyone Else Is "Misremembering"

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    During his performance-enhancing drug allegations in 2008, Roger Clemens benefited greatly from the fact that the court system has not yet implemented an instant-replay system.

    The case seemed to be Clemens against the world, and the world had a whole lot more evidence. At one crucial point during the trial, it was pointed out that Andy Pettitte, Clemens' friend and teammate, had said that he knew for sure that Clemens had taken performance-enhancing drugs.

    Clemens' response?

    Oh, Pettitte is just a chronic misrememberer.

    Of course! How did we not think of that in the first place?

    You know, the old "misremembered" technique could prove to be valuable in a number of different aspects of life.

    "No, we definitely won Game 1 and Game 2, coach, you must just me misremembering."

    "Professor, I swear I know the material. I just misremembered it the day of the test!"

    "I never meant to hurt you, sweetheart. I just misremembered which of you was my wife."

    Nothing Clemens said helped his cause.

    He was charged with six counts of perjury, but, luckily, was eventually acquitted of them all.

    Hall of Fame voters have not been so forgetful. Each year he has been on the ballot, Clemens has slipped further and further away from being honored with a spot.

    Until officials can utilize a replay system to re-watch important moments from history, Clemens will be able to take his "misremembering" story all the way to the grave.

4. Don't Talk About the Past!

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    It seems so obvious: If someone is questioning you about your past, just refuse to talk about it!

    It's a foolproof strategy. How can anybody get any information out of you when you simply state that you're here to talk about the present and the future instead?

    Chances are, your present and future are still pretty clean, so there's really no way to slip up.

    This was Mark McGwire's brilliant idea when it was his turn to deny steroid allegations in 2005. According to ESPN, he answered every question with, "I'm not here to talk about the past," despite the fact that he was quite literally there for the sole purpose of talking about the past.

    Mark, did you take steroids?

    "I'm not here to talk about the past."

    Mark, did you play for the Cardinals?

    "I'm not here to talk about the past."

    Mark, how did your parents choose the name Mark?

    "I'm not here to talk about the past."

    Mark, what's your favorite kind of cereal?

    "I'm not here to talk about the past."

    Well, unfortunately for Mark, these days people spend a lot of time talking about the past. And when they do, they don't have a lot of good things to say about the former superstar.

    McGwire's refusal to speak honestly tarnished his name—and his Hall of Fame chances—even more than steroid use ever could.

5. Destroy Everyone in Your Way

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Once you've dug yourself deeply into a well-crafted lie, it's time to set up a defense mechanism to protect you from anyone out there who might know the truth.

    Get your enemies out of the way and clear yourself a path toward retribution.

    Gil Laroya of the Huffington Post explained that Lance Armstrong did just that while trying to cover up his own scandal:

    [Armstrong] went as far as filing lawsuits against anyone who tried to out his doping -- lawsuits against people who were telling the truth. He further spent time and effort bashing people and calling them outright liars, in some cases, ruining those people's lives. This is the act of a person who had no soul, and [he] proved it time and time again.

    Oh, you know the truth, do you? BAM! Lawsuit.

    Sorry, did you say you have some good evidence against me? BOOM! Bashed in the national media.

    Excuse me—you think you're going to blow my cover? ZAP! Life ruined.

    Armstrong may not have helped himself look any better to a furious and betrayed public, but he did help anyone looking for a few tips on how to make your sports scandal so, so much worse.

6. Turn Your Scandal into a Skit

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    Cliff Owen/Associated Press

    Gilbert Arenas took an extremely creative approach to making his own scandal worse, and it ended up being the most fascinating and wonderful idea of them all.

    Arenas was in deep trouble after getting caught carrying firearms in the locker room.

    Now, there's not a whole lot you can do to make yourself look even worse when you're already bringing guns to a basketball game, but Arenas found the perfect way.

    Before a game in Philadelphia against the 76ers, Arenas decided to run on the court and mimic pulling out a few guns and shooting his teammates as a cute little pregame joke.

    It was a great act of showmanship and a wonderful display of bravery. Can you imagine if Kobe Bryant had responded to his accusations by running on court and miming an assault?

    Score one for Arenas and his flawless decision-making skills, his tasteful flair for the dramatic and his sensitive, respectful sense of humor.

7. Grab a Couple Guns and Take Some Shirtless Pics

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    James Harrison wasn't specifically involved in a scandal when he met with Men's Journal to do an interview called "Confessions of an NFL Hitman."

    He was, however, dealing with an already negative reputation as a dirty player and representing a team that had recently been dealing with a plethora of off-field issues.

    Harrison was photographed holding two guns across his shirtless chest for the cover of the magazine. In his interview, he went to town insulting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as reported by Greg Couch of Sporting News:

    “If that man was on fire and I had to (urinate) to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.”

    Oh, no, James! Never get your own urine involved in this! That's the cardinal rule of public insults—always stop before you get to urine!

    Needless to say, Harrison made himself look like a complete maniac and made his team look even more like a band of criminals than they did before. Fortunately, his football skills are great enough that this was all able to blow over without much fuss.

    Funny how that works, isn't it?

8. Rewrite History

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    Gareth Patterson/Associated Press

    If you don't like the past, just change it!

    This was the simple and sensible tactic that former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino adopted when trying to protect his image amid a scandal in 2012.

    After getting in a motorcycle crash with a secret mistress riding along as a passenger, Petrino made quick work of covering up the entire situation and weaving a web of lies to spread to the world. As a part of this, he was even able to trick the University of Arkansas into putting out a press release that falsely stated that he was alone on the bike at the time of the crash.

    As it always does, the truth came out, and Petrino's dishonesty was as scrutinized as his infidelity. Despite having massive success on the field, he was dismissed from his position as coach.

    You sort of feel bad for the guy when you look at him at his press conference, face all bloodied and brace on his neck. Sort of reminds me of the final installment of the Star Wars series, when Luke takes off Darth Vader's mask, revealing his bubbly, purple, oxygen-starved head, and it makes you go, "Awwwwww, look at the poor guy!"

    In both situations, though, it doesn't take long to remember, "Oh, yeah. This man is one of the most powerful forces of evil this world has ever seen. I don't feel bad for him."

    OK, so maybe Petrino never killed as many people as Vader, but on the flip side, Darth is definitely more faithful and probably more honest.

    We'll call it even.

9. Write a Book About It

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    GERALD HERBERT/Associated Press

    Jose Canseco got mad.

    And when Jose Canseco gets mad, Jose Canseco gets revenge.

    Angry at Major League Baseball and everyone involved after feeling like he was forced out of the league, Canseco took his frustrations to the keyboard and decided to spill the dirty little secrets of everyone with whom he had ever played.

    Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big was published in 2005 and claimed that 85 percent of all players in MLB were on steroids. In the book, Canseco admits to his own use of the drug and names plenty of other prominent players who did the same.

    The book got big, and most of Canseco's claims ended up being true, but he still later regretted writing it.

    According to ESPN.com, Canseco claimed that he "regrets mentioning players [as steroid users]. I never realized this was going to blow up and hurt so many people...If I could meet with Mark McGwire and these players, I definitely would apologize to them."

    Already hated by the league, Canseco did the impossible and found a way to turn his own friends against him as well.

    What's the lesson we learn from all this?

    Well, don't trust Jose Canseco with your secrets. Chances are they'll end up on The New York Times' best-seller list.

10. Do Nothing

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Joe Paterno could have saved his own image a long, long time ago.

    After all, Paterno himself never did anything wrong. He wasn't the criminal. He wasn't the pervert.

    Had Paterno turned in Jerry Sandusky as soon as he was aware of his disgusting crimes years earlier, his name would be cleared from the whole situation, and his legacy would remain focused on his illustrious coaching career.

    Instead, Paterno decided to do the absolute, without-a-doubt worst possible thing you can do in the face of a scandal: nothing.

    He kept his mouth shut.

    He made sure everyone kept their mouths shut.

    And in trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug, Paterno forever destroyed his reputation.

    For all the stupid things players have done to make their scandals worse—lying, covering up the past, delivering embarrassing apologies, trying to make a joke out of it all—sometimes the very worst thing you can do is nothing at all.


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