With apologies to Keith Olberman (whom I believe has brought his "Worst Person in the World" skit from his old MSNBC show to his new nightly program on ESPN2), I would like to nominate someone for the Worst Person in Sports.
When I started formulating this column, I thought the nod would go to Dominic Raiola--the Detroit Lions center, who on Sunday spent the pre-game warm-ups screaming profanities and slurs at members of the University of Wisconsin marching band before they performed the National Anthem. What I find interesting is that a 295-pound guy is calling a 250-pound kid "fat". And what I find most disgusting is that Raiola carries the captain's "C" on his jersey. As I tell the kids who come out for captains' meetings when I ref basektball, they should be proud to have been selected as captains and that we expect them to be leaders of their teams. I also wonder what reception Raiola will get from his brother, Donovan--who just happened to play at Wisconsin--and didn't seem to be nearly as big a douchebag as his brother.
But what I realized as I spent more time thinking about it, is that the Dominic Raiola incident is just the latest in a long line of truly bad behavior from various members of the Detroit Lions. I'm sure Packers fans still remember Ndamukong Suh stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith's head a few years back. Not to mention his "accidental" kick to the groin of Houston's Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving Day. He even was flagged for trying to trip Aaron Rodgers this past Sunday. And the Lions misbehavior extends off the field as well. Six players were arrested in the 2012 off-season. And Titus Young (while he had been cut by the team a few weeks earlier) was arrested twice in ONE DAY earlier this year.
All of this can be traced back to one person--who seems to have made it his mission to make the Lions the "baddest" team in the league--Head Coach Jim Schwartz. Schwartz himself has even gotten into the punk parade--challenging 49er's Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to a fight on the field after Harbaugh "congratulated him a little too aggressively" after the game.
Teams in all sports take on the personality of their coaches. If a head man is disciplined and detail-oriented--his teams tend to be disciplined and don't beat themselves. If a coach is hands-off and doesn't hold guys accountable--his teams tend to be sloppy. And when a guy thinks he's the toughest dude--but is actually just a bully--his players go out and act just like Jim Schwartz's Lions act--week after week after week.
Believe me, Detroit players wouldn't stomp on opponents, ridicule college kids and ride around drunk and high if their head coach made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated. And that is what makes Jim Schwartz the Worst Person in Sports. Of course, if owner William Clay Ford, Sr continues to keep Schwartz as his coach, that might make him the next candidate for the "honor".