HBO Real Sports: Year-in-Review Debuts Tonight at 10:00pm ET/PT on HBO
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Top Quotes of 2017
Robert Kraft on the scandals and accusations during his tenure as owner.
ROBERT KRAFT: "I go back to my Dad and he said, 'The most important thing you can earn in life is a good name.' That is impacting our good name or our reputation. And it wasn't something that I appreciated."
ANDREA KREMER: "What do you say to the critics who label the Patriots as cheaters?"
ROBERT KRAFT: "Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases. The haters still hate. And I understand it, and we'll do our best to keep them in that position."
October 2016, rookie sensation Matt Bush is starring in the major league playoffs, mowing down hitters for the Texas Rangers.
It was just where everyone always thought he'd end up ever since he'd been chosen as the number one pick in THE DRAFT and anointed a future star.
What no one expected was the path he'd take to get there: 12 years, multiple criminal convictions and a three-and-a-half-year term in prison.
HBO'S ANDREA KREMER: "What would the inmates say about who you were?"
MATT BUSH: "To them, I was the baseball player."
ANDREA KREMER: "To a lot of people in the outside world, you were Matt Bush the biggest bust in the history of the Major League Baseball draft. Did you hear that description?"
MATT BUSH: "Yeah, Uh-huh."
ANDREA KREMER: "How'd that go over for you?"
MATT BUSH: "It's terrible. I mean, who wants to be the biggest bust in the draft? I didn't. But at the same time, if you're the biggest bust, you must've been someone."
Eventually the Padres had seen enough and traded Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays. But the change of scenery didn't change Matt Bush. First, he allegedly threw a baseball at a woman's head at a party. Then, a few months later, he crashed his car while blackout drunk. It took eight police officers to subdue and arrest him.
MATT BUSH: "About a day and a half binge. It was horrible, you know? So that was probably the lowest moment in my life."
ANDREA KREMER: "Did you want to kill yourself?"
MATT BUSH: "The thoughts were there, definitely. I just didn't see how I'd ever be able to stop doing what I was doing."
ANDREA KREMER: "Drinking?"
MATT BUSH: "Yes. It seemed hopeless."
By this point, the Blue Jays had given up on Bush like the Padres before them. But then a third team decided to roll the dice, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays gave Bush a spot in their minor league system and for a while he played well and without incident. And then one day after practice, Bush borrowed a teammate's truck, got blackout drunk then, on the way home from a strip club, he drove over the head of a motorcyclist.
MATT BUSH: "I remember him seeming like he shot under my vehicle."
ANDREA KREMER: "Did you think you killed him?"
MATT BUSH: "Yeah. And I just remember it hitting me, like, that was real. That really just happened. Like, that really just occurred and my life is over. Like, I just ran someone over. My instincts just kicked in and I just took off."
ANDREA KREMER: "What did you have to escape?"
MATT BUSH: "The fact that I was done. I was going to prison. You know, my baseball career, everything else was over with."
Amaury Telemaco pitched in the Major Leagues for nine years; today, he is a scout and coach for the Pirates at their training academy in the Dominican Republic.
AMAURY TELEMACO: "It's 45 miles from my house to this academy. On the most dangerous road on the DR. Cartera Major. It's serious."
JON FRANKEL: "Do you feel lucky when you pull into the parking lot?"
AMAURY TELEMACO: "I know my payer was answered. 'Cause I pray before I leave my house every day."
JON FRANKEL: "You pray before you get in the car?"
AMAURY TELEMACO: "I have to. I have to. No way I can leave my house without praying."
JON FRANKEL: "Isn't that crazy? You're going out for a simple drive to go to the market, for you to go to work. And you have to think about, 'Am I gonna come home today?'"
AMAURY TELEMACO: "It's just the numbers. I'm not making up this stuff. Just look at the numbers."
According to the World Health Organization, the Dominican Republic is the deadliest place to drive a vehicle in the Western Hemisphere with traffic fatalities at three times the rate of the United States...
JON FRANKEL: "How common is drinking and driving here?"
AMAURY TELEMACO: "It's crazy, man."
JON FRANKEL: "You laugh."
AMAURY TELEMACO: "'Cause people think it's a joke. This is a common way to say it. 'When I'm drunk that's when I'm a good driver.' 'When I'm hot.' They say, 'caliente.' That's a term they use. 'caliente,' that's when I'm good. That's false."
It's MMA FIGHT NIGHT in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, a Muslim republic in the vast Russian Federation...a kind of country within a country. The Colosseum is packed with men and boys gathered for a night of flag waving and cage fighting that has become Chechnya's national pastime. The men on the dais are the most powerful in the Republic, rallying the crowd. The ones in the cage are fighting to test their mettle and entertain their fans.
But this MMA tournament is unlike any other in the world because the guy who runs the show also rules the land. He is the most unlikely of all sports titans... Chechnya's military dictator... Ramzan Kadyrov.
RAMZAN KADYROV: "Our motto is: 'Death is better than second place.' We will bring all your belts from America back to Grozny."
In fact, Kadyrov hadn't given an interview to a western reporter in years until he recently agreed to meet Real Sports. And even then, it wasn't easy to get to him. It took two trips to Grozny and ten days waiting for him to summon us.
Finally, it happened. One night (June 30), we were brought to his private soccer field on the palace grounds. There, we found the head of the Republic playing striker.
Then, shortly before 2am, he joined us in this stateroom. And beneath giant portraits of his heroes, Vladimir Putin and his father, we asked the President about the abuses alleged by his critics.
RAMZAN KADYROV: "The people who do this, I can't even call them people. Only devils could think up such things. But you're on your second visit here. It should be clear to you that this a completely democratic republic. There is freedom of speech. The people are happy. Absolutely everything they say about us in nonsense."
Political leaders have long used sports to glorify themselves and their governments, but Kadyrov is doing something new... using sport to fuel his regime with military manpower.
In April, Elena Milashina broke a new story on human rights in Chechnya... one never meant to be part of Kadyrov's self-styled narrative... that the regime was allegedly kidnapping, torturing, and even killing gay men.
ELENA MILASHINA: "I talked to victims, many victims. And they all said this, that it was well organized from the state. And the only goal of this campaign was to make Chechnya free of gays. Gay-free land."
HBO's DAVID SCOTT: "I want to ask you about the alleged roundup, abduction and torture of gay men in the Republic. What, Mr. President, do you want to say about that?"
RAMZAN KADYROV: "Now we know why he came here. And what he's getting at with these questions. This is nonsense. We don't have such people here. We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them Canada. Praise be to god. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them."
DAVID SCOTT: "But do you not get concerned when you read these accounts of young men who say they've been tortured for days, and delivered to their families in sacks? Does it concern you as a matter of law and order in the Republic when you hear these stories?"
RAMZAN KADYROV: "They made it up. They are devils. They are for sale. They are subhuman. God damn them for slandering us. At any rate, they will have to answer to the Almighty for this."
Kadyrov says that since there are no gay people in Chechnya, they can't purge what doesn't exist. Instead, he says that the stories are being made up by human rights organizations looking for money... and non-Chechens in Moscow looking for asylum in the West.
RAMZAN KADYROV: "It's our despicable human rights advocates, who are for sale, and who mislead the American authorities for money. A great number of people will be sent from Moscow, allegedly because Kadyrov is persecuting them. They will go to Europe and make money there."
But all the criticism from the West has only made Kadyrov more belligerent, especially towards the US. His closing comments to us were a kind of new Cold War rhetoric we can only hope are idle threats.
RAMZAN KADYROV: "America is carrying out policies against Russia and its leadership. They know I'm among those ready to give my life for Russia, and that I have a good army capable of attacking and defending. We'll see who comes out on top."
DAVID SCOTT: "Do you regard the United States as an enemy of your country?"
RAMZAN KADYROV: "America is not really a strong enough state for us to regard it as an enemy of Russia. We have a strong government and we are a nuclear superpower. Even if they completely destroy our government, our nuclear missiles will launch automatically. We will turn the whole world over to screw it from behind."
Watch Now: Bryant Gumbel's Closing Commentary (Aired September 26, 2017)
"Finally tonight, a quick thanks to the current occupant of the White House for energizing the social conscience of the modern American athlete.
That occupant's weekend series of racist, churlish and childish comments drew a variety of stunning rebukes and actions, which suggests jocks may finally be realizing that apathy won't cut it anymore. That in conjunction with their fame, they have important civic roles to play - especially now.
Those of us who have long focused on the intersection of sports and society have often wondered what it would take for today's athletes to forsake the path of least resistance and actually stand for something and now we know. Many suddenly seem not just willing, but also eager to follow in the giant footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Billie Jean King, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe and many others who courageously used their athletic platforms to challenge authority in the pursuit of justice.
Back in their day, Bob Dylan famously said: 'The times they are a changin',' and that's still true today... as is the sad reality that certain things haven't really changed at all."
REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL, broke new ground in 2017 by capturing two awards never received before by the series in its 22-year history.
The series was recognized for the first time by the News and Documentary Emmy® Awards committee in October 2017 for the show's eye-opening November 2016 report on the dangers of playing youth football in America. The trophy was for Outstanding Investigative Reporting in a newsmagazine program.
The series also received its first-ever Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award when the organization recognized REAL SPORTS for the expose of the International Olympic Committee.
On Dec, 7, 2017, the duPont-Columbia University awards committee for excellence in broadcast journalism announced that REAL SPORTS will be honored in January for its expansive investigative story on the IOC. It marks the fourth duPont for the Real Sports franchise in 12 years.