By Cate Plys

Sorry! As kids we played the game and yelled that word while knocking someone else’s piece off the board. The drawn-out cry of “Sooorrr-ryyy!” meant exactly the opposite. This year, grown-ups seemed to be playing one big international version–and their wails of regret were just as insincere.

The Person: Marv Albert, former NBC sportscaster

The Offense: Assault on longtime lover, allegedly including biting her on the back about a dozen times and forcing her to give him a blow job

The Apology: “In the past, there was consensual biting. On this particular evening, I did not realize until her testimony that she felt she was harmed. For that I am sorry….I’m sorry if she felt she was harmed.”

Why It’s Sorry: Albert’s regret materialized only after details of his kinky love life came out in court. Then he was sorry enough to plead guilty to lesser charges. The apology itself was only offered in testimony at his sentencing, and Albert inserted the magic word “if” to avoid admission of wrongdoing. As a prosecutor pointed out, “He pleaded guilty. Now he says it was consensual and he wasn’t guilty of anything.” Not long afterward, he went on 20/20 and told Barbara Walters the victim was a liar.

The Person: Brother Dan Casey, principal of Brother Rice High School

The Offense: At a March basketball game with Thornton High School, Brother Rice students chanted “Buckwheat! Buckwheat!” at a Thornton player with a large Afro. They allegedly shouted other racial slurs too.

The Apology: “While the emotions of an intense game may have gotten the better part of our student cheering section, we regret and apologize for the offensive taunting that went on at the game last Tuesday night.” –faxed letter, March 13

“As I said to you on the phone yesterday, I believe that the cheer was not racially motivated….In a way, I suppose I wish our investigation would have turned up racial motives. Then it would be easier to give you the apology you are looking for and get on with the healing process we all want.” –faxed letter, March 14

Why It’s Sorry: It took Brother Dan Casey a week to go to Thornton and apologize over the school’s public-address system. First he faxed two apologies, which Thornton officials didn’t accept. He also refused to make a public apology at a subsequent Thornton basketball game. Just after the incident, Casey insisted the “Buckwheat” cheer only referred to the player’s Afro and wasn’t racially motivated. Casey’s (biological) brother Jim Casey, Brother Rice director of admissions, said it was a “joking” reference.

The Person: Mike Mamula, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end

The Offense: Allegedly exposed himself to nightclub bouncer Sherri Happaney

The Apology: “If I have done anything to offend Ms. Happaney, I am truly sorry and offer my sincere apologies.”

Why It’s Sorry: Mamula used the magic word “if” to avoid admitting that he did anything. But Mamula didn’t write this apology or even say it out loud. It was a statement issued by the Eagles public-relations department and read to Happaney over the phone by someone at a Philadelphia radio station. The Eagles didn’t send her a copy of the statement.

The Person: Cito Gaston, former manager of the Toronto Blue Jays

The Offense: Before he got sacked as Blue Jays manager, Gaston accused three sports reporters of being racists because they criticized him.

The Apology: “I’ve got one statement that I’m going to say, and I’m not going to say another word. Whatever has been said, whatever has been written, if it has offended someone and it’s unjustly offended them, I apologize. If it hasn’t, then I don’t apologize.”

Why It’s Sorry: Too obvious to explain.

The Person: John Paul II, pope

The Offense: The Roman Catholic Church’s failures during the Holocaust started at the top with Pope Pius XII. Pius knew about the Nazi genocide against Jews and didn’t speak out, and later assisted Nazi war criminals.

The Apology: “We have already asked for forgiveness many times in the past….What is interesting is that it is always the pope and the Catholic Church who asked forgiveness while others remained silent. Maybe that is as it should be….One mustn’t forget there were other holocausts.”

Why It’s Sorry: It’s not an apology at all. The pope only addressed the issue because France’s archbishops had just read a “Declaration of Repentance to Jews” for the French church’s failure to speak out against French collaboration with Nazis. Reporters wanted to know if a similar apology would come from the Vatican. Instead, the pope seemed to claim that the Vatican has already apologized, though he also admitted that a church document addressing the Holocaust promised in 1987 is still nowhere near done. And what’s that last part about “other holocausts” supposed to mean? The pope’s spokesman said it referred to abortion.

The Person: Mike Tyson, former heavyweight boxing champion

The Offense: Biting Evander Holyfield’s left ear during a June championship bout, then biting a one-inch chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear

The Apology: “I apologize to the world, to my family, and to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that has always treated me fairly, to Judge Patricia Gifford, who knows that I am proud to be living up to the terms of my probation. I apologize to the MGM, to Showtime, to Don King my promoter, to my team, and to this wonderful city of Las Vegas that has hosted so many famous boxing events.

“I cannot tell you why, exactly, I acted like I did other than to say that when the butting occurred and I thought I might lose because of the severity of the cut above my eye, I just snapped and I reacted and did what many athletes have done and have paid the price for. You have seen it in basketball with fistfights on the floor and in baseball with riots in the field and even spitting in the face of an official…

“Evander, I am sorry….When you butted me in that first round, accidentally or not, I snapped in reaction and the rest is history.”

Why It’s Sorry: Tyson sucked up to the boxing commission that was about to vote on his punishment, and to the Indiana judge who could have revoked his probation, plus a host of others, before he finally got around to the guy whose flesh he tasted. That was after 341 words, in the tail end of his statement. Then Tyson minimized biting a chunk out of his opponent by referring to fistfights in basketball and baseball games, and the Roberto Alomar spitting incident.

Last, he blamed Holyfield for head butting, “accidentally or not.” Tyson has never personally spoken to Holyfield to apologize, though he was supposed to appear at a tribute to Muhammad Ali in September for that purpose. He never showed up.

The Person: Nate Newton, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman

The Offense: Having either consensual or allegedly forcible sex with a former mistress two days before his wife gave birth to their second son.

The Apology: “I made a mistake. I hurt my wife and my family and disgraced the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve talked to my teammates and some of the leaders of the team. From the beginning they have backed me. I’ve promised them that if I can get through this I will be less of a distraction to the team.”

Why It’s Sorry: Newton made the apology after a grand jury acquitted him of raping his former mistress two weeks after they’d broken up, even though the prosecutor had a tape of Newton telling the mistress, “I went wrong when you said no. I should have stopped.” Two main problems: He never apologized to the former mistress, and he spent more time talking about the Cowboys than his publicly humiliated wife.

The Person: Nate Newton, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman

The Offense: Disorderly conduct. Newton yelled and swore at a woman in a restaurant who asked him for his autograph. After he declined, she shouted, “Mr. Newton, is that your wife or your mistress?”–referring to Newton’s dinner companion.

The Apology: “I want to apologize to the fans and the organization that has been so great and stuck with me throughout this and the other ordeal. But she shocked me. I was embarrassed and it caught me off guard. I should have just signed the autograph.”

Why It’s Sorry: Too obvious to explain.

The Person: Latrell Sprewell, Golden State Warriors player

The Offense: Assaulted coach P.J. Carlesimo not once but twice during a December 1 practice. Allegedly Sprewell choked Carlesimo and threatened to kill him, then after having time in the locker room to think better of it came back and punched Carlesimo in the neck.

The Apology: “I want to start by apologizing publicly to P.J. Carlesimo and [general manager] Garry St. Jean. I spoke with P.J. Sunday over the phone. I spoke with St. Jean Monday. I think both conversations went well. We all feel good about what was said.”

Why It’s Sorry: That’s Sprewell’s second public apology, made only after the Warriors canceled his $32 million contract and the NBA suspended him for a full year. His first apology, two days after the incident, went like this: “I want to apologize to my fans, my family, and friends of mine who saw this.” No mention of choked coach Carlesimo. Also, as soon as he’d apologized, Sprewell complained that no one would listen to his side of the story–which he refused to tell the press.