Before we ring in 2008, let us take an over-the-shoulder backwards glance at the year that was 2007. We start off with the top 10 stories of the year...
10. Spurs win NBA title
It may not have been a vintage year for the NBA, but it did see the official crowning of its most recent dynasty. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Finals MVP, were important cogs in the San Antonio Spurs championship machine, which took the brooms to the Cleveland Cavaliers in June.
9. Florida dominates college sports
If 2006 was any indication, the past year would prove that Florida was a orce to be reckoned with in the realm of college football and college hoops. On January 8, the pigskin Gators ambushed Ohio State in the BCS title game. Almost three months later, Billy Donovan (who would later reject the Orlando Magic pro job as soon as he took it) guided the roundballers to a second consecutive NCAA championship, sending Joakim Noah and Al Horford into the sunset in grand fashion. Their opponents that night: the Buckeyes.
8. Duke lax players vindicated
2006 ended with David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann getting ready to face the music for a slew of criminal charges involving the goings-on at a team function. Back in March, as Duke's lacrosse season was already underway, the three players were taken off the hook, mostly because of misconduct on the part of (now ex-)attorney Mike Nifong. The prosecutor and Durham County, NC attorney general would later be disbarred from practicing law in the aftermath.
7. Colts win Super Bowl XLI
As he headed through his career, many wondered if Peyton Manning was capable of delivering in the big game (metaphorically speaking, that is.) Well, February 4 saw Peyton play for (and win) his first Super Bowl. But, don't give Peyton all the credit; head coach Tony Dungy had to weather the New England Patriots in a memorable AFC title game two weeks earlier to get to the 41st Big Game.
6. A-Rod's offseason and Yankees upheaveal
Since his arrival in New York a few years ago, Alex Rodriguez has been the lynchpin for both adulation and criticism amonst both New York Yankees fans and the Big Apple media. Well, A-Rod managed to receive a good deal of negative pub for announcing that he had opted out of his big-money contract before Game 4 of the World Series. Eventually, A-Rod would shrug off any transgressions and re-sign with the Bronx Bombers in mid-December.
L'Affaire A-Rod came in the midst of a high-profile Bronx departure that was: Joe Torre stepped down a week and a half before A-Rod's announcement after the front-office turned speculation into a media circus.
5. Tom Brady, Patriots make history
Afther their undefeated season in 1972, the Miami Dolphins made it a point to give themselves a champagne toast each season after the last team was knocked from the ranks of the undefeated each season. When word came that the Patriots were on pace for the second undefeated regular season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Eugene "Mercury" Morris told Bill Belichick and company, "Don't call me when you're in my town, call me when you're on my block [...]"
If Morris is looking out his window as we go to press with this year-end wrap-up, he can see a U-Haul van pulling up to the driveway of the house next door. There's also a chance some videotaping equipment could be in there, too. ;-)
At any rate, we'll see in 2008 whether or not the Pats will be unloading anything from that moving van...
4. Red Sox win World Series
Between the Boston Celtics' resurgence and the Pats' run to history, the Hub of the Universe became the Hub of Sports Dominance in North America. The Boston Red Sox played a rather sizeable role in the ascent of New England to sports power; their fans didn't have to wait another 86 years to win their next World Series championship, thanks to a near-lockdown bullpen and timely hitting by youngsters Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
3. The Summer of Scandal
However, 2007 wasn't all fun and games. The summer saw scandals just like the weather outside: hot and sizzling. Michael Vick suffered a huge fall from grace thanks to his role in a dog-fighting ring – he helped to finance pretty much the whole deal. The Tour de France hit its biggest nadir in almost a decade with a myriad of drug scandals during the usually prestigious event. NBA referee Tim Donaghy was implicated in a game-fixing plot, as was Russian tennis star Nikolay Davydenko.
2. What would '07 have been like without this guy?
Of course, the sports world's biggest newsmaker was Barry Bonds. The San Francisco Giants' heavily-inflated slugger made history – for better of worse – when he clubbed his 756th home run on August 7. Many fans had wanted to have an asterisk put by that number, but the job was left to fashion designer Mark Ecko to fulfill the fans' wishes by branding one on the (in-)famous ball, an eternal reminder of the Steroid Era.
1. The Mitchell Report: Or, The S-Word redux
It seems that when look back at the aforementioned Steroid Era some 20 years from now, Bonds and steroids/HGH will likely to be mentioned in the same breath. However, Bonds was not named in Major League Baseball's report on a laborious investigation into the user of those drugs in the game known as the Mitchell Report. There were some other notable names on the list, such as Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, which made the S-word the big story once again in 2007.
The Best of the Rest
- David Beckham arrives in the US
- Bob Knight passes Dean Smith for the most wins all-time in men's college hoops
- Mixed martial arts goes mainstream
- Kevin Garnett leads the Celtics resurgence
- Isiah Thomas scandal
- Anaheim Ducks win Stanley Cup
- Marty Schottenheimer fired as San Diego Chargers head coach despite 14-2 record in '06
- Don Imus-Rutgers women's basketball team scandal
- The Pac Man Jones shooting saga
- 32 dead in Virginia Tech shooting massacre
AGM Readers' Poll Results
Thanks to everyone who voted in the polls; here are the results of same:
Best Performance of the Year
- Tom Brady (in an undefeated season, Brady threw for 50 touchdowns, breaking Peyton Manning's record of 49 set back in 2004. Of those 50, 23 found Randy Moss, who set a record himself for most TDs in a season)
- Honorable mention goes to Brett Favre, who took a dip in the Fountain of Youth in 2007 and broke some career records of his own in the process.
Worst Performance of the Year
- The Miami Dolphins (one win doesn't spare you from the fans' wrath, guys)
Game of the Year
Surprise of the Year
- Appalachian State upsets Michigan (the biggest upset in CFB history edged out the Colorado Rockies' WS appearance)
Fresh Face of the Year
- Red Sox shortstop Dustin Pedroia (continuing the New England theme)
Coach of the Year
- Clint Hurdle (Rox manager suprisingly edges out Donovan and Belichick)
Team of the Year
- Florida (CFB and CBB)
MVP of the Year
- Tom Brady ('nuff said)
In Memoriam 2007
We now pay one last tribute to those in the sports world who left us in the past year. (Name, claim to fame/infamy; cause of death, age and date of death)
- Darrent Williams, Denver Broncos cornerback; gunshot wound to neck, aged 25 on 1/1
- Bobby Hamilton, NASCAR Nextel Cup driver; neck cancer, aged 49 on 1/7
- Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion and broadcaster; lung cancer, aged 65 on 1/16
- Gump Worsley, NHL goaltender who did not wear a protective mask until late in his career; heart attack suffered four days earlier, aged 77 on 1/26
- Bing Devine, GM who was the architect of the 1960s St. Louis Cardinals World Series teams; unknown causes, aged 90 on 1/27
- Barbaro, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby; laminitis, aged 3 on 1/29
- Stu Inman, Portland Trail Blazers GM who drafted Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft; heart attack, aged 80 on 1/30
- Lew Burdette, 1957 World Series MVP with Milwaukee Braves; lung cancer, aged 80 on 2/6
- Hank Bauer, New York Yankees outfielder who won 1966 WS as manager of the Baltimore Orioles; lung cancer, aged 84 on 2/9
- Dennis Johnson, 1979 NBA Finals MVP with Seattle Sonics; heart attack; aged 52 on 2/22
- Damien Nash, Denver Broncos running back; unknown causes, aged 24 on 2/24
- Lamar Lundy, LA Rams defensive end, part of the "Fearsome Foursome"; natural causes, aged 71 on 2/24
- Bowie Kuhn, MLB commissioner who oversaw the beginning of free agency in baseball; pneumonia brought on by respiratory failure, aged 80 on 3/15
- Bob Woolmer, Pakistani cricket coach; natural causes (originally murdered), aged 58 on 3/18
- Herb Carneal, Minnesota Twins broadcaster; congestive heart failure, aged 83 on 4/1
- Eddie Robinson, Grambling football coach from 1941-1997; unknown causes, aged 88 on 4/3
- Darryl Stingley, New England Patriots wide receiver paralyzed in a 1978 preseason game; heart disease and pneumonia brought on by quadriplegia; aged 55 on 4/5
- David Halberstam, historian who also wrote several sports books; in an automobile accident, aged 73 on 4/23
- Alan Ball, 1966 World Cup Man of the Match; heart attack, aged 61 on 4/25
- Josh Hancock, STL Cardinals pitcher; in an automobile accident; aged 29 on 4/29
- Kevin Mitchell, NFL linebacker; heart attack brought on by sleep apnea, aged 36 on 4/30
- Jeremy Williams, mixed martial artist (IFL Southern California Condors); suicide, aged 27 on 5/5
- Diego "Chico" Corrales, boxer; motorcycle accident, aged 29 on 5/7
- Marquise Hill, NE Patriots defensive end; drowned in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana after jet-ski accident, aged 24 on 5/28
- Bill France Jr., president of NASCAR from 1972-2000; lung cancer, aged 74 on 6/4
- Clete Boyer, MLB infielder; brain hemmorage, aged 70 on 6/4
- Ray Mears, Tennessee men's basketball coach who coined the term "Big Orange Country"; unknown causes, aged 80 on 6/11
- Terry Hoeppner, Indiana football coach; brain cancer, aged 59 on 6/19
- Rod Beck, MLB relief pitcher; unknown causes, aged 38 on 6/23
- Chris Benoit, WWE/WCW wrestler; suicide after murdering his family, aged 40 on 6/24
- Rollie Stiles, oldest-living MLBer at the time of his passing; in his sleep, aged 100 on 7/22
- Mike Coolbaugh. Tulsa Drillers first base coach; injuries sustained after being struck by a line drive, aged 35 on 7/22
- Skip Prosser, Wake Forest men's basketball coach; heart attack after jogging, aged 56 on 7/26
- Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers head coach behind the 1980s NFL dynasty; leukemia, aged 75 on 7/30
- Phil Rizzuto, New York Yankees shortstop and broadcaster; in his sleep, aged 89 on 8/13
- Sam Pollock, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blue Jays GM; unknown causes, aged 81 on 8/15
- Eddie Griffin, NBA player (Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves); automobile accident, aged 25 on 8/17
- Butch van Breda Kolff, NBA player and coach; natural causes, aged 84 on 8/22
- Antonio Puerta, Sevilla FC striker; cardiac arrythmia, aged 22 on 8/28
- Gay Brewer, 1967 Masters champion; aged 75 on 8/31
- Colin McRae, Scottish rally driver, 1995 WRC champion; injuries sustained in a helicopter crash; aged 39 on 9/15
- Bill Wirtz, Chicago Blackhawks GM; cancer, aged 77 on 9/26
- Al Oerter, four-timeUS Olympic discus champion; aged 71 on 10/1
- Norifumi Abe, Japanese MotoGP rider; automobile accident, aged 32 on 10/7
- John Henry, two-time Horse of the year; renal failure, aged 32 on 10/8
- Max McGee, Green Bay Packers wide receiver; injuries sustained after fall from roof, aged 75 on 10/21
- Ryan Shay, US marathoner; unknown causes (collapsed after US Olympic Trials), aged 28 on 11/3
- Dick Nolan, 49ers and New Orleans Saints coach, father of Mike Nolan; complications from Alzheimer's disorder, aged 75 on 11/11
- Joe Nuxhall, Cincinnati Reds pitcher and broadcaster; lymphoma, aged 79 on 11/15
- Joe Kennedy, MLB pitcher; unknown causes, aged 28 on 11/23
- Bill Hartack, HOF thoroughbred jockey; natural causes brought on by heart disease; aged 74 on 11/26
- Sean Taylor, Washington Redskins strong safety; injuries sustained from gunshot wound, aged 24 on 11/27
- Dr. Robert Cade, inventor of Gatorade; renal failure, aged 80 on 11/27
- Ralph Beard, Kentucky basketball player who was banned from the NBA for his role in a college point-shaving scandal; natural causes, aged 79 on 11/29
- Evel Knievel, motorcycle dardevil; diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, aged 68 on 11/30
- Jake Gaudaur, CFL commissioner from 1968-1984; cancer, aged 87 on 12/4
- Ted Corbitt, US ultra-marathoner; respiratory complications, aged 88 on 12/12
- Don Chevrier, US-Canadian sportscaster; blood disorder, aged 68 on 12/17
- Stu Nahan, US sportscaster; lymphoma, aged 81 on 12/26
- Phil O'Donnell, Motherwell F.C. captain; after a collapse, aged 35 on 12/29
Thanks to all our readers for their support during this past year; in 2008, let's all resolve to be good sports.
A happy New Year to one and to all...