2007 was the year where off-the-field drama overshadowed any actual games played in between lines. There was the Michael Vick dogfighting circus, the "Snitch-ell" Report, "Spy Gate," Pac-Man Jones' rap sheet, and, of course, O.J. Simpson.
I don't consider any of these actual sports stories. These headlines are more likely to appear on Court TV than ESPN—that is if ESPN didn't sometimes resemble an episode of The Insider with Pat O'Brien.
In fact, I blame "The World Leader" for beating us over the head with this type of nonsense day after day. I heard more about Tony Romo, Jessica Simpson and Terrell Owens than I did about the the score of the game. I don't care about who the quarterback is dating—I want to know how many points Iverson scored that night.
ESPN needs to add another outlet in addition to ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and the OCHO. Call it ESPNE, hire Pat O'Brien and focus on stories like, "How Skanky Is Kris Benson's Wife?" and "Is T.O. Smarter Than A Third Grader?"
I am tired of sensationalism mixed with my sports—so just put it all on ESPNE, cut me a check for thinking it up, and let me know what channel it's on so I know how to avoid it.
My take on all of the off the field headlines is as follows:
Michael Vick and Dogfighting
I can't think of any thing dumber than putting someone in jail for two years for dogfighting. Those who argue this is not a racial or cultural misunderstanding are fooling yourselves.
Where were all the protesters at when Jayson Williams gunned down his limo driver? Why isn't PETA present at horse racing events? How come we celebrate the little five year old boy who guns down wild animals? We like Ted Nugent, but we hate Michael Vick? I get it: Ted kills turkeys, and Vick killed "Sparky"—the only difference is that we don't keep turkeys as pets.
The Michael Vick case is not the sports story of 2007, it is a travesty. Vick should be in jail for not surrounding himself with better citizens, who wouldn't have flipped on their benefactor when the Feds turned up the heat on them. Not dogfighting.
The "Snitch-ell" Report
George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Rickey Henderson, Eric Davis, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Darryl Strawberry. Those were baseball players and the heroes of my youth.
Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens are science experiments.
Baseball is dead to me, and Bud Selig and the rest of the owners are just as guilty as the players are for the rampant abuse of steroids. They knew what was going on.
Everybody in baseball to me is suspect. 1986 was probably the last year everyone was on a equal level, and the players I mentioned above (George Brett and Co.) represent the last boy scouts—well, except in Strawberry's case, where steroids were the only drugs he didn't do.
Another thing—how good was Ken Griffey? I have never heard his name mentioned once in regards to performance enhancing drugs, and for a while before the injuries he was consistently hitting 40 to 50 home runs a season. I argue that he was the greatest player of the last 25 years, and his injuries were more damaging to his career than Mickey Mantle's were.
And what is going on with all the snitching in 2007—Michael Vick's crew, Kirk Radomski/Brian McNamee, Eric Mangini? Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson deserves some respect from the sports community for not selling out his friend, no matter the consequences. Bonds is probably putting all of Anderson's kids through school, but he's earned it.
Bill Belichick has been cheating for years. How else do you explain his upset victory over the Rams in the 2001 Super Bowl? There is no way the Patriots could have beat that great Rams team without cheating.
On the other hand, the 2007 Patriots are the greatest team I have ever seen and they don't need to cheat. Belichick is sticking it to us all.
Appalachian State vs. Michigan
As I mentioned, the above are not sport stories—and it is ridiculous that I devoted so much time to them in my "Best of..." column.
Appalachian State beating Michigan in the "Big House" is the sports story of 2007. To me that is the Miracle on Ice, Rocky versus Drago, Hoosiers, Villanova over Georgetown, and Joe Versus the Volcano, all rolled into one.
It would be like Spain beating the 1992 Dream Team.
As an Ohio State Buckeyes fan, and all around college football freak, I don't believe any single sporting event made me as happy as I was that Saturday.
For Michigan, a top five ranked team, to lose to an FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) team is insane. (For the record, I have no clue what FCS or FBS stand for and have no idea why it was changed.) After I watched Appalachian State play, I saw a team that could probably beat half of the teams in the FBS.
How Steve Spurrier and Tommy Bowden allowed a player as gifted as Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards to get out of South Carolina without a scholarship is puzzling. And if receiver Dexter Jackson's 40 time is as fast as he plays, he should be a first round pick in the NFL Draft very soon.
The game was the catalyst for the greatest college football season in recent memory. You may hate the BCS, but every Saturday I was glued to my TV to see who was going to get knocked off. The talent gap in college football has closed between the Haves and the Have-nots, and making for what is slowly becoming the USA's greatest, most entertaining sport.
Baseball has been ruined by steroids and by the fact only a handful of teams can afford to compete. The NFL is getting stale—we all know who is going to win the Super Bowl. The NBA has lost some of its shine and star power. The NHL doesn't translate well to TV. College basketball's regular season means absolutely nothing. I have only watched tennis twice, and that was when Anna Kournikova or Maria Sharapova was playing. I hate golf, and even if I did watch it, it's kind of like the NFL—except Tiger Woods is the New England Patriots.
So that's why it should come as no surprise that the greatest sports story of 2007 comes from the greatest sport of 2007—college football.