Thursday, December 21, 2006

Looking back at '06; looking ahead to '07

Have no fears! If you missed anything in the sports world during 2006, I have reviewed the Top 10 stories of the year.

Also, at no additional cost, you don’t need to waste time following anything in 2007 because I have looked into my crystal ball to give you the top stories of 2007. Your wife can thank me later.

10. MNF signs off on ABC; moves to ESPN-
Monday Night Football moved from ABC to ESPN this year after 36 years on network television. ESPN’s Sunday night package shifted to NBC, which got back into the NFL. ABC’s Al Michaels and John Madden also jumped to NBC along with their longtime producer and director. MNF was must see TV on ABC and was routinely one of the highest rated programs on network TV since the days of Howard Cosell, “Dandy” Don Meredith and Frank Gifford.

9. Who won the Stanley Cup?-
If the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup but no one sees it, does it really count. Carolina defeated Edmonton to win the Cup, which made many hockey purists vomit, although many did not see it actually happen. Game 3, shown on NBC, lost its time slot in the Los Angeles market, a region that includes two NHL franchises, to reruns of “I Love Lucy” (sadly, that’s true). The NHL barely drew ratings on ABC and ESPN in 2004, then melted away an whole season before coming back to get worse ratings last season on NBC and OLN, whose rating for Game 2 of the finals was out-rated by a rained-out baseball game on ESPN that never started (again sad but true).

8. TO “attempts” suicide-
I hate T.O. and I hate myself for having him on this list but it was a huge story (see circus). I won’t inflate his ego anymore by rehashing the story.

7. Barbaro’s rise and fall-
Barbaro decisively won the 2006 Kentucky Derby and was a heavy favorite in the Preakness Stakes. But, during the Preakness, he fractured three bones in and around the ankle of his right hind leg. The next day, he underwent surgery for his leg injuries. After initially favorable reports regarding his recovery, Barbaro developed an infection in the broken leg in early July. Through the surgical removal of most of the laminitic hoof, aggressive pain management, and the use of a sling, Barbaro began a slow recovery. By October, Barbaro's prognosis was improving. His cast was removed in early November and replaced with a bandage, a move that suggested that Barbaro's recovery was progressing well. The injury ruined his chance at the Triple Crown and ended his racing career. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed won in 1978.

6. More BasketBRAWL-
Ten players, including NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl near the end of a December game at Madison Square Garden. Punches were thrown and players flew into the crowd in the NBA's ugliest scene since Ron Artest and other Pacers players greeted Detroit fans with right hooks in 2004. With the Knicks on the verge of another embarrassing home loss and angry that Denver still had its stars on the floor, Knicks guard Mardy Collins flagrantly fouled the Nuggets' J.R. Smith to trigger the melee. Anthony trying to rehabilitate his image after a few off court messes the last few years was slapped with a 15 game suspension, the sixth longest in NBA history.

5. Tiger dominates PGA Tour-
Despite losing his father and many pundits saying he was in a slump in 2006, Tiger solidified his lock as the greatest player in the world. He silenced many of his critics finishing the season with six straight wins including the British Open and PGA Championship. He won eight tournaments in ’06, many in dominating fashion, earning his 8th PGA Tour Player of the Year award. His two majors gives him 12 for his career, leaving him at 30 years old, only 6 behind Jack Nicklaus.

4. The Steelers win Super Bowl-
Jerome Bettis returned to play in the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit as Pittsburgh won their first title since 1980. The Steelers came in as the 6th seed and won every playoff game on the road defeating Cincinnati, then favorite Indianapolis, and finally Denver before taking out Seattle in Super Bowl XL. Crappy officiating marred the game, but Bettis ended his career on a high note and head coach Bill Cowher gets his first championship after many near misses in the AFC title game.

3. Phil loses U.S. Open-
“I’m such an idiot,” was the quote of the year. Phil Mickelson said this to reporters after blowing the lead on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Had he won, Mickelson would have taken over the #1 spot in pro golf. After he won the Masters for a second time, many thought “Lefty” could have a shot at the Grand Slam. But, the story quickly turned to the biggest collapse in a Major since Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open.

2. Texas wins the National Championship-
The Longhorns secured their first National Championship since 1970 on the back of QB Vince Young. Texas defeated two-time defending champion USC 41-38 with a last second touchdown by Young. With UT down five and facing a 4th-and-5 from the eight-yard line, Young checked with his three receivers in the pattern, but everyone was covered. He saw an opening on the right side. It was just enough room for him to scamper eight yards for the game-winning TD and bring Texas' fourth National Championship back to the Lone Star State.

1. Heat win NBA title-
The Miami Heat overcame long odds to win their first ever NBA title. The Heat rode young superstar Dwayne Wade past Dallas despite being down 0-2 in the series and down 13 points in the 4th quarter of Game 3. Wade's Game 3 performance was especially memorable; Wade finished with 42 points (tying his career playoff high) and 13 rebounds (career high). 15 of his 42 points came in the 4th quarter, in which the Heat erased a 13 point deficit over the final 6:34 with a 22-7 run.The Heat became only the third team in NBA history to win the Finals after being down 0-2. Pat Riley won his first title since the “Showtime” Lakers era, Shaq won his 4th championship and first without you know who, while veterans Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning won their first titles. Wade had the third highest scoring average ever by a player in his first NBA Finals with 34.7 points per game.

Fearless Predictions for 2007- don’t waste time watching sports in 2007, here is what is going to happen…

* The San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints will play in Super Bowl XLI. LaDainian Tomlinson will rush for 178 and three scores on his way to the MVP but it will be the late touchdown to Antonio Gates from Philip Rivers that will seal the first title for the Chargers.

* The Dallas Mavericks will cut down the nets as the NBA Champion. Mark Cuban will purchase the most obnoxiously large championship rings that will make most rappers jealous.

* Maurice Clarett will sign with the Oakland Raiders, despite still being in jail. Al Davis will announce that his contract will begin the day he is paroled.

* The Buffalo Sabres will erase memories of “No Goal” and “Wide Right” winning the Stanley Cup in six games over the Anaheim “Stop Calling Us Mighty” Ducks.

* Phil Mickelson will win the U.S. Open with a birdie on 18 holding off a late surge by Tiger Woods.

*The University at Buffalo football team will go 6-6 en route to their first ever appearance in a bowl game, the International Bowl in Toronto.

* My two-year-old son will outshoot me in an 18-hole grudge match at a Buffalo area golf course. I will put 13 balls into the water but the dawn of the next great golf legend is born!

* You will read this blog next year at this time and be fully convinced that I have way too much free time!

Happy New Year!!!!