2007: A look back | AspenTimes.com

2007: A look back

Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado

What an ausipicious start.

The Boise State Broncos hook-and-laddered their way into America’s hearts with their dramat­ic New Year’s Day slaying of Oklahoma. (I don’t care if the only thing Jared Zabransky does for the rest of his life is work in the stock room at Meineke, he’s still a hero in my book.) T­his i­s g­oing t­o b­e a g­reat y­ear, I r­emember s­aying t­hat d­ay a­s I t­ook a bi­te o­f a g­as s­tation t­urkey s­andwich.

Now, as I sit here eating a gas station turkey sand­wich some 360 days later, I wonder where things went awry. I think it was right about the time Roger Clemens was getting cozy with his personal trainer, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was doing his best Pete Rose impersonation and O.J. Simpson was doing his best O.J. Simpson imper­sonation.

Maybe it was when Don Imus spewed obscenities like Trent Lott at a clan ral­ly, Tim Hardaway lobbied to become president of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Marion Jones handed over more gold than M.C. Hammer at a home foreclosure.

Or maybe it was Barry Bonds’ assault ” or was it an insult ” on sport’s most hallowed record. (If the steroid debate ever become a made-for-TV movie, I hope they cast Mount Rushmore in the role of Barry’s head.) Then there was Michael Vick’s campaign for PETA’s lifetime achievement award. The embattled Falcons quarterback faces some stiff competition; a Wisconsin man who received probation for engaging in “extracurricular activity” with a dead deer is still in the running.

Everyone has a type.

The only time i­ntegrity and s­ports were men­tioned in the same sentence in 2007 was in a Jay Leno punchline. This year will forever be marred by inflated stats, inflated heads, lying and cheating. I hope our national pastimes can recover.

But I’ll let others dwell on the negatives. Besides, how many times in your life can you say you have bigger balls than a seven-time Cy Young winner and, anatomically speaking, be right?

I prefer instead to take solace in the peculiar, the heartwarming and the downright hilarious stories that were overlooked this year. There were an abundance of high points ” no, Ricky Williams, I’m not talking about your latest suspension for marijuana use.

The Rangers scored 30 runs in one game (did they even have 30 wins?), and Orioles infielder Melvin Mora was ejected during a rain delay.

Padres outfielder Milton Bradley tore his ACL while arguing with an umpire, and the Red Sox lost on Ben Affleck’s birthday for the 10th straight year. If you think that stings, Affleck, you should watch “Gigli.”

Florida Gator Joakim Noah went to the NBA Draft dressed as Orville Redenbacher (I guess my grandfather isn’t the only person who wears seer­sucker) and Joey Chestnut inhaled 66 hot dogs to unseat vaunted Kobyashi at Coney Island. Sorry Appalachian State, Gardner Webb and Stanford, but this was the upset of the year.

Mike Flynt’s return to the gridiron to play for his alma mater, Division III Sul Ross State (Tex.), at the age of 59 warmed the cockles of my heart ” and I don’t even know what a cockle is. It also made me a bit envious; I still ponder how satisfying it would feel to be the first opponent to lay out Flynt on a punt return, stand over him and say, “Now that’s what I call the early-bird special.”

A television station hyped the start of a three- game series between the Kansas City Royals and Anaheim Angels with the headline, “Royals to get a taste of Angels’ Colon.” This one still gets me.

And who could forget the memorable tennis match between Yeu-Tzuoo Wang and Phillip King in the Thai Open? To my knowledge, this is the only known Wang­King bout in history.

The feel good story of the year? Sorry Mitchell Report, but this distinction goes to the 24-year-old Australian rugby play­er who, after suffering an eye infection, found out he had been playing with an opponents’ tooth embedded in his fore­head for four months.

The Phillies also make a compelling case. They became the first major sports franchise to lose 10,000 games. I figure since Philadelphia hasn’t produced a champion in the four major sports since 1983, being first in something is worth celebrating. Take what you can get.

And the year’s best performance? It could go to NBC, which, during overtime of Game 5 of the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators hockey playoff series, switched to pre- race coverage of the Preakness. Apparently Curlin was more important than Maxim Afinogenov. I couldn’t agree more.

More likely, minor league manager Phil Wellman should take home the prize. Wellman, who, like that “Evolution of Dance” guy and “D-ck in a Box”, has become a YouTube phenomenon, put on a display that made Lou Piniella look like an altar boy. He covered home plate with dirt, shot-putted third base and, for the climax, crawled around in the grass behind the pitcher’s mound, grasped the rosin and, in some weird flashback or “Platoon” reenactment, bit and tossed the bag like a grenade.

I smell an Oscar.

As we prepare to ring in the New Year, Bill Belichick, clad in a Santa outfit, graces the cover of Sports Illustrated and Jessica Simpson is getting more press than the undefeated Patriots (rightfully so, considering she’s at least two times as pretty as Tom Brady).

So what can we expect for 2008? Will Charles Barkley run for governor of Alabama? (I’m really looking forward to putting a “Round Mound of Reform” sticker on my Jeep.) Will the Rocket come clean? Will South Park producers finally admit that ESPN analyst John Clayton was the inspiration for Mr. Macky?

After a year spent being sidetracked by off-the-field tomfoolery, will we finally get back to the action on the field?

I’d settle for more Jessica Simpson.

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