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Sports in 2007 found way past Britney

Dec 31, 2007 6:47 AM

While the mainstream media flogged the public in 2007 with news of Britney Spears, record foreclosures and $3 a gallon gas, sports fans found their own reality with a year marked by some really high highs and some really low lows.

Barry Bonds eclipsed Hank Aaron’s home run record, but how he did it has most fans sour. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up in the NL West basement.

Michael Vick went to the dogs and has now traded his black, white and red Falcons uniform for a black and white prison garb. As for Atlanta, it was a finish in the NFC South cellar.

Sean Taylor lost his life in a robbery attempt in Miami, but his Washington Redskins have rallied to close the season in memory of their fallen teammate.

All was not dark this past year as the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in four years and are favorites to repeat (4-1, LVH) in 2008. Jimmie Johnson won his second straight NASCAR title and is favored to win this year’s Daytona 500 (5-1, Station Casinos).

Horse racing was dominated by a cast of talented three-year-olds including Hard Spun, Street Sense (Kentucky Derby winner), fabulous filly Rags to Riches (Belmont Stakes winner) and Curlin (Preakness Stakes winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner) who was ultimately named Horse of the Year.

The Anaheim Ducks, (10-1 futures, LVH) defeated the Ottawa Senators (6-1, LVH) in five games to capture their first Stanley Cup and also set an NHL open era record by going undefeated (12-0-4) in regulation in the first 16 games of the season.

In individual sports, it a was the same old, same old as Tiger Woods (9-5 to win The Masters, LVH) dominated the PGA Tour and won a mind-boggling seven tournaments in a row dating back to 2006 — the second time he’s done that in his illustrious career.

Tiger’s buddy, Roger Federer (4-9, Australian Open, LVH), also had a sensational year winning three legs of tennis’ Grand Slam including the Australian Open where he went without losing a set, and finishing second in the French Open. Federer has also now appeared in 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals.

Boxing and football provided fans with some major memories that will stick with us forever. The Sweet Science proved it’s certainly not down for the count as it overshadowed a somewhat lukewarm year in the nation’s fastest-growing sport, mixed martial arts. Bouts like Pacquiao-Barrera, Mayweather-De La Hoya, Cotto-Mosley, Calzaghe-Kessler and Mayweather-Hatton.

My Fight of the Year, Taylor-Pavlik, gave fans many memories and one ringside announcer a little bodily fluid.

"This must be a pretty good fight Jim," HBO analyst Larry Merchant said to announcer Jim Lampley between rounds five and six of the bout. "I already have five dots of blood on my shirt."

2007 set the stage for some big-time fights in 2008, starting off with Taylor-Pavlik II (Pavlik -180, Taylor +150 at Caesars Palace) on Feb. 16 at the MGM Grand.

But no sport filled the mind with memorable moments like the nation’s most-popular sport, good old American football.

It all started out appropriately on New Year’s Day when 7 ½-point underdog Boise State upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in overtime, 43-42 when coach Chris Petersen decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win. Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky faked a quick pass and then handed the ball off behind his back to running back Ian Johnson on a fake Statue of Liberty play. Johnson easily took it to the end zone for the conversion and win and then immediately got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend.

Later in the year football provided more entertainment than Hollywood could ever dream up with the resurgence of Brett Favre and the Packers, the emergence of Tony Romo and the Cowboys and the big story, New England’s pursuit of perfection and its rewriting of the NFL record books.

College provided its own usual entertainment with Nevada topping Boise State, 69-67 (17 TDs!) in the highest-scoring game ever, LSU falling twice in triple overtime, and Stanford ending USC’s 35-game winning streak at the Coliseum, 24-23 as a whopping 39-point underdog.

And it was in college football, where two memories impossible to forget were made when Millsaps College defeated Trinity University on a 15-lateral, 61-yard return on the final kickoff, reminiscent of the famous Stanford-California play — sans the tuba player, and the ultimate game of 2007, Appalachian State, from The Division Formerly Known as I-AA, upsetting No. 5 Michigan on a blocked field attempt on the last play of the game in the Big House.

So as 2007 is ushered out and 2008 sprouts anew, be prepared for talk of Jamie Lynn Spears and her baby, a possible recession and $4 a gallon gas but remember that the Pats’ pursuit of that unblemished season, Taylor-Pavlik II and March Madness will show us in the first three months of the year why sports is so necessary — and so much more appetizing than the constant tripe the media chooses to spoon feed us.