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What were they thinking? (cont.)

Posted: Thursday December 28, 2006 2:36PM; Updated: Thursday December 28, 2006 2:36PM
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Carmelo Anthoney
Carmelo Anthony's actions in the Nuggets' brawl with the Knicks on Dec. 16 cost earned him a 15-game suspension.
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Everywhere we turned in 2006 it seemed there was another sports figure shooting him or herself in the foot with foolish decisions. What was Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony thinking when he threw a punch during a brawl with the New York Knicks in December? Commissioner David Stern slapped Anthony with a 15-game suspension, but Stern had a "what-was-he-thinking?" moment of his own when he introduced a new, synthetic basketball to the NBA, for some reason replacing the old, leather ball, which was just about the only thing in the league than absolutely no one objected to. Stern, at least, saw the error of his ways after numerous complaints from the players and announced that the league would return to the old ball on Jan. 1.

We may never know exactly what Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens was thinking on the night in September that police and paramedics were called to his home after an apparent suicide attempt by T.O. He insisted that he had not tried to take his own life and eventually the incident was officially described as an accidental overdose of pain killers, but not before a bizarre press conference in which his gum-chewing publicist, Kim Etheredge, told the media that Owens had "25 million reasons" to live, a reference to his contract with the Cowboys. It was the kind of inappropriate statement that publicists are paid to keep their clients from making. What could she have been thinking?

There was more, so much more. What was New York Knicks coach Larry Brown thinking in running the Knicks even further into the ground than team president Isiah Thomas already had? What were Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson and his publisher, Judith Regan, thinking when they planned to inflict Simpson's hypothetical murder confession, If I Did It, on the public?

But 2006 also offered us sports figures who dared to think big thoughts, inspirational thoughts, for which we should be grateful. Thank goodness that Barbaro's owners, and the medical staff who attended to him, didn't think that all was lost when the thoroughbred suffered a life-threatening leg injury during the Preakness in May. What were they thinking? That the horse could be saved, and they proved to be right, just as little-known George Mason coach Jim Larranaga and his players were correct when they thought they could slay college basketball powerhouses and reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The same goes for Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who, against all odds, took his team to the World Series, where they lost to the surprising St. Louis Cardinals, featuring shortstop David Eckstein, the Series' unexpected MVP. What were Leyland, Eckstein and their teams thinking? That anything is possible.

That simple truism is what keeps us riveted to the world of sports, of course. Anything is possible -- the brilliant and the bizarre. Sometimes as 2006 reminded us, the mistakes are even more memorable than the miracles. Here's to 2007. May it bring us more of both.

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