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A year of ill repute

Sports scandals, falls from grace inescapable in 2007

Posted: Thursday December 27, 2007 1:31PM; Updated: Thursday December 27, 2007 1:31PM
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In less than a year, Michael Vick went from NFL superstar to prison inmate after he pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges.
In less than a year, Michael Vick went from NFL superstar to prison inmate after he pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges.
2007 Year In Review
TAYLOR: A year of ill repute
ARMSTRONG: No closure, only questions
GALLERY: Breakout Stars
GALLERY: Games of the Year
GALLERY: Swan Songs
GALLERY: The Year in Pictures
GALLERY: Pro Champions of the Year

We could try to avoid the truth, as so many sports figures did in 2007. We could follow Roger Clemens' lead and issue a statement categorically denying that '07 was a lousy year in sports, full of misdeeds and disgrace, despite all the evidence to the contrary. We could take a page from Don Imus' apologists and say that the ugliness of the year was taken out of context or blown out of proportion.

Or we could caution against a "rush to judgment" -- the obligatory line that's become so familiar from the year's scandals -- in declaring 2007 a giant series of embarrassments. We could resolutely pretend that the year never happened at all, and insist, like Bill Belichick, that we're only going to talk about the future.

But in the end, there is no escaping the truth. Just ask Michael Vick or Tim Donaghy or the Joneses, Marion and Pac-Man. The truth is that '07 was the Year of the Scandal, 12 months of players, coaches, executives, broadcasters and referees having their shady doings or their ugly attitudes brought to light. It was a year of grand juries and federal investigations, of suspensions and depositions, of he said/she said and carefully worded half-apologies ("If I offended anyone ...). It was a year when the the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals were overshadowed by Bad Newz Kennels, the Mitchell Report and Spygate.

It seemed that a month couldn't go by without a sports figure doing something -- or saying something -- to get into hot water. Imus, the radio host, provided the most notable example of foot-in-mouth disease,referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's" in April. The comment, for which he eventually apologized, set off a firestorm that cost him his job, although he had a new radio show seven months later.

Tim Hardaway, an ex-NBA star, also wandered into trouble on the radio, declaring his anti-gay sentiments during an interview on a Miami station in February. "I hate gay people, so I let it be known," he said. "I am homophobic. ... It shouldn't be in the world or the United States." Hardaway also later apologized for his comments, but like Imus, the venom he spewed won't soon be forgotten.

This isn't to say that '07 was a total downer. It had its share of uplifting moments, including championships by two of the classiest teams in sports, the San Antonio Spurs and Indianapolis Colts. In May, a talented, fun-loving quartet of Florida Gators -- Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green -- actually bypassed NBA paychecks for a year to stay in school and win a second consecutive NCAA basketball title. A first-time Stanley Cup champion, the Anaheim Ducks, was crowned in June.

David Beckham made the United States take notice of soccer (even if his actual performance was underwhelming) by leaving Europe to join the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS. The Colorado Rockies captured our attention with a surprising run to the World Series, then captured our hearts by giving a share of their postseason winnings to the family of Mike Coolbaugh, the coach in their minor-league system who was struck and killed by a line drive. It goes without saying that Tiger Woods (golf's Player of the Year once again) and Roger Federer (three Grand Slam titles) continued their amazing dominance.

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