The Top-10 Sports Stories of 2007

#10 – SEC Football

From bringing in the New Year with a dominating national championship victory by Florida over heavily favored Ohio State to the incredibly controversial and high profile hirings of Nick Saban at Alabama and Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, the SEC was once again the center of the college football world.

Beyond the deep and remarkable storylines, from Week 1 to the Championship Game, the SEC wasn’t just the most compelling sports league to follow all year with dramatic, gripping, heart-stopping games every week, it was the best show on TV. With Alabama-Arkansas, Georgia-Alabama, Mississippi State-Auburn, Auburn-Florida and Florida-Georgia to begin the season, LSU’s four week stretch of absurdly theatrical games – Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama – in the middle of the season, then a close that featured three narrow escapes by Tennessee – South Carolina, Vandy and Kentucky – LSU going again to triple overtime in the last weekend with Arkansas, MSU nipping Ole Miss thanks to an incredibly odd sequence of plays and a sixth win in a row by Auburn over Alabama, Les Miles’ impromptu press conference at the championship game, Georgia’s celebration, Tim Tebow… the SEC deserves an Emmy in the Reality TV category for the production it put on this fall.

#9 – Florida

Florida began the year winning the national championship in football, went on to claim its second consecutive national championship in basketball and closed the season with Tim Tebow winning the Heisman Trophy. No university has ever dominated the sports that really matter in a single calendar year like the Gators of ’07.

#8 – Boston

The Pats beating the Chargers in San Diego, the Pats-Colts AFC Championship game, Randy Moss comes to Boston, the Celtics trade spare parts for two All-Stars and have one of the best starts ever to an NBA Season, Boston College rises to #2 in the college football polls, the Pats go undefeated, the Sox win a World Series, Papi, Brady, Manny, Schill, KG, Belichick, in 2007, Boston overtook New York as the most interesting place to follow and cover sports with a galaxy of star players, unique personalities, engrossing storylines and unrivaled succees.

#7 – Peyton Manning

By winning the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning put to bed one of the stupidest sports bar and talk radio topics ever: can Peyton Manning with the big game? Manning’s Super Bowl win and the spectacular manner in which he accomplished it cements him as one of the five greatest QBs of all time.

#6 – NBA Referee Gambling

The (perhaps naďve) idea that the integrity of sporting officials’ was beyond reproach and the belief that in today’s day and age gamblers couldn’t get to refs to the degree that they’d tank games came crashing down with Tim Donaghy. How many games did he influence? Maybe none, but by planting the seed in the minds of fans that he could have, we can never go back to a point where the mere idea of a ref skewing an outcome for gambling interests is absurd. That’s huge.

Far from just an NBA story, this revelation has changed the way officials in every sport are hired, judged and followed and the news of Donaghy’s gambling ties did something that is hard to do in today’s cynical sports society – it shocked us.

#5 – Barry Bonds

That Barry Bonds breaking the most meaningful record in all of sports isn’t #1 on this list shows the degree to which he is reviled in America (and rightfully so) and thought of as a lying, cheating, chemically enhanced fraud (and rightfully so).

#4 – College Football

Appalachian State won at Michigan. Stanford won as a 40-point dog at USC. Louisiana-Monroe beat Alabama; Syracuse won as a 30+ point underdog at Louisville. But it wasn’t just the upsets that made ’07 a season unlike any other in college football, it was Kansas and South Florida and Missouri and Boston College getting to #2 in the polls, a two-loss team getting into the BCS title game, it was carnage at the top of the rankings every weekend and one breathtaking, arresting, emotional, stirring game after another.

Put up against an NFL season devoid of thrills, the unpredictability, excitement and intrigue on campus this season turned millions into college football converts.

#3 – The Mitchell Report

One day Roger Clemens was the greatest pitcher of his generation, maybe the greatest ever, a hero, an icon, the next day his name was mud and the Mitchell Report was the reason why. We all knew the use of illegal performance enhancers in MLB was rampant before his report, but by naming names, particularly Clemens,’ and charging ownership with virtual complicity in the steroidization of baseball, Mitchell did his part in trying to pull the curtain back on the greatest scam in sports history – baseball in the steroid era.

#2 – The Patriots

New England started 2007 by beating the team with the best record in the NFL in the playoffs on the road, it went on to lose the AFC Championship Game in Indy in one of the most watched and talked about games of the season, the Pats acquired Randy Moss, their coach was involved in a public extra-marital affair, the playboy QB’s Hollywood starlet ex-girlfriend had a child out of wedlock with him, he then went on to date one of the most famous lingerie models in the world and this was all before “Spy-gate” and going 16-0 in the regular season.

The Patriots had it all this season – stars, action, gossip, tabloids, records, personalities, success, heroes and heels. No team in any sport was more talked about or watched than the Patriots this year.

#1 – Michael Vick

Where to begin? From the Miami “water bottle” incident to the reports which would surface about his involvement in dog fighting, to his dog fighting trial and sentencing and the ESPN “Town Hall” fiasco, taken separately, Michael Vick could occupy several spots on this list, taken together, he’s clearly the biggest sports story of the year – he’s probably one of the Top-10 NEWS stories of the year!

No story in sports drew more heated opinion, more columns, more contentious talk radio debates or more emotion from fans than Mike Vick did.

The racial and social undertones of Vick and his dog fighting carried this story well beyond the sports page and kept him at the forefront of the news for the majority of the year. The degree to which discussion and passion regarding Vick dominated all other stories in sports in 2007 is hard to overestimate.