Sports world needs better stories in '08

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Liars and cheaters and dog beaters, oh my.

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New England coach Bill Belichick is standing tall with a 16-0 record after being reprimanded earlier this season for a spying scandal.  Associated Press
Associated Press
New England coach Bill Belichick is standing tall with a 16-0 record after being reprimanded earlier this season for a spying scandal.

That is my brief synopsis of sports in 2007. You could throw in some Gators and New Englanders and the athletic genome for the year gone by would be pretty close to complete.

If you are not a fan of Florida or pro teams from the Boston area, chances are you weren't particularly satisfied with the season that was. I wasn't.

Beyond the championships, 2007 -- as a collective entity -- was a sports year many of us would prefer to forget.

One baseball cheater (Barry Bonds*) soiled one of the greatest statistical milestones of all time before being charged with perjury and then lumped in with more than 80 of his major league brethren as a performance-enhancing substance abuser.

Another football cheater (Bill Belichick) got reprimanded in the season opener for illicit spying and has his team on the brink of the NFL's perfection standard.

One local sports hero (Michael Vick) lied to and let down his fans with his despicable off-field hobby that cost him millions and earned him a striped suit and a one-room cell for the next 23 months.

Other coaches lied to their fans and employers (Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino) while on the local front a high school coach (Jody Grooms) got caught teaching his players to execute an unethical play.

Various scandals involving officials (NBA) and academic progress (Florida State and Greenbrier) helped add to the overall distaste.

Needless to say, my annual New Year's predictions foretold very little of this (except for the Bonds* fiasco). Georgia and South Carolina reversed mid-season football form that veered away from anticipated records. Chan Gailey couldn't sustain momentum from the previous season and was shown the door.

Tiger Woods did indeed coast to the first FedEx Cup, but he failed to win the first two majors from the final Sunday pairing, leaving another predicted wrap-around slam on the table.

So instead of making predictions for 2008 that almost certainly won't pan out, here is a list of things I would like to see happen in the coming year to make it much more palatable from our regional perspective. These are not delusional pipe dreams with no reasonable hope of happening. However, it will take the committed resolve of the athletes for any of these "pre-wish-ons" to be realized.

NOT-SO-PERFECT ENDING: I don't like Belichick at all and I've grown sick of the New England Patriots. However, it is even more nauseating listening to the decrepit 1972 Dolphins gloat about their undefeated season and celebrate every time they escape being surpassed by another unbeaten team with more wins. These miserable winners need company.

ULTIMATE GAME: It will have been 28 and 27 seasons respectively since Georgia and Clemson collected national titles in football. The potential is there for them to meet each other in next year's BCS Championship Game in Miami. If that dream matchup were to happen, my money would be on the Bulldogs based on coaching.

ULTIMATE FIGHT: Boxing rarely cooperates by giving the fans the bouts they really want. But wouldn't it be awesome if Aiken's undefeated Paul "The Punisher" Williams could get a unification welterweight championship shot at unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

Barring that, a super welterweight matchup with fellow WBC champion Vernon "The Viper" Forrest of Augusta would be a fight folks around here would be talking about forever.

SLAM THE DOOR: It's not hard to believe that Tiger Woods can win every major he plays in. Considering his current form and the scheduled venues for this season's majors, it's even easier to believe Woods can sweep the table and come to Augusta in 2009 poised to tie Jack Nicklaus for the most Masters (6) and major (18) wins. Woods is the obvious choice at both Augusta National Golf Club and Torrey Pines; he finished third at Royal Birkdale in 1998; and he'll get to play the PGA at Oakland Hills without Phil Mickelson as his partner.

HOME OF GOLF: Charles Howell and Vaughn Taylor each hit personal highs before fading to the finish on the PGA Tour last season. With regained form, here's hoping the two Augusta golfers get paired together in a late Sunday afternoon tee time at the Masters and then again as Ryder Cup teammates in Louisville.

GOLD STANDARD: Former Lakeside and Georgia star Reese Hoffa dominated the shot put ring, winning the World Outdoor Championships in August in Japan. The crowning achievement of his storied career awaits this summer at the Olympic Games in China, where he'll be favored for the gold medal.

SETTING AN UNEVEN BAR: UGA gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan has already announced she will retire at the end of the season. The Gym Dogs, including Aiken sophomore Grace Taylor, should send her out with a fourth consecutive NCAA title.

DOME BEFORE HOME: If Lincoln County's legendary football coach Larry Campbell decides to finally retire and rest on his record achievements, the perfect ending would be after the Red Devils become the first state champion to be crowned inside the Georgia Dome.

If just a few of these things happen (or they enact a future playoff system in college football), maybe we can stomach another year of sporting scandals, Gator Heismans and the Celtics piling on the Beantown braggadocio bandwagon.

Let this be a happier New Year.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

HENNY RAY ABRAMS/ASSOCIATED PRESS


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