The year in columns

Years in columns with Wetzel: 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

This is my 214th and last column of the year for Yahoo! Sports. Per tradition, I'll cheat and make it easy for myself by linking to some of those other 213.

It was, of course, a bizarre year in sports. At some points I felt I spent more time sitting in court than at the side of one as scandal after scandal piled up. I don't see this as an aberration. Sports are beyond a big business and nothing is considered sacred anymore. It'll get wilder, not calmer.

Over the course of the year I covered, in some form, the Bowl Championship Series title game, Super Bowl, Final Four, Masters, Floyd Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight, Stanley Cup Finals, U.S. Open golf, NBA Finals, World Series and Nextel Cup.

In 2007, I filed columns from 24 different states and the Province of Ontario. At least a couple even came directly from a bar. This may be a job, but it rarely is work.

My top topics of the year were college hoops (42 columns), college football (39), NFL (38), NBA (28) and MLB (21). I even managed 12 NASCAR columns, which is probably 12 more than most NASCAR fans (not to mention the drivers) would like.

While I don't expect everyone to agree with everything – I received roughly 80,000 to 100,000 reader emails over the course of the year debating that – what I hope comes through more than anything is that I try to bring you the best perspective I can with on-the-ground reporting. If nothing else, I can't express my appreciation to the loyal readership that has helped the column and our site, now the most read on the Internet, to great success over the past few years.

So without further ado, here's a recap of my year in sports. …

Rose roadblock (Jan. 5)
GLENDALE, Ariz. – College football fans always ask what they can do to bring about a playoff system. My best answer is simple; boycott the Rose Bowl.

Unhappy anniversary (Jan. 29)
Can't wait for Gary Bettman's secret 16-year plan to save the NHL to kick in.

A steep price to pay (Jan. 30)
MIAMI – The medical and financial hardships of former NFL players can be considerable, and the solution isn't easy.

Age defiance (Feb. 28)
Every time ESPN announcers blast players for leaving college early, remember Shaun Livingston and his knee.

Decisions, decisions (April 3)
ATLANTA – Billy Donovan bulldozed his way to a second title, but the specter of Kentucky loomed anyway. No mention at the time of Orlando.

Lasting legacy? (April 4)
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Eddie Robinson inspired many to get into coaching. But blacks still struggle for equality on the sidelines at all levels, even high school.

Score one for the 'normal guy' (April 8)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – This guy from Iowa named Zach Johnson somehow outdueled Tiger Woods at the Masters.

Tractor Traylor derailed (May 2)
DETROIT – In a story out of Hollywood, former basketball standout Robert "Tractor" Traylor helped his cousin launder some of his $178 million in drug sales. (Traylor wound up with probation.)

Agony and ecstasy (May 4)
OAKLAND, Calif. – In a lot of ways the NBA playoffs peaked the night the Warriors (and their wild fans) took down Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.

A team of their own (May 28)
BALTIMORE – A lacrosse team without a school (or at least still condemned by some of their professors) almost won the NCAA title.

When one was greater than five (June 1)
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – LeBron James scored Cleveland's final 25 points to almost singlehandedly defeat the Pistons in a playoff game. Unreal.

French connection (June 14)
CLEVELAND – It's really good to be Tony Parker.

The game's loss (July 26)
It was my great privilege to know Skip Prosser as well as I did through the years. This was, by far, the hardest column to write all year.

Racial divide (July 26)
RICHMOND, Va. – The line between animal rights activists and Michael Vick backers was as clear as black and white. At the time, people were angry with me for even mentioning race, but it was obvious and became a major issue.

Stewart's gift to his fans (July 29)
INDIANAPOLIS – There isn't a fan base more connected to its hero than the crowd at the Brickyard and Tony Stewart.

Billion to one (Sept. 4)
The PGA's deferred compensation plan should net Tiger Woods a cool $1 billion, yet he and Phil Mickelson complained about it. If they played in the NBA, they would have been lambasted.

This Bud's not for you (Sept. 20)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Budweiser were a perfect fit. Both will regret their split.

Yankees bug out (Oct. 5)
CLEVELAND – Perhaps God was angry at A-Rod, or Steinbrenner, or someone, because it sure looked like he sent a swarm of bugs – in lieu of drought and famine – to help Cleveland win a playoff game.

Home to a Nation (Oct. 25)
BOSTON – In high school I worked at Fenway Park. In October, I did once again.

Acting out (Nov. 1)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick was the most intriguing person of the year, a Shakespearean character come to life; only in a hoodie that now sells for 80 bucks a pop.

Skating away (Nov. 18)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson's crew chief was suspended six times for violating NASCAR rules, but no one seemed to care. I can't imagine Belichick getting off as easy.

The Wetzel Plan (Nov. 27)
It's only a matter of time before the house of cards preventing a college football playoff collapses. It won't happen this year, though, so look for this same column in 2008.

Missing man (Dec. 2)
LANDOVER, Md. – The Redskins tried to honor and play for their deceased teammate, Sean Taylor.