The year in columns: 2008

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

Story of the year: Phelps a study in toughness
Years in columns with Wetzel: 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

This is my 173rd column of the year, down from last year's 214. I missed most of the NCAA tournament and all the Masters, though, due to the birth of my second daughter.

Per tradition, I make the last column easy by linking back to the other ones. There was plenty of corruption – from Roger Clemens to the Bowl Championship Series. There were numerous colorful characters – from Usain Bolt to Bruce Pearl. And there were plenty of in-competition stars – from Michael Phelps to Paul Pierce.

That I can cover it all is why this is one of the great jobs on earth. It's rarely work, and I appreciate the readers who allow me to do it. I again received more than 80,000 emails this year from readers, which made responding to all of them impossible. Please know I appreciate every one of them, even the brutally critical.

Over five years we've built Yahoo! Sports into the most read sports site – even more than the Worldwide Leader – and I like to think the honesty of our coverage is a big reason for the success. We aren't bought out by leagues or teams, and it shows.

I don't ask anyone to agree with every column, only to realize I try as hard as I can to fully report and write them. I again traveled to more than 20 states and, this year, two provinces in China.

The NFL and college football tied with 32 columns each written about them. I wrote about the Olympics 29 times, and the NBA and college hoops each had 20. Mixed martial arts had the biggest increase of the year, 15 columns, which some readers felt was too many. Just know that they almost always draw a huge readership.

Golf had just five columns, mainly because once Tiger Woods went down nothing newsworthy occurred. His magical weekend at Torrey Pines, though, delivered one of the best professional experiences of my life.

I wrote just twice about major league baseball, both involving Roger Clemens. As we, and other all-sports sites, grew in stature over the last decade, MLB always was the most difficult and nonresponsive sports organization to work with. It was like pulling teeth to cover the sport. So it was quite nice to ignore. Tim Brown and Jeff Passan are far more capable baseball writers, anyway.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite columns and stories from the past year.

Giants have chance to tilt Boston/NY rivalry (Jan. 21)
The bitter rivalry between the Northeast cities has been one-sided recently, but the Giants can (and did) change that.

General's last stand (Feb. 4)
Bob Knight retired (perhaps) from coaching. That the coach who won the most cheated the least was overshadowed by his difficult personality and an underestimation of the depths of corruption.

Clemens shelled by Congress (Feb. 13)
WASHINGTON – Roger Clemens had a bad day in front of a bunch of foolish politicians. The rest of the year wasn't any better.

Pearl has gone from pariah to pied piper (Feb. 23)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Once a coaching pariah, Bruce Pearl moved to No. 1 after his Volunteers beat Memphis in a huge matchup.

Hypocrisy 101 (March 18)
Candy-coated NCAA coverage aside, the notion of the "student-athlete" continues to get knocked down.

Pierce's performance woke Celtics' ghosts (May 18)
BOSTON – Paul Pierce's 41 points did more than deliver a Game 7 Eastern Conference semifinals victory over LeBron. He also earned his Celtics stripes.

Kobe regains golden touch (May 29)
LOS ANGELES – From untouchable to being praised by Lakers legend Jerry West, Kobe Bryant came full circle in L.A. this year.

An entertaining disaster (June 1)
The sensation that is Kimbo Slice appeared on national television. Some liked it. Some hated it. All were correct.

It's blood, sweat, no tears for Penguins (June 3)
DETROIT – The Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup, but the Penguins' triple-overtime Game 5 victory was hockey at its best.

Torrey Pines for more Tiger magic (June 14)
SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods' third round at the U.S. Open captured the imagination of fans and set in motion a weekend to remember.

Woods refuses to let pain win (June 16)
SAN DIEGO – Monday's U.S. Open final will rank among the greatest of Tiger Woods' many accomplishments.

Competition sends White back to basic (July 9)
LAS VEGAS – Dana White, president of the UFC, is as tough on business competitors as his fighters are in the octagon.

An Olympics of hope for earthquake victims (Aug. 8)
DU JIANG YAN, China – Even in the refugee camps of a remote, disaster-stricken region, the Olympics' coming to China was cause for celebration by some of most resilient people you ever could meet.

Picture-perfect win for Phelps (Aug. 15)
BEIJING – Michael Phelps won the seventh of his eight gold medals in the most dramatic of fashions.

Rogge rips the wrong guy (Aug. 21)
BEIJING – Usain Bolt electrified the world. Leave it to the IOC president to gutlessly attack the sprinter anyway.

Haskins a pioneer for justice, common man (Sept. 8)
Don Haskins never strayed from his blue-collar roots and sense of social justice, qualities that define him forever. This easily was the toughest column of the year to write.

NCAA naps during golden age of cheating (Sept. 23)
Under Myles Brand the NCAA has all but given up enforcing its rules. Welcome to the golden age of cheating.

Final curtain for the Kimbo show (Oct. 5)
SUNRISE, Fla. – Some days the column writes itself. That includes any day involving Kimbo Slice, God's 2008 gift to sports columnists. That a guy with pink hair knocked him out in 14 seconds made this the most read column of the year.

Run over by a Mack (Oct. 11)
DALLAS – Mack Brown outcoached Bob Stoops, and No. 5 Texas handled No. 1 Oklahoma. Turns out it didn't matter.

Giant statement: N.Y. is NFL's best team (Oct. 26)
PITTSBURGH – The Giants' mental toughness exceeds their on-field bullying of opponents. It's why they remain the team to beat.

Dundee brings De La Hoya camp to life (Nov. 17)
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. – At least Oscar De La Hoya had some fun at his training camp. The fight against Manny Pacquiao didn't go quite as well.

The bowl boondoggle (Dec. 18)
College football's conference commissioners love to explain why they're so smart. Explaining why they let bowl host committees waste tens of millions of their dollars each year is another thing.

Lions not only embarrassment in Detroit (Dec. 21)
DETROIT – What's better than an 0-16 season? How about tailgating fans toasting shots under the jailhouse window of the city's incarcerated mayor? It's winter in Detroit.

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