John Royal's Top Twenty Sports Moments of 2007, Part Two

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As I said


, the end of 2007 is coming and it’s time for me to one of those cheesy end-of-year lists. And if anyone does cheesy, it’s me. So here’s the continuation of my Top Twenty Sports Moments of 2007.

And, as I wrote yesterday, the ordering is random.

11. J. Fred Duckett dies. For many years, J. Fred Duckett was the voice of the Houston Astros and the Rice Owls. He was big in the local track and field community. He was a good man, with many friends, and we all miss him.

12. Speaking of Rice University, the Owls finish the 2007 college football season with the same record as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. And this is after their douchebag of a coach, Todd Graham, deserts them after one year. Of course, the Owls only won three games, which was a bit of a disappointment after 2006’s bowl season, but hey, Rice Owls, guess what, you’re just as good as the big-budgeted, supposedly major league, big time national contender Notre Dame. Maybe Charlie Weis isn’t such a genius after all.

13. And speaking of Charlie Weis and geniuses, Charlie’s former boss Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is nailed for cheating during the first game of the season. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Patriots from having a dominating season, but it has taken the luster off of the Pats and their Super Bowl victories over the previous seasons. As a punishment, Belichick was fined and the Patriots lost their number one draft pick. The crappy thing is that the Patriots still have the rights to the 49ers number one draft pick, and the Niners suck, which means the Patriots will be getting a high pick in the upcoming draft.

14. Dario Franchitti wins a rain-soaked Indianapolis 500, which prompts photographers to take hundreds of pictures of his wife dancing around in a rain-soaked sun dress. This wouldn’t be that big of deal, except of course, for the fact that his wife is Ashley Judd.

15. The Texans are swept, once again, by the Tennessee Titans. It’s not bad enough that the Texans can’t find one way to defeat the former Houston Oilers, but it’s the way they let it happen. In the first defeat, back-up QB Kerry Collins slices and dices the Texan secondary (as have many a QB this season) and they surrender a league record eight field goals to kicker Rob Bironas, yet still almost win the game. In the second defeat, the Texans allow a now healthy Vince Young to look like a professional QB, something that most teams have prevented this year.

And speaking of letting guys look like professional QBs, if Joey Harrington played against the Texans every week, he’d be a sure bet for the NFL Hall of Fame.

16. The Texas Longhorns become a national laughingstock for not being able to keep their players out of jail. Then the Horns go on to lose three games this season and get to go out to San Diego for a minor bowl while the Sooners go, once again, to a BCS Bowl.

17. Hunter Pence hits the big leagues. Hunter Pence was the only thing to go right for the Astros in 2007. And to think, the team didn’t even want him on the big league roster as they felt he needed to spend a whole season in AAA. He dominated the opposition in Spring Training, yet he was sent down because the decision had been made to move Chris Burke from Craig Biggio purgatory and put him in center instead.

When that decision crashed and burned, as did so many other decisions (see item number 18), Pence was brought up to the majors where he dominated. But not only did Pence dominate the opposition, he seemed to have fun playing the game. He hustled. He was always in position. He was always trying to stretch singles into doubles. Man, let’s hope Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee spent a little time watching him.

If not for an injury that kept him sidelined over a month, Pence would probably have been the National League’s Rookie of the Year. Now if the Astros could just find some way to clone him.

18. Despite having the “best nucleus” in baseball, Drayton McLane decides to blow things up and start over. Of course, starting over means firing Phil Garner and replacing Garner, not known for his strategic abilities, with his bench coach, Cecil Cooper, the man who was advising Garner on all of those strategic decisions. General Manager Tim Purpura was fired the same day and replaced on an interim basis by team president Tal Smith, the man who had been advising Purpura and Drayton McLane on all decisions.

Tal in turn would replace himself with a man who learned at the foot of Tal, Ed Wade, who as GM of the Philadelphia Phillies was best known for selecting Charlie Manuel as his manager instead of Jimmy Leyland, one of the best regarded managers in baseball.

And Wade, sticking with “the best way to make change is to stick to the status quo” meme, trades for Michael Bourn and replaces the retiring Craig Biggio with the injury-prone, 32-year-old Kaz Matsui, a man who has shown an ability to only be able to hit in Coors Field in Denver.

But at least Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane and Brad Lidge are finally gone.

19. On the night of a meaningless game in September against the Cincinnati Reds, Astro announcers Bill Brown, Jim Deshaies and Greg Lucas thank the Houston Press for naming Brown the best play-by-play guy in the city and Deshaies the best commentator.

Thanks for the plug, guys. And you’re welcome, because you guys truly are the best.

20. Mark Cuban is finally vindicated. Cuban, who’s been fined millions of dollars by the NBA over the years for his criticism of the officiating, is strangely quiet and conciliatory when the news comes out that official Tim Donaghy has been gambling on games (some of which he officiated) and is under FBI investigation.

And you’ve also got to know that somewhere, Jeff Van Gundy was saying “I told you so” to David Stern.

So, that’s my Top Twenty Sports Moments for the year. I’m sure you have some of your own, so let’s hear them. And tune into tomorrow as I present the first half of my friends’ Top Twenty Sports Moments of 2007. -- John Royal

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