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Scandals dominate 2007 headlines 

Every December, during the dog days before football's college bowls and NFL playoffs, one of America's annual rituals is determining the year's top sports stories.

It happens at every level national, state, even local in many places. In the days ahead, you should be able to check out numerous Internet sites and submit your own votes.

If we were only talking about Colorado, nobody would argue with the Colorado Rockies' run to the World Series, or Air Force football's renaissance, surging from 4-8 to 9-3 led by Chad Hall's 2,000-plus all-purpose yards; Colorado knocking off unbeaten and third-ranked Oklahoma en route to a bowl bid against Alabama; Air Force men's basketball making the National Invitation Tournament semifinals, then losing coach Jeff Bzdelik to Colorado; Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday having an MVP season, even if the voters didn't agree; and longtime Colorado State football coach Sonny Lubick being fired and replaced by former CSU quarterback Steve Fairchild.

Oh, and we can't forget the Broncos' ugly implosion, missing the playoffs for the second straight year. Or the disappointing demise of the International golf tournament at Castle Pines.

A good number of those are upbeat. But take the conversation to the national level, and the mood changes. Check this top 10:

1. Major League Baseball. Everyone knew the report compiled by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell would bring a new cloud over the game. Few expected the magnitude of it; the 409-page bombshell implicated dozens of the game's best players over the past decade or more, such as Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, David Justice, Troy Glaus, Hal Morris, Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Caminiti, among many others. Oh yeah, and Barry Bonds.

2. Bonds. You'd figure that anyone breaking Hank Aaron's career record for home runs would be huge, but Bonds' 756th homer on Aug. 8 was just one more chapter in a sad saga that later included his indictment on federal charges for lying in an investigation and, in no surprise to anyone, being included in the Mitchell Report. Now we also hear that Bonds likely was "warned" in advance of drug tests. How convenient. Obviously, this story won't be ending soon.

3. Michael Vick. One of the NFL's brightest stars, the Atlanta quarterback began the year with a new coach and new hopes of going far into the playoffs. He ends the year in prison after the discovery that he financed and helped run an extensive dogfighting operation out of his Virginia estate.

4. Bill Belichick. Yes, the New England Patriots are 14-0 and still have a good shot at the NFL's first perfect season since Miami in 1972. But the early-season revelation that the Patriots spied on the New York Jets, which Belichick approved and condoned as head coach, remains a scar. Many suspected some NFL teams might be guilty, but not the Patriots.

5. Marion Jones. She was such an incredible star on the track at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, winning three gold medals and a record five overall medals. But two months ago she admitted having used performance-enhancing drugs and gave back her medals. Already, her name and results have been stricken from the Olympic records.

6. Floyd Landis. It had been such a huge story in 2006 when Landis made an amazing late comeback to win the Tour de France, filling the sport's vacancy left by Lance Armstrong. Even after Landis tested positive for testosterone, his adamant responses stopped many from jumping to conclusions. More than a year later, his title was stripped away and his guilt proven.

7. Bowl Championship Series. We've dragged this one through the mud enough here, but one more time: After a stunning string of upsets, the bowl system has failed and the world of major-college football has no way to crown a legitimate champion, accepted by all.

8. Tim Donaghy. We had seen scandal in sports, even point-shaving and game-fixing, but never something quite like this. Donaghy, an established National Basketball Association referee, pleaded guilty to federal charges of having placed bets on many NBA games, including games which he officiated. Also, it was discovered he had made calls in some of those games that affected point spreads, a stain on the league's credibility.

9. Darrent Williams and Sean Taylor. Murder and sports rarely exist in the same sentence, but it happened twice in 2007 to talented young NFL defensive backs. First on New Year's Day, when the nation awoke to the news of Williams, hours after the Denver Broncos' season finale, having been shot and killed while riding in a limousine. Then, just a few weeks ago, Washington's Taylor was gunned down in his own bedroom by an intruder.

10. Don Imus. Granted, this one mushroomed in the pop-culture world. But after Imus uttered those despicable comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team, the radio host became a constant headline until his removal from national radio and TV.

Sure, you could single out some happy stories, such as Peyton Manning and Indianapolis winning the Super Bowl, or Boston's second World Series sweep of this decade.

But not even those can change the overall view of national sports in 2007.

It's been a sad year, in almost every possible way.

routon@csindy.com

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