When former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell recently revealed the result of his investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, he ensured it would be the year's biggest sports story, topping anything achieved by any team or athlete.
The report, which accuses 90 pro players of using steroids, human growth hormone or some other performance enhancer, was instant fodder for talk-radio hosts. They immediately began clucking their tongues at players like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, both of whom allegedly juiced during their careers.
But what about baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who profited greatly by selling the Milwaukee Brewers after the steroid era's big numbers led to unprecedented attendance? Why hasn't he been forced to resign, after first saying he hadn't read the Mitchell report and then boasting that major league teams would likely break another attendance record this summer,
regardless of its findings?
And Selig isn't the only commissioner who found himself in a tight spot in 2007. His counterpart in the NBA, David Stern, had to deal with a crisis when it was revealed that referee Tim Donaghy had bet on league games and supplied inside information to gamblers.
Despite that stinging black eye, neither Stern nor Selig would likely trade places with Big Ten honcho Jim Delany, who spent much of the fall defending the Big Ten Network. The pay TV channel devoted to conference sports remains unavailable to most fans without satellite service.
And late last week, it was revealed that conference football referee Stephen Pamon has a history of gambling and is facing charges of child abuse and sexual harassment. Pamon, who filed for bankruptcy in 2002, presided over the season's two most controversial Big Ten games: Illinois' shocking win over Ohio State and Penn State's upset of Purdue. A sports-betting analyst told ESPN.com that higher-than-normal amounts of money were wagered on the teams benefiting from blown calls in both these games.
Even new NFL commish Roger Goodell is struggling with public relations. First there was Michael Vick's dog-fighting ordeal, then charges that the New England Patriots (on their way to what might be pro football's finest season) cheated by videotaping an opponent's sideline signals.
And in recent months, NFL legends like Mike Ditka have been calling attention to how small the pensions are for former players, many of whom played long before million-dollar contracts and now endure chronic ailments stemming from their playing days. NFL retirees get just $12,165 annually, compared to the $36,700 doled out to former pro baseball players.
Combine this growing list of embarrassments with skyrocketing ticket prices and it's clear the amount of nonsense sports fans are subjected to isn't letting up. Thankfully, we have alternatives in the Madison area.
Mallards general manager Vern Stenman says plans for a new baseball stadium at Warner Park will be revealed at a north-side listening session on Jan. 15. The Mallards' roster and schedule for 2008 are already set.
UW-Whitewater just won the 2007 NCAA Division III national football championship, with running back Justin Beaver of Palmyra claiming the Gagliardi Trophy as the division's top player. The Warhawks play in a picturesque stadium about an hour from here. (All Warhawks games start at 1 p.m. and tickets are under $10.)
And the coming of the new year means the high school basketball season begins in earnest. Nowhere can a Madison sports fan see more athleticism, determination and intensity packed into a cozy venue than at a Big Eight Conference boys basketball game. Beloit Memorial's stunning upset of Madison Memorial last week hints at a competitive season for one of the top three prep hoops conferences in the state.
And, before you know it, March Madness will be upon us.