Sport Year in Preview

The Box is nothing if not forward thinking. Who cares about “Sports Year in Review” rehash stories? Not me. Not you. Stories about the past bore forward thinkers. Anybody can write about what happened; the Box proposes to tell you what will happen, thereby saving you hours of unproductive time watching TV…time that could be spent working a second job.

Michael Vick, running a play that hasn’t been used in the criminal justice system for years, pleaded guilty to a dog-fighting conspiracy charge and then checked himself into prison early. A bold, unconventional run off-tackle and might well have carried the day, save for Judge Hudson’s vicious hit, nailing Vick in the pocket with a 23-month sentence, 6 months more than the prosecutors asked for. Still, a game effort, Michael.

What’s up for Vick in 2008? Good works. Under the guidance of federal prosecutors, Vick agreed to set aside $928,000 for the care of pit bulls seized from his dog-fighting operation. What else? Well, he can look forward to an April 2 Commonwealth of Virginia trial on charges of felony dog-fighting and felony animal cruelty. There’s a max of five years on each count. And, around that time, a five-million-dollar creditors lawsuit should be making its first court appearance. If Vick plays it right, he could get two weeks worth of courtroom, which translates into two weeks out of jail cell. That’s something to look forward to. And, since an arbitrator ruled he should repay the Atlanta Falcons $20 million in bonus money, there will be back-and-forth between his lawyers, their lawyers, generating plenty of paperwork for him to look over.

This means study time on the prison bunk bed! The same place where Jawaharlal Nehru wrote The Discovery of India, Martin Luther King wrote Letter From a Birmingham Jail, and Eldridge Cleaver wrote Soul on Ice. Again, something to look forward to and mayhap a new career. At one time Vick was the highest paid player in the NFL, but who’s to say this isn’t the best thing that ever happened to him?

Vick can look to his brother athletes over in Formula 1 racing for solace. The McClaren racing team got dinged $100 million for the unfortunate discovery of a Ferrari technical dossier in the home of McLaren’s chief designer. What’s up for 2008? It is rumored that Formula 1 drivers who fail a drug test for steroids or human growth hormone will be fined $5000 and given a stern warning. In writing.

I should take a moment and hand out our 2007 Sports Journalism Award. If sports journalists won’t honor each other, who will?

For getting to the bottom of baseball’s steroid scandal, the Sportbox Prize goes to The Trentonian, a 73,000-circulation daily serving Trenton, New Jersey. This, for their recent front page splashed with a photo of a smiling Roger Clemens wearing an orange 1970s disco shirt beneath a screaming headline that reads, "HE TOOK IT IN THE BUTT."

Just as an aside, I’ll believe Clemens is innocent when he sues somebody for slander. The way Barry Bonds hasn’t.

All right, listen up and I will tell you how to be invisible in plain sight. Regard, pilgrim, the San Antonio Spurs.

For the 1998–1999 season, the Spurs won the NBA Championship, beating the New York Knicks in five games. On to 1999–2000, the Spurs lost to Phoenix in the first round. On to 2000–2001, San Antonio led the NBA in home attendance, lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. On to 2001–2002, Spurs led in attendance again, lost to the Lakers again, this time in the Conference Semifinals. On to 2002–2003, Spurs won NBA championship, beating New York in six games. On to 2003–2004, Spurs lost to L.A. in the Conference Semifinals. On to 2004–2005, Spurs won the NBA Championship, beating Detroit in seven games. On to 2005–2006, Spurs lost the Conference Semifinals to Dallas in seven games. On to 2006–2007, Spurs won the NBA Championship, shutting out Cleveland in four games.

This makes San Antonio the fourth team in NBA history to win four championships. They’ve won three in the past five years. Their best players, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, and Duncan, are, respectively, 25, 30, and 31 years old. The Spurs are a legitimate dynasty, in league with Chicago, Boston, and the Lakers.

What’s up for 2008? Have you ever been to San Antonio? Have you ever wanted to go to San Antonio? After the Spurs win the championship this year, will that change?

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