Column: The envelope please…

Published 4:11 am Wednesday, December 27, 2006

By Staff
It is hard for me to believe that I am sitting down to create the 20th annual "Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust Awards," which have come to be known as the TYAACODs (pronounced Ty Cod).
I never imagined that after 19 years of looking at some of the best and worst that sports have offered over the previous 12 months, that I would still be doing this.
Hopefully this sometimes-humorous look at the world of sports can put a little smile on your face.
So without further adieu, the envelopes please…
I cannot argue with Sports Illustrated's selection of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade as its top performer of 2006. After all, Wade is probably a better person away from the basketball court than he is a player on it. The Associated Press released its top male performer of the year on Tuesday and I do have a problem with it.
Give me a break, Tiger Woods. Boy there is a stretch. Worked hard to come up with that one. How about LaDainian Tomlinson, who is re-writing the record book in the National Football League. Like Wade, Tomlinson is a better person away from the game than he is on the football field. To take nothing away from Tiger, he had another great year and he played well despite the loss of his father. But, he did not have anywhere near as great a year as Tomlinson.
The Pittsburgh Steelers come from a wild card spot to win the Super Bowl played at Ford Field in Detroit. Never before has a wild card team captured the championship. It was quite a run for the Steelers, who gave the beleaguered city of Pittsburgh something to smile about.
The Pittsburgh Steelers win this award too. The Steelers went from the penthouse to the outhouse in a heartbeat. Pittsburgh's troubles began when quarterback Ben Roethlissberger was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident in the off-season. They continued right on through the season. The Steelers continued the long-standing tradition of having a Super Bowl "hangover."
LeBron James wins this award again. His commercials for Nike and for Sprite are as entertaining as there are on television. The playing field has leveled out since the days of Michael Jordan, but LeBron seemed to be the king of sponsorships again this year.
Here are a few of the teams that won championships in 2006: St. Louis Cardinals, baseball; Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL; Miami Heat, NBA; Detroit Shock, WNBA; Carolina Hurricanes, NHL; Houston Dynamo, MLS; Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Texas Longhorns, college football; Florida, college basketball; and Oregon State, college baseball
The Michigan Wolverines came within a few votes of getting a rematch with the Ohio State Buckeyes and a shot at the national title. Unfortunately, the voters decided that they didn't want to see a rematch and voted Florida ahead of the Wolverines, who will play Ohio State for the championship.
T-E-R-R-E-L-L O-W-E-N-S. I thought about renaming this the "Just Shut Up Award," but that name is already in use on ESPN Radio as part of the Mike and Mike in the Morning. Owens is a joke. He has an excuse for everything. If he isn't the center of attention, then he will make sure that he becomes it by the end of the day. The Dallas Cowboys are the most recent team to have to put up with his antics. He has tremendous talent, but right now he is nothing more than an average receiver. Perhaps he should shut up and concentrate on catching a few more passes.
And then there was the "accidental" overdose. You remember, "Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive," his publicist Kim Etheredge told us.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon returned to the top of the NASCAR world in 2006. Both missed NASCAR's Chase for the Championship playoff format in 2005, but earned a spot this past year. Gordon was never really a factor in the Chase, but Earnhardt Jr. was in the hunt right up until the final race.
Here are some of those who died during 2006: Red Auerbach, the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics; Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs; Byron Nelson, who won 11-straight golf tournaments before retiring at the age of 34; Ray Meyer, the former DePaul basketball coach who was the All-Sports Banquet speaker in Dowagiac in 1994; Curt Gowdy, one of the all-time great sportscasters; Bo Schembechler, the former University of Michigan football coach; Bob Mathias, who won the decathlon in the 1952 Olympics; Buck O'Neal, former Negro League great and major league scout who signed Ernie Banks; Joe Niekro, former major league pitcher, who along with his brother Phil, defined knuckleball pitching; Floyd Patterson, former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion; and Kirby Puckett, former Minnesota Twins outfielder.
The Bowl Championship Series. Oh wait, that's just wishful thinking on my part. Once again the BCS got it all wrong. Something has to be done to correct this system. We still are not deciding the national title on the gridiron. It's being done in the polls, something the BCS was supposed to stop.
The Detroit Tigers shocked the world by winning the American League Championship and playing St. Louis for the World Series crown. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the magic ran out in October and the Cardinals captured the title. Detroit is a young team and I expect them to contend once again in 2007.
This award goes to college football. There was a trio of teams that surprised everyone in 2006. Rutgers, Louisville and Wake Forest turned in seasons to remember, and proved to us all once again why college athletics is fun to watch.
Scott Novak is sports editor of the Dowagiac Daily News. Email him at