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Southland Names of Year: Tiger, Venus, Philip and Ed

The Los Angeles Sports Council this week revealed its annual list of the year’s top 10 sports moments either occurring in the Southland or involving athletes from here.

The Clippers didn’t make it.

If it makes them feel better, neither did the Lakers.

For that matter, nothing the Dodgers, Angels or Kings did on their respective playing surfaces was included, either.

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What kind of sports town was this in 1997?

Judge for yourself, based on this chronological list:

1. Peter O’Malley announces the Dodgers are for sale.

2. Tiger Woods of Cypress wins the Masters by 12 strokes.

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3. The Mighty Ducks earn their first playoff berth.

4. The inaugural WNBA game between the Sparks and New York Liberty draws 14,000 to the Forum.

5. More than 83,000 attend NASCAR’s California 500 as oval-track auto racing returns to Southern California with the opening of California Speedway.

6. Marion Jones of Thousand Oaks wins the 100 meters at track and field’s World Championships in Athens.

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7. The IOC elects Anita DeFrantz, president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation, as its first woman vice president.

8. Venus Williams of Compton advances to tennis’ U.S. Open final.

9. The L.A. City Council approves a $300-million downtown arena.

10. UCLA’s football team wins nine consecutive games to finish fifth in the Associated Press poll, the Bruins’ highest ranking at the end of the regular season since 1982.

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The Sports Council’s publicist, Mark Meyers, sent along a list of other events given strong consideration, including:

* Ohio State beats Arizona State, 21-17, in the Rose Bowl.

* UCLA’s basketball team reaches the elite eight under new Coach Steve Lavin.

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* South Mission Viejo wins the U.S. Little League title.

* USC’s football team beats Notre Dame, 20-17, for the Trojans’ first victory in South Bend since 1981.

* Hollywood Park hosts the Breeders’ Cup.

Jim Edmonds making a catch in Kansas City to evoke memories of Willie Mays and Mike Piazza becoming the first player to hit a ball to left out of Dodger Stadium would have been high on my list.

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So would national championships by UCLA in women’s gymnastics and men’s soccer, Pepperdine in water polo and men’s golf and USC in women’s swimming. Long Beach State might add to that this weekend in women’s volleyball.

Sportswoman of the year? Especially if the 49ers win the volleyball title, I’d give it to their star player, Misty May. It’s not an easy choice considering the accomplishments of Jones, DeFrantz, Williams and USC swimmer Kristine Quance.

Sportsman of the year? Make that sportsmen, Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski. Woods, Piazza, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne and Cade McNown had great years, but no one displayed the tenacity the King owners did in delivering the new arena.

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In the interest of balance, it’s necessary to offer my list of the year’s downers.

In descending order:

1. Except when firing a coach, going two and out in the playoffs or searching for Jorge Campos, the Galaxy virtually disappears from public consciousness.

2. UCLA suspends Kris Johnson and Jelani McCoy for unspecified violations, turning Carolina blue in a 41-point loss to the Tar Heels.

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3. The Clippers develop a popular player with a name befitting a folk hero, Bo Outlaw, then fail to re-sign him.

4. The Ducks fire Ron Wilson, declaring it’s not about winning and losing. Huh?

5. The Ducks prove they mean it by allowing Kariya to remain unsigned for the first 32 games.

6. The only good news about the confrontation between Del Harris and Nick Van Exel in the final playoff loss to Utah is that the player didn’t choke the coach.

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7. It was the Dodgers who choked.

8. Tony Phillips is arrested for cocaine possession, leaving him without a job and the Angels without a leadoff hitter.

9. Although it’s clear a loyal and popular coach, John Robinson, has to go, USC leaves him twisting in the wind while seeking a successor.

10. The Times begins running columnists’ pictures. Fortunately, readers assure me they buy it for the articles.

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While wondering if a Southern California pro team will win a championship for the first time in the ‘90s next year, I was thinking: Not unless it’s the Lakers, I have seen the future and it’s Kobe Bryant, I have seen the future and it still doesn’t include a pro football team.


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