As the end of another exciting year in sports draws near, here's a look at what interested users most in 2007.
Who's Now was far and away the top search of 2007 (receiving more than six times as many searches as the second-place top search). As noted in ESPN Ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber's column, there were nearly 5 million votes cast throughout the tournament and more than 370,000 were cast for the final vote between Tiger Woods and LeBron James (Eldrick won with 65% of the votes if you were wondering ... and I know you were).
The Nos. 2 and 4 top searches reveal how much site users love our online multimedia offerings. Fantasy Focus, daily advice segments from our fantasy guru Matthew Berry and his crew, appears on the site as both video clips and audio podcasts. And searches for the weekly Pontiac Game Changing Performance video clips gave users the ability to view the top college football highlights of the week and vote for their favorite.
At No. 3 were searches for the Power Rankings, which were always high since users wanted to know how their favorite team stacked up against the rest of the league each week of the season. Although this search brings up links to the power rankings for each sport, in 2007 the NFL Power Rankings were the highest searched of all the sports (though many Patriots fans claim they never felt the need to look at them).
Poker searches for 2007 came in at No. 8, which seems appropriate since 2007 World Series of Poker winner Jerry Yang took home a cool $8 million. Poker's rising popularity was reflected in its increase in searches -- poker searches cracked the top 10 in 2007 but were outranked by searches for college baseball and The Contender in 2006.
Even though Ohio State will be playing in its second consecutive BCS Championship game, Rudy's favorite school, Notre Dame, received the most searches out of the two landing it at lucky No. 7 on the top searches. And speaking of luck, the luck of the Fighting Irish is the only explanation we can come up with for Notre Dame's increase in searches (last year it was the second-most searched college behind Ohio State) while losing seven more games than it did in 2006.
Judging by the majority of top searches on ESPN.com, one would have to conclude that football is king amongst all sports. There were five football-related searches in the top 10: the aforementioned Pontiac Game Changing Performance at No. 4, Fantasy NFL at No. 5, TMQ (the Tuesday Morning Quarterback) at No. 6, NFL Expert Picks at No. 9 and GamePlan at No. 10 (not to mention the high amount of NFL power rankings searches and the effect fantasy football had on Fantasy Focus searches).
A testament to ESPN's expansion of its fantasy football coverage and the revamping of its fantasy football product, Fantasy NFL received the fifth-most searches in 2007 after not cracking the top 10 at all in 2006. And even though the sixth-highest search is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, he never bores users with tales of the obvious. Users always search for TMQ's column because he engages them with his unorthodox theories on football, politics and entertainment ... oh yeah, and his "Cheerleader of the Week" photo/profile feature. Much like the power rankings, the ninth-ranked NFL Expert Picks were consistently searched each week during the football season because users wanted to know if their weekly picks matched the great football minds of our experts: Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Merril Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortensen, Sean Salisbury, Mark Schlereth and Seth Wickersham (collectively, the "braintrust of Bristol University"). And last, but certainly not least, in a year that featured a college football season with more parity than an episode of FrankTV, searches for ESPN's GamePlan -- a package that offers all televised college football games, therefore rendering fans completely immobile on Saturdays in the fall -- were extremely high, just pushing it into the top 10.
The top 10 searches weren't the only searches of note, however. The fact that some of the following notable searches didn't make the ranks was probably more a result of how easily they were found rather than any lack of popularity. So check out 2007's "Sweet 16" most notable searches:
11. Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) - The only reason the Sports Guy isn't in the top searches is, well, he's pretty easy to find -- he has a spot on the front page directly under the headlines. Still, users love to search for him because it brings up his archive of hilarious columns on sports (both real and fantasy), pop culture, marriage and (formerly) how sad the sports scene is in Boston.
20. Cricket - ESPN is all about expansion and international growth, so it comes as no surprise that the "worldwide leader" acquired CricInfo to better serve its cricket fans. The acquisition has paid off nicely as 2007 saw searches for the sport crack the top 20 on ESPN.com.
22. Bowl Projections - As previously mentioned, the 2007 college football season was anything but predictable as top-ranked teams consistently took more Ls than New York and Chicago train commuters. College football experts Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach had their hands full each week as they tried to make sense of which teams should make the bowls while also trying to appease users who looked to them for the answers.
25. Jake Brown - We've all heard Bobby Fuller Four's song "I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)." Well, during the first day of the X Games 13 Big Air event, skateboarder Jake Brown fought the laws of gravity -- and somehow he won. He survived a fall of 40-plus feet and still managed to grab the silver. Not surprisingly, user searches for our video clip of this incredible moment were off the charts.
26. High School Football - ESPN has expanded its coverage of high school football and users have really taken to it as evidenced by the high number of searches. Whether it's Chris Lawlor's weekly Elite 25 rankings or the popularity of the high school mini-series Varsity Inc., there's no doubt that the Friday night lights of high school football are shining brighter.
30. Barry Bonds - There were plenty of reasons to search for the surly slugger in 2007 as he became the all-time leader in home runs, was indicted on charges of perjury, ended up listed on the Mitchell Report and even had a Kanye West song named after him.
36. Michael Vick - The now-infamous QB always did well in searches, but his despicable involvement in dogfighting had many disappointed fans and animal-lovers searching for the latest on his legal troubles throughout 2007.
49. Adrian Peterson - The rookie RB phenom electrified the NFL and had users searching for him in droves after breaking the single-game rushing record and putting together one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history despite missing several games due to injury.
107. Tour de France - Even with cycling's tough anti-doping stance and admiral efforts to clean up the sport, the 2007 Tour de France had more scandals than a season of Desperate Housewives. Searches for cycling's biggest event were undoubtedly high due to a combination of both its popularity and notoriety.
126. Appalachian State - The first three-peat champions in Div. I-AA college football started off the season with a bang after defeating then-No. 5 ranked Michigan. Searches for the upstart team have been through the roof ever since.
141. Virginia Tech - Searches were in abundance after news broke of the tragic school shooting, but the support never waned as the Hokies persevered throughout the college football season to make the Orange Bowl.
146. Sean Taylor - The tragic killing of the young safety resonated strongly with users who were shocked and saddened by his death. Searches for Taylor remained strong as users followed the investigation and conversed on how his death could be an eye-opener for how athletes are targeted by criminals.
154. Chris Benoit - A high volume of users sought to make sense of the deaths of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family, said by authorities to be a murder-suicide in which Benoit strangled his wife and suffocated his 7-year-old son before hanging himself.
518. Floyd Mayweather - Whether he was dancing with the stars, running off at the mouth on his prefight HBO shows or besting game contenders Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, Mayweather was "money" when it came to searches in 2007.
561. Marion Jones - Her defiance against all previous accusations only served as fuel for the fire as droves of users searched for the latest news on punishments to Jones following her shocking admission to using steroids during the 2004 Olympics.
615. Joba Chamberlain - After garnering the most searches of any MLB rookie, it's no surprise at all that the Yankee flamethrower was named ESPN's NEXT athlete for 2007.
Surprising Search of 2007
676. Kimbo Slice - As intimidating as Rocky III's Clubber Lang (minus the big mouth), streetfighting juggernaut and YouTube legend Kimbo Slice only seems to get more popular with time. Searches for Kimbo on ESPN.com first peaked in June of 2007 after he soundly defeated former WBO heavyweight champion Ray Mercer, who obviously decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts against the wrong guy. There was recently another surge in searches for him after he defeated MMA fighter Bo Cantrell and was featured on E:60.
Maalek Marshall is ESPN.com's Search Editor.
Note: The results listed are the summation of actual search results which were manually typed in by site users of ESPN.com in 2007. All pre-linked searches (including dropdown suggestions and columnist archive links) were excluded from this summation.