Since this is my final "News Item" column of 2009, I'm going to change the format just a bit and take a look back at the top news items of the past year. Hope you don't mind.
News item: The Ravens, featuring a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach, went all the way to the AFC championship game last January before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
My take: They've got a chance to make another big wild-card playoff run, but - as luck and the schedule makers would have it - the Steelers stand as their biggest remaining obstacle at Heinz Field on Sunday.
News item: The golf world is still trying to figure out how to move forward after a series of tawdry revelations about Tiger Woods' personal life forced the sport's all-time meal ticket into temporary retirement.
My take: Here's the sad fact of this ugly matter. When Woods comes back - and he will before the next golf season is out - the PGA Tour will be printing money faster than the Federal Reserve.
Tiger might never be viewed the same way he was before we found out he had more girlfriends than Hugh Hefner, but public interest in his every move will be greater than ever.
News item: New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Los Angeles Dodgers star Manny Ramirez became the highest-profile major league players to be outed in the game's long-running steroid scandal.
My take: We probably should thank them, since their involvement brought the scandal to a point where little about Major League Baseball and performance-enhancing drugs could surprise us in the future.
Related news item: The members of the Associated Press just voted baseball's steroid scandal the sports Story of the Year. Surprisingly, the Woods scandal ranked a distant fifth.
My take: It's not all that surprising, considering that the AP began accepting ballots before the Woods story began to unfold Thanksgiving night. Guess the world's leading wire service just figured that nothing ever happens in December.
News item: The Orioles won only 63 games in 2009 and the Maryland football team suffered through its losingest season ever, but O's manager Dave Trembley and Terps coach Ralph Friedgen will be back for their respective 2010 seasons.
My take: I know a lot of people think I'm nuts, but I agreed with both decisions, though there's plenty of room to doubt that either will still be around a year from now.
Bonus take: I've just been informed that most people thought I was nuts long before either of these coaching decisions, so I guess I'm just being consistent.
News item: Superstar quarterback Brett Favre spent another offseason waffling about retirement before finally jumping on a private jet and reporting to training camp with the Minnesota Vikings.
My take: It seemed ridiculous at the time, but he has led the Vikings to the second-best record in the NFC and a likely bye during the first week of the playoffs.
Bonus take: Of course, it could get ridiculous all over again if the play-calling power struggle that erupted this week between Favre and coach Brad Childress damages the team's postseason run.
News item: Michael Phelps and his handlers had to perform serious damage control after a photograph was published in a British tabloid showing him smoking marijuana.
My take: It was an embarrassing little episode for Baltimore's Olympic golden boy, but it probably humanized him for a certain demographic segment of the sports public, and it certainly helped him refocus on his swimming career.
News item: Disgraced NFL star Michael Vick returned from prison, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and was recently chosen unanimously by his teammates to win the Ed Block Courage Award.
My take: I think Vick has a little more to prove before anybody canonizes him, but he appears to be doing all the right things to rebuild his life and restore his public image.
News item: The Loyola Greyhounds traveled to Indiana University this week and scored a 72-67 upset victory over one of college basketball's most storied and prestigious programs.
My take: Maybe this wouldn't be one of the biggest sports stories of the year anywhere else, but congratulations to Jimmy Patsos and his players for this little Christmas gift to the basketball fans of Baltimore.
News item: The New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series to win their first title since 2000.
My take: Obviously, it was about time. I was starting to lose faith in our capitalistic system.
Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.