Sideline Chatter's Exploding Cigar Award for 2004 goes to ... Sideline Chatter.

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Sideline Chatter’s Exploding Cigar Award for 2004 goes to … Sideline Chatter.

“The Sonics unveiled Year 4 of their five-year plan to build a title contender with their worst opening defeat in 27 years, a 114-84 loss to the Clippers,” this column proclaimed on Nov. 5. “Year 5, we assume, includes swapping rosters with the Timberwolves.” Since that ignominious debut, the Sonics have gone 19-4 – which includes a 103-92 victory at Minnesota (15-10).

Which begs the question: Do we eat crow now – or demand the Sonics vote us a full playoff share later?

Some less-painful Chat moments in 2004:

January: Here’s the kicker

Florida State’s umpteenth loss to the rival Hurricanes on a botched field goal won’t soon be forgotten.

In fact, coming soon to video stores: “Bobby Bowden Remembers Miami: Shanks for the Memory.”

February: Sitting offer

Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight’s old home in Bloomington, Ind., a 4,660-square-footer on a 5-acre lot, went up for sale on eBay for $397,500, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Just to spice up the deal, rumor had it that they’d even throw in a folding chair.

March: Doing the dishes

DirecTV filed suit in Miami against O.J. Simpson, claiming the disgraced former football star stole its satellite TV signals, and demanded $20,000 in damages, AP reported. Simpson’s lawyer, taking the gloves off early, immediately stated that the devices were legal.

As for O.J., he reportedly vowed to scour any and all golf courses in search of the real signal pirates.

April: 4th-floor exercise

A British gymnast with the presence to add an impromptu somersault to his routine to ensure a feet-first arrival survived a 33-foot fall from a fourth-floor hotel window in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with just a broken ankle.

Adding insult to Steven Jehu’s injury, the French judge docked him one-tenth of a point for the slight wobble on his landing.

May: Turning it around

The Mariners, en route to a 99-loss season, brought in Vanna White of “Wheel of Fortune” fame to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game.

Already seven games below .500 by then, the Mariners were obviously trying just about anything to turn a few more W’s.

June: Pitchers vs. pitchers

Two pitchers for top-ranked Texas — the team’s No. 2 winner and its runner-up in saves — were reinstated from two-game suspensions for being arrested on charges of public intoxication.

For the record, the Longhorns went 1-1 with the aces loaded.

July: Boulder dash

With allegations swirling that sex and alcohol were used to woo prospects, five Colorado football players announced they were leaving the scandal-tainted Buffaloes to transfer to other schools, the Denver Post reported.

But forget playing football — they just wanted to get recruited again!

August: A real shell job

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “filling up at a shell station” when she downed 38 lobsters — or 9.75 pounds of meat — in just 12 minutes to win the World Lobster Eating Contest in Kennebunk, Maine.

Giddy crustacean experts, citing the fact Thomas weighs just 100 pounds, immediately proclaimed it the most lobster ever eaten by a shrimp.

September: She’s gone clubbin’

U.S. Open officials ordered Serena Williams to change her leggings after she took the court for her opening match dressed in a studded tank top, denim miniskirt and calf extensions that made it look like she was wearing boots.

Rumor has it she was just trying to psych herself up for her second-round opponent — Xena: Warrior Princess.

October: Transmission failure

NASCAR fined driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. $10,000 and docked him 25 championship points after he blurted out a naughty word during a live postrace television interview following a victory at Talladega.

Which begged the question: Does Junior’s NASCAR dental plan cover restrictor plates?

November: Boxing out

The NBA cracked down hard — nine players suspended for 143 games and forfeiting $12 million in pay — after Pacers players went into the stands to duke it out with Pistons fans, ending a game in Detroit 45.9 seconds early.

NBA statisticians weren’t sure whether the fight-shortened game goes into the record books as a 2-0 forfeit, as the 97-82 score when play was halted — or 116-112, 115-113, with the third judge scoring it a 114-all draw.

December: Mother of all injuries

Matt Birk, the Vikings’ Pro Bowl center, was declared out of action for four weeks. As he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press: “It was like there was a midget in there punching me over and over again in the stomach.”

Doctors, however, quickly discounted pregnancy and instead recommended surgery for a sports hernia.

Dwight Perry: 206-464-8250 or