Whether it was professional sports or national politics, 2012 seemed to be a big year for high-profile individuals and major market teams to flame out.

Sports fans, especially here in the East, are known to be tough on their high maintenance teams filled with top salaried players. It's especially true in Philadelphia where high-salary players abound on the the baseball Phillies and football Eagles' rosters. But in 2012, both failed to meet fan expectations and had disappointing seasons.

The same was true in New York where the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, the mismanaged Jets and the baseball Yankees, all crashed and burned in 2012. Hardest to figure out were the payroll-heavy Yankees who totally collapsed in the post-season playoffs after winning 95 games, most in the American League during the regular season.

No one understands the business of professional sports better than Andy Reid, the now former Eagles' coach who compiled the best win total (120), winning percentage (.609) and playoff victory total (10) in team history, capturing six division titles and five trips to the NFC Championship game. Yet on Monday, the team let him go after a disastrous 4-12 season.

In pro sports, a bad season can mean your job but in politics and government, performance standards are apparently measured differently.

Last week President Obama signed an executive order allowing pay raises for congressmen, federal workers and the vice president. Other than perhaps Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, were there really that many over achievers in Washington who merited raises in Washington? The public, which gives the congress an 18-percent approval rating, might be a better judge of talent than the president.

What's worse, Obama signed his order with the nation hanging over a fiscal cliff, and over $500 billion in planned tax increases and spending cuts were looming. So what is the justification of giving VP Joe Biden a $6,379 per year raise (from $225,521 to $231,900) and House and Senate members a $900 increase?

Budget-bleeding, union-negotiated wage and benefit packages have put California in a state of economic chaos yet all state employees reportedly received a 1.2 percent pay raise for this budget year, the first in four years. It doesn't make sense.

But California is in a league of its own when it comes to compensation packages. More than 5,000 state troopers made over $100,000 and 44 patrol officers earning more than $200,000 in 2011. Union-negotiated benefits, coupled with overtime that can exceed regular pay, allow some troopers to double their annual earnings and retire as young as age 50.

Jeff Talbott who retired last year as California Highway Patrol Division chief, may be the best-paid officer of all time, collecting $483,581 in salary, pension and other compensation. Now just 53, he received $280,259 for accrued leave and vacation time while also taking a new job running the public-safety department at a private university in Southern California. He also began collecting an annual pension of $174,888 from the state.

The base pay for a California Highway Patrol officer starts at $67,764 a year, with 5 percent annual increases until reaching $84,036, according to the agency's website. In North Carolina, meanwhile, a trooper's starting salary is about $34,000 a year.

We're all for compensating our fine public officials but there's definitely something wrong with this picture.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com