Iíve always been a big fan of Sports Illustratedís annual Sportsman of the Year award, in that, unlike the Baseball Writers Association of America, thank you very much; it doesnít merely use numbers as criteria for selection, something that canít as easily be said about the recent American League MVP outcome.
Still, there is no denying that the process, as Frank DeFord put it, ďhas gotten into a rut.Ē That of course in no way forgives him for nominating a horse as this yearís honoree, but heís right. Last year it was the Red Sox, who you might remember were honored with a big Lansdowne fete to celebrate, bash No. 87 of the offseason World Series title circuit, I believe. In 2003 it was Tim Duncan and David Robinson, 2002: Lance Armstrong, 2001: Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, 2000: Tiger Woods.
All worthy selections, no doubt. All pretty vanilla choices too.
In 2005, there is no clear-cut favorite for this yearís Sportsman among a field of fine candidates. But who stands out? Sure, Lance Armstrong, but thatís like voting for Cabot over Tofutti. Yeah, no kidding. Ozzie Guillen certainly comes to mind, even though heís not among those listed in the Sports Illustrated writersí choices, a cornucopia of names that make you almost wonder how badly some of these guys could have missed the dartboard.
Franz Lidz: Jason Giambi. Well, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did share the honor in 1998.
Deford: Afleet Alex: No horse should even be considered unless it (see, it) wins the Triple Crown. And even then, the sporting world better have been the equivalent of Friday night network TV.
Tom Verducci: Paul Konerko. Sorry. No way over Guillen.
Ben Reiter: Terrell Owens. No. Next question.
E.M. Swift: Gary Bettman. What? I meanÖ.what?
First off, how Reiter can mention the cancerous Owens name and not Tom Brady is astounding to be sure, even more so when you consider Bradyís never won the honor, bested by the two-headed monster of Schilling and Johnson during his Cinderella season. And in fact, this year, with no clear-cut favorite, aside from Guillen, I might go with Brady, following back-to-back Super Bowl wins, the best quarterback in the NFL, bound for Canton at the age ofÖyada, yada, youíve heard it all before.
Again, worthy, yes. A bold choice? Nope.
The remaining choices these same writers have compiled are intriguing, but it should come down to a handful of choices if the magazine wants to make a splash. David Ortiz would have been better suited to win last year when his entire team received the honor. Michelle Wie, great story, but letís win something first, no? Soccer star Abbas Suan could be the finest choice of them all, but he has about as strong a shot as his sport does of becoming a national Sunday afternoon pastime. Frank Robinson was a part of one of baseballís best stories this past summer, but it wasnít nearly that good of a story to have him under consideration for Sportsman of the Year. By any stretch. And no horsies, OK?
If Iím going for the status quo then, I suppose I go with Brady or Guillen.
If Iím looking to make waves in a different direction, I go with Bode Miller.
Yes, Miller is an athlete that excels in a field in which the general public doesnít witness his feats slinked back on the couch pounding Budweisers and waiting for the extra steak on top of steak heart attack special from Dominoís to arrive. But SI hasnít had an under the radar winner in almost a decade. Dean Smith won in 1997 for retiring, basically. Before that, speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Johann Olav Koss won in 1994.
Miller was the first American to win the World Cup in more than two decades. Some said an American would never win it again, thanks to the training and domination of the Europeans over the years. Well, not only did an American win it, it was a kid from New Hampshire, not someone from Vail, Steamboat, or Squaw.
Someone like Roger Federer is fine (an amazing 73-3 in his career), but my vote would go to Miller. OK, sure there is a bit of an alpinist/New England bias working there, but Millerís vastly underappreciated World Cup win was an American sporting feat that was more important than any Olympic medal won by the US Ski Team. The only difference being, NBC allows you to see those Olympic races. Or at least bits and pieces of some of them. And with the Torino Games upcoming, what better way for the magazine to remind readers of its coverage than by tabbing Miller its Sportsman of the Year? See, marketing.
So, Brady, Guillen, or Miller. Two Top 40 names, one indie label. All three wild cards for the honor.
Just please, no wild horses.