Sportsman of the Year
Along with the turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and the pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving Day at my house always features a spirited discussion with esteemed perennial dinner guest Bill the Couch, with the main topic being who is deserving of Sports Illustrated's coveted Sportsman of the Year award.
As fate would have it, we were joined that day by my blogging compadre Obnoxious John, as well as life-long friend Yogi, neither of whom is shy about stating their opinions, regardless of the lack of any ration or reasoning behind them.
It was quickly agreed that Tiger Woods was not likely to be a repeat recipient of the prize.
There were no real standouts from the Vancouver Olympics (although try telling that to our friendly neighbors to the north who will forever revere hockey player Sidney Crosby for his Gold Medal-winning overtime goal. I suspect he's paid for his last beer whenever he's in his homeland).
Perhaps if Roy Halladay could have pitched every day in the post-season, his Phillies could have won the World Series, and his name would be topping this list. As it was, his regular season perfect game and playoff no-hitter were stellar achievements.
Other worthy candidates emerged.
Bill the Couch offered up Duke's Coach K. on the strength of yet another National Championship that was won this year by his Blue Devils. Hard to argue against him, especially given the Lifetime Achievement Award nature of the Sportsman award.
OB Juan rightly threw the hat of Drew Brees into the ring. Not only did he lead his New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl victory, but the way he embraced the Crescent City following the ravages of Katrina seems to have raised hopes and spirits throughout that embattled region.
UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemma has led his Lady Huskies to seven National Championships, as well as the last two in a row (on the way to amassing 82 consecutive wins). You'd get little argument from me if S.I. opted to shine a bright light on the success of a great women's team.
Having said all that, I would like to see S.I. honor the man whose passing this year reminded us all of the values he lived his life by --- values that once were the norm but have today, sadly, become the exception.
I hope the Sportsman of the Year award goes to UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
I never met the man, but I did watch his teams play on numerous occasions. They executed during games that which they had practiced to such perfection that it was exquisite to watch them take their sport and turn it into art.
More importantly, his example and teachings didn't just reach his players --- many of whom remembered and lived them as they, in turn, became husbands and fathers.
John Wooden's example reached us fans as well.
Just as his teams seemingly achieved perfection on the court, he seemed to have reached his own sort of perfection in his life.
And in the process he reminded us that we all can, in our own way, strive to be more perfect in our own lives.
And in a (sports) world run amok with diva wide receivers and showboats, multimillion dollar athletes with ten-cent brains, and with selfishness, not team play, becoming ever more the norm, a trip through the scrapbook of this great man's life as we marked his passing this year served to remind us all of just what it means, exactly, to truly be a Sportsman.
There's no question about it.