With four months left in the sporting year, it’s premature to be voicing any preferences.
Nonetheless, I’d like to state my case for Diana Nyad as Sports Illustrated’s Sports Person of the Year.
By now, we all know that Nyad finished her 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, becoming the first swimmer, male or female, ever to accomplish that feat without a shark cage.
For more than 50 hours, she endured the waves, the weather, the sharks and the jellyfish, not to mention nausea and dehydration.
It was her fifth attempt. She was 28 years old the first time she tried. She finally succeeded at age 64.
But for all her physical and emotional tenacity, Nyad graciously gave credit to the team of helpers and handlers who kept her going, who fed her pasta, who kept her on course and who believed in her dream.
And who might this distance swimmer’s competition be for Sports Person of the Year?
Well, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. The palaver over whether Flacco deserved to be talked about as an “elite” quarterback along with Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and the Manning brothers filled thousands of hours of air time during the pre-game hype-a-thon.
So Flacco is a legitimate contender, provided someone doesn’t emerge from the ether to have a Kurt Warner-like Cinderella season this year.
We certainly can eliminate sports executives. The NFL’s Roger Goodell settled multimillion dollar litigation filed by former players without admitting the league withheld medical information about brain injuries from them.
In so doing, the marketing-conscious Goodell can avoid answering tough questions about the subject during the new season, especially since the league pressured ESPN into backing out of its partnership with PBS on a documentary about concussions in pro football, according to The New York Times.
No one in a position of authority with Penn State football is likely to win “Father of the Year” honors for the way they mishandled the Gerry Sandusky sex abuse debacle. Only last month was the first agreement reached to compensate one of his victims.
However, head football coach Bill O’Brien gets kudos for stepping into an impossible situation while parenting a 10-year-old son who has a severe neurological disorder.
Forget Gary Bettman. The NHL commissioner couldn’t stop a strike that shortened the hockey season.
Forget Bud Selig. The MLB commissioner was a day late and several million dollars short in dealing with the steroids scandal.
Speaking of steroids, just forget Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong, period.
Meanwhile, the question remains, “Does Sports Illustrated have the guts to eschew the usual good-old-boy, sports bar mentality and make a relatively little-known sunburned senior citizen lesbian swimmer its Sports Person of the Year?”
If the values of dedication, hard work, humility, athletic excellence, perseverance and worldwide success without cheating still mean anything in sports, the choice should be obvious.