My Sportsman Choice: The Boston Red Sox
Posted: Thursday November 11, 2004 12:35PM; Updated: Thursday November 11, 2004 6:09PM
By Jeffri Chadiha
First, let's broaden the scope of this award. Instead of Sportsman of the Year, we'll talk about Sportsmen of the Year, because that's the only way we're going to honor the most deserving candidates: the Boston Red Sox. This scruffy, hard-hitting bunch with the bad haircuts and the idiotic identities gave us the best story of 2004. They ended 86 years of frustration for their fans. They beat two 100-win teams in the playoffs. They overcame a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series. When you do that, you deserve more than a wild parade and a couple of invitations to Disney World.
The Red Sox didn't just beat The Curse. They did it in a way that reinforced the most admirable qualities in sports. How many of their players rebounded after being questioned or counted out? I can start with Derek Lowe, the embattled right-hander who had been flogged in the local media until his masterful pitching clinched all three postseason series. There was Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn, each frustrated and flailing away through countless at-bats and then resurrecting themselves with timely home runs at critical moments. And I don't even need to get into Curt Schilling.
But it wasn't merely those players who defined Boston's resilience. Everybody did their part, from Jason Varitek grappling with Alex Rodriguez to Dave Roberts swiping key bases to David Ortiz producing every big hit imaginable. This is why it's so difficult to pick one Red Sox player for this award. Some people like Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Others lobby for Schilling and general manager Theo Epstein. I say those observers are wrong. You have to take all the Red Sox if you're going to consider any of them.
This wouldn't be the first time a team was named Sportsmen of the Year. The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team won the honor largely for the same reason Boston is now so deserving. Both teams overcame sizable odds against difficult opponents. Their rosters were filled with likable, rag-tag, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win types who generated a magical chemistry. And they each accomplished something that will long be remembered.
There are countless images that people can take from Boston's season but I'll offer one that is easy to miss. It's that of Schilling skipping around Yankee Stadium after the Red Sox won the ALCS. He had slipped on an oversized, cherry red T-shirt, one that read "Why not us?" That phrase represented a fitting attitude for a team wrestling with history. It's also one that should apply now, as we choose the Sportsmen of the Year.