What's not to love about Big Papi a.k.a David Ortiz? Just saying the name elicits a smile. Big Papi. Rolls off the tongue kind of like a character from a Melville novel.
Who is Big Papi? Well, for starters he's not even the most popular figure in his city. That honor belongs to Patriots QB Tom Brady. A case can be made that he's not even the most popular figure on his own team -- how many Caveman Johnny Damon beards did we see this season, or homemade signs bearing the Red Sox newest slogan, Manny being Manny.
So why should Big Papi be named SI's Sportsman of the Year? Because there is no Negative Papi.
What is Big Papi? Well, thanks to D'Angelo there is a "Big Papi Ham & Turkey Club." There's Plane Papi, courtesy of Song christening a 757 in his name. Perish the thought, however, of ever seeing Political Papi, Papi being Papi, or Petulant Papi. There's only David Ortiz, Just Plain Papi.
You need numbers? How about ranking in the top five in the American League in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage? How about 19 of his 47 home runs last season coming from the seventh inning on? How about 21 of his 148 RBIs being of the game-winning variety? Not enough? You tell me what is.
For the last two years Ortiz has united a community while carrying a team on his back, a Dominican player with Boston blood whose time for recognition is long overdue. Make no mistake: While sports teams by and large are a collection of interchangeable parts, Ortiz was and is the one player on the Red Sox roster for whom there can be no replacement.
As much as general manager Theo Epstein can claim credit for assembling the talent, and as much praise can be lavished on manager Terry Francona for piecing it together, it was Ortiz that held the Boston locker room together while Manny went Looney Tunes and Pedro skirted away. And he didn't do it with words or gestures. He did it with a smile, and for that Big Papi deserves to be Sportsman of the Year.
React: Who's your Sportsman of the Year?
Sports Illustrated will announce the 2005 Sportsman of the Year winner on Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Check back every weekday until then to read more Sportsman picks from SI writers.