Wouldn't you like to give yourself a Hickey? Of course you would. But you can't. Because only Fred Hickman can hand out a Hickey, the one trophy that honors near greatness—semiexcellence, demieminence—in every area of human endeavor.
Last month 121 men and women who cover the NBA voted for the league MVP. One hundred twenty of them did the obvious and cast their ballots for Shaquille O'Neal. One of them—CNN/SI anchor Hickman—had the courage to dissent and thus prevented the Lakers center from becoming the first unanimous MVP in league history. "You take Shaq away from the Lakers, and you still get a great team," reasoned Hickman, who voted instead for Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson. "You take Iverson away from the 76ers, and they're the Clippers."
Granted, this logic contains more fuzz than Jerry Ball's navel. (Take John Lennon away from the Beatles, and would you still have a great band? No, you'd have Paul McCartney & Wings.) Nevertheless, Hickman has hit on something profound: Americans would have greater self-esteem if we rewarded the achievement of mediocrity more often—and not only (as we do now) during presidential elections, wild-card playoffs and the Grammys. You filled out your census form? Here's a Congressional Medal of Honor.
O'Neal merely made a good team great this season. (The Lakers tied for the sixth-best record in league history.) Iverson made a bad team adequate. (The Sixers had the third-best record in the Atlantic Division.) While we can't give the Answer the MVP that such adequacy might mandate, we can still right this wrong and give him a more meaningful trophy: We can give that man a Hickey.
Live! From the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles! It's the First Annual Hickey Awards! Celebrating the not-quite-great! The sub-first-rate! And starring...the Buffalo Bills! Bill Buckner! Deane Beman! LeRoy Neiman! Greg Norman! Fab Morvan! Fabio! Foge Fazio! Fritz Mondale! Fuzzy Zoeller! Uri Geller! Teller, of Penn & Teller! Hootie! The cast of Rudy! All of them asking the same question tonight: Who will go home with a Hickey?
Will it be....
?John C. Breckinridge? The Southern Democrat ran for President in 1860 against the wealthy Republican, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln didn't just have money, he's on money! The GOP machine could have financed an empty stovepipe hat all the way to the Oval Office. (If you ask me, it did!) Whereas Breckinridge had all the skills to put the South on the map. (Is it his fault that the South wanted off the map?) So we give a Hickey to...Breckinridge, without whom the South would have really, really lost the war.
? Shecky Greene? The Florida thoroughbred—not the Borscht Belt comedian—overcame a ridiculous name and lack of any physical gifts whatsoever to seize sixth place at the 1973 Kentucky Derby. The horse finished just 15� lengths behind that self-promoting glory-suck Secretariat, who should have won by much more given his famously oversized heart (enlarged, no doubt, by years of substance abuse on the A-list party circuit). So we give a Hickey to... Shecky Greene, a much classier horse than the Triple Crown winner, who never missed a chance to show up his opponents. (Was it really necessary to win the Belmont by 31 lengths? Get over yourself, Secretariat!)
?Ayatollah Khomeini? In 1979 he orchestrated the armed takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran, where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, enabling each of the captives, upon release, to receive a lifetime pass to major league baseball games. Yet the Nobel Committee-five Norwegians suffering level-5 frostbite of the brain—awarded that year's Peace Prize to Mother Teresa. Don't get me wrong: The Angel of Calcutta was good people. But we give a Hickey to...Khomeini.