When New York/New Jersey MetroStars goalie Tim Howard showed up at media day last April to kick off the 2001 MLS season, he'd already made his decision. Howard, who'd turned 22 a month earlier and had just earned the starter's job with the team, felt the time had come to reveal what he had known for II years—that he suffers from Tourette's syndrome. "I knew there would be more attention on me once I became a starter," says Howard. "I wanted to get it out in the open."
Nearly 100,000 Americans suffer from Tourette's, an incurable neurological disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and vocal sounds. Other pro athletes have lived with the condition, including former NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and former major league outfielder Jim Eisenreich. Howard has a relatively moderate case, though he says suppressing his tics is physically and mentally draining. Yet Howard knows Tourette's is far tougher for kids, who must battle the ignorant barbs of their peers. At a MetroStars game last summer he hosted 200 children with Tourette's and held a two-hour discussion afterward. In November, Howard was named to the board of the Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey, where he focuses on helping kids with the disorder.
Last year Howard was not only named MLS's Goalkeeper of the Year after leading the league in saves (146) and save percentage (.768) but also won its Humanitarian of the Year award. To Howard the honors go hand in hand. "One let me know I was a good player, the other that I was a good person," says Howard. "It shouldn't be one without the other, but often in sports we find it is."