For the fifth time, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Sportsman of the Year is someone who has proved very good at going fast. Racing Driver Jackie Stewart went very fast indeed, roughly 12 times faster than Roger Bannister did when he was chosen as SI's first Sportsman for running the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. But then Stewart is the only one of our winners to employ anything but his own natural-born wheels.
Stewart, a Scotsman, is the fourth foreigner to be named Sportsman: Sweden's Ingemar Johansson, Canada's Bobby Orr and England's Bannister are the others. Dr. Bannister, now a London neurologist, no longer runs competitively but athletics still lay a large claim on his time and interest: he has been chairman of the British Sports Council since 1971. Most of our first 19 Sportsmen (plus our one Sportswoman) are still doing their thing in one way or another. Only five, in fact, are not. Sprinter Bobby Morrow farms in southern Texas; Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, who worked hard for Bobby Kennedy, is a vice-president of Continental Telephone in California; Heavyweight champ Johansson struggles with various enterprises in Sweden and elsewhere; Oregon State Quarterback Terry Baker is an attorney in Portland, Ore.; and Sandy Koufax, his pitching career ended by arthritis, is keeping to himself in Maine. You could argue about three other cases. Brooklyn Dodger Pitcher Johnny Podres now coaches Padres pitchers in San Diego, or is it Washington? Stan Musial is still with the St. Louis Cardinals, but as a non-playing vice-president. And Boston Celtic Player-Coach Bill Russell is now strictly a coach, of the Seattle SuperSonics.
The pros on our roster heavily outnumber the amateurs: 13 to six among the men and one ( Billie Jean King) to zero on the female side. Only two Sportsmen have not been athletes—Pete Rozelle, who commissions the NFL, and UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden. Baseball has had five Sportsmen. Track and field follows with four, golf and basketball have three each, football two and boxing, hockey and tennis one apiece. As readers remind us from time to time, the distribution seems to slight football. But the holidays split the football season into two distinct parts and create an awkward situation. At year's end the regular season is over but the decisive bowl and playoff games are still ahead. And too often by the next December, January's football deeds have somehow been diminished. Nonetheless, pro football's O. J. Simpson this year provided an eminent runner-up whose performance cannot be tarnished.
So ends our 1973. After a pause of one week we will return with an issue (dated Jan. 7) highlighting a feast of football championships: the NFC, the AFC and that sweet Sugar Bowl brawl over who's No. 1.