Next week we will
announce Sports Illustrated's 2006 Sportsman of the Year. It is always a
difficult choice; that is why, for the third consecutive year, SI writers have
contributed a series of essays on who they think deserves the magazine's
highest honor. The always provocative Frank Deford, for example, wrote about
Barbaro's owners and trainer, while Phil Taylor argued for the BALCO
Nearly 50 My
Sportsman essays will appear on SI.com. There are, or will be, tributes to
those who have fallen ( John Garrity on the 94-year-old baseball
"ambassador" Buck O'Neil, and Mark Beech on the 28-year-old Army
women's basketball coach Maggie Dixon), as well as an array of unpredictable
choices ( Tom Verducci on Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ian Thomsen on
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Peter King on Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard).
Other writers stuck with pure sports heroes ( Michael Farber on Suns All-Star
guard Steve Nash).
argument for the head-butting Frenchman, Zinedine Zidane, as 2006's Sportsman
used Time magazine's classic definition for its Man of the Year--the figure
who, "for better or for worse, most affected events during the
year"--and Wahl's choice has generated the most feedback from readers thus
far. (They tend to dislike the idea.) He was, in fact, nominating "a
cultural phenomenon for the YouTube age, a strange mix of finger-wagging
indignation and Three Stooges farce." Wahl notes that "by the next day,
as media around the globe were enlisting professional lip-readers to divine
what was said, a Zidane head-butt game had already appeared on the
on O'Neil and Michael Silver's on Colts coach Tony Dungy have also drawn
substantial response, with many readers praising those choices as consistent
with the SI definition of its Sportsmen: "The victory may have been theirs,
but it is not for the victory alone that they are honored. Rather, it is for
the quality of their effort and the manner of their striving." The
outpouring for O'Neil, the Negro leagues star and the major leagues' first
African-American coach, has been eye-opening, especially coming a few months
after he was denied admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
was SI's first Sportsman, in 1954, for running the first sub-four-minute mile.
When asked what it took, he replied with original directness, "It's the
ability to take more out of yourself than you've got."
Read all of the
essays at SI.com/sportsman--and let us know who you think deserves to win this