Is This a Joke? Brett Favre Is the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year?
Not a joke. This is real.
Before I get into Brett Farve being named Sportsman of the Year, I want to explain the thought process behind abandoning a life long love.
Growing up, Sports Illustrated was my main source of sports information. Once a year–either Christmas or my birthday–I would run to the mailbox and hope it contained a Sports Illustrated renewal.
Like most, my parents have been most instrumental in building my thirst for knowledge. Before my mother passed she made sure my sister Gina and I had enough reading material to keep us busy and out of trouble. The SI subscriptions began around age 11 and before that were subscriptions to Highlights (helped develop early reading skills) and the now defunct Ebony/Jet magazine for Kids (gave me a sense of pride and history of the Black experience).
I read SI religiously.
On my bedroom wall, was a cork board where I tacked SI covers of my heroes–Julius Erving, Franco Harris, Reggie Jackson as well as countless others until they fell to my bedroom floor from being tacked over and over. A cover of Willie “Pops” Stargell was a favorite. Even though I was a Yankee fan, the Pirates stole my heart for a season in ’79 when they were improbable World Series Champions. The roster was filled with cult figures that helped propagate my hunger for baseball: Dave Parker, Bill Madlock, Lee Lacy, Dock Ellis, Mike Bibby’s uncle Jim Bibby, Kent Tekulve, John Milner, John “The Candy Man” Candelaria, Mike Easler, Omar Moreno, Ed Ott and Bert Blyleven.
I loved that team.
Of course the February issues of the Swimsuit edition were must haves for obvious reasons.
Faces in the Crowd–which gave props to talented youth across the nation–was another favorite of the mag because the segment helped build my imagination and let me dream.
I learned of the unapologetic brilliance of Ralph Wiley and the long winded journalistic talent of Gary Smith. The resilience of Joe Montana as a Kansas City Chief struck a cord. I forever respected Joe even though my sister would get on my nerves fawning over his legitimate greatness (love you sis). The Carl Lewis and Marvin Hagler stories gave a me against the world sense of pride because they are two of the most underrated athletes of all time.
Other issues introduced me to Oregon State’s Gary Payton, St. John’s Felipe Lopez, Stanford’s Jamila Wideman–her father–author John Edgar Wideman, golf and tennis (Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Calvin Peete and Jack Nickalus), brought me to tears (Bo Kimble and LMU’s March Madness dash in tribute to Hank Gathers, Jim Valvano, and the widows of Steve Olin and Tim Cruise), made me stick out my chest (the Desmond Howard Heisman pose, the Rocket Man Randall Cunningham and George Brett), forever hurt my soul (Chris Webber timeout, Kordel Stewart’s Hail Mary in the Big House and the fall of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry), alarmed (Monica Seles stabbing) and mystified (Michael Jordan holograph cover).
Thanks SI for the memories.
Then the unfortunate happened: SI entered the realm of sensationalism. The Tyson Guilty! issue began my SI blindness. Most Blacks thought Tyson was set up and I definitely agreed, but I still hung on because of mom. There was the 1997 cover, What Happened to the White Athlete? that I found offensive.
It wasn’t the question that raised my ire. It was the pandering to a white male demography that made me sick. SI must have been losing its fan base to the Sports Center generation and began a full fledged marketing drive to irrelevancy.
There was the issue asking Why the University of Miami should drop football–In the U’s colors that was disgusting. The ‘Canes brought an excitement to the college football landscape–even when they lost to Boston College on Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary. Was the issue the influx of flamboyant talent on the collegiate and subsequent pro level or problems within the program? Where was Jimmy Johnson’s accountability if the latter truly mattered?
Total SI blindness culminated with the issue that angers me to this day. The May 4th 1998 issue Where’s Daddy depicted former Celtic guard Greg Minor’s son Khalid holding a basketball with a face of stress and anguish. Don’t get me wrong, the issue of absentee fathers sickens me. There is no greater joy in life than being a father. I will never understand how a man could turn his back on the seeds of his soul. In my opinion, SI sensationalized the issue instead of initializing a discussion.
So after twenty years, I canceled my subscription to the magazine which raised my sports awareness as a fan first, then as a writer.
I pick up an issue every now and again to freeze moments in time for prosperity but no longer after learning Brett Favre has won Sportsman of the Year.
What!?! What about Tony Dungy or to a lesser degree Roger Federer?
Brett Favre? Are you serious?
Yes, Brett Favre has had a tremendous season. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time. You root for him because he is unafraid to take risks and Brett has set all kinds of records because of his talent and incomparable will to stay on the field. Conceivably, the Packers could lose in the first round of the playoffs this season. Knowing how the magazine field works to a certain extent, this decision was made a while ago.
Roger Federer became his sport. His 2006 season was one of the dominant performances of all time. He was beatable this year, but it’s utterly ridiculous the last two years of his career have essentially been erased. He would have been my second choice.
The 2007 Sportsman of the Year award rightfully belongs to Tony Dungy for leading his team to a Super Bowl win in a year they weren’t the prohibitive favorite. He overcame the suicide of his son and further suffered when Mike Vanderjagt missed a potential AFC Championship winning field goal. His Colts were affected by Dungy’s very public mourning but had to be inspired by his strength. That he’s still coaching is a testament to his will and faith as a man, a husband and a father.
Tony Dungy humble in Super Bowl victory over good friend Lovie Smith
Isn’t this an obvious choice? What went into the thought process SI? What statement are you trying to make? Tony Dungy transcends race. Is there a better person in sports? What does this man have to do to get the proper respect he has deserved since becoming a top flight NFL coaching prospect at age 28? Why does Peyton Manning get all the credit therefore diminishing (in documented history) the Quiet Strength of Tony Dungy? Fans of Dungy don’t need this honor to continue a legendary admiration of him, but a few honors here and there would surely help.
It’s just the right thing to do.
It’s a shame I won’t pass along a tradition started by my mother to my children. She definitely had my best interests in mind when she introduced me to SI and I love her much more for having great intentions.
Again, thanks for the memories SI, but goodbye and good riddance.