So this Tuesday, Sports Illustrated, the greatest magazine ever invented, will announce its annual choice for Sportsman of the Year. It’s one of the few announcements of awards I still get a little excited about. When I was a kid, the Sportsman of the Year issue was always huge, a double issue at the end of the year. I also remember that my first ever issue I got as part of the subscription my Grandpa got me when I was 9 was the Mary Lou Retton/Edwin Moses Sportsman of the Year issue, from Dec., 1984 (I’ve been getting SI ever since).
Anyway, unlike last year, when a blind sea turtle could’ve predicted it would be Michael Phelps after his eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, this year doesn’t have a clear-cut winner.
So, in case SI needed my help, here’s my Top 5 for 2009:
1. Roger Federer: He would deserve one as a lifetime achievement award even if he did nothing this year (He absolutely could’ve won it in 2006 (they gave it, oddly, to Dwyane Wade) or 2007 (even more bizarrely, they gave it to Brett Favre). But the guy has been sensational this year in re-juvenating his slightly leveled off career. After a crushing loss to Rafael Nadal in the Aussie Open finals, he won his first French Open, completing the career Grand Slam, then outlasted Andy Roddick in five sets in Fed’s second consecutive epic Wimbledon final. In so doing, he broke the career mark for Grand Slams won by a male, with 15.
He’s also the classiest guy you’ll meet, and he fits the true definition of sportsman.
2. Usain Bolt: I know his big year was the Olympics in 2008, but the guy was even more phenomenal in 2009. He shattered his own track and field world records in the 100 meters and 200 meters, two marks that should’ve stood for years, not months. He made people care about track in a non-Olympic year, and that’s damn hard to do.
3. Kobe Bryant: I know, I know, I hate the guy and think he’s egotistical and a jerk and maybe even a rapist, although that, sadly, was never brought to a court of law in Colorado. But he did will his team to the championship of the NBA, and did it without Shaq.
4. Sidney Crosby: Won a Stanley Cup on the road, in a Game 7, against the Detroit Red Wings. Hard to do. He’s so young, and his Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot more winning to do.
5. Kim Clijsters: All she did was unretire, play a few tournaments, and then win the U.S. Open. Her smile lit up Flushing Meadows, and she’s such a wonderful story, a mother rediscovering her love for the game after a few years away. She won’t win the award, but she certainly is worthy.
Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, the grandest time of year to eat leftovers, here are a few leftover thoughts from my brain after four days in NYC (yeah, I know, that was a REAL stretch for a segue there.)
***I cannot get over the 1,000 percent improvement in the bathrooms at Penn Station. When I went there as a kid, and then again when I worked in NYC from 2000-2002, the bathrooms were atrocious. Dirty, smelly, dark, with this crap powdered soap that never came out above the sinks. It was truly an unpleasant experience.
Now? It’s like a hotel bathroom or something. Clean, bright, with no terrible smell. Actual, real sinks, not one big trough, and actual, real soap coming out of the dispensers. Bravo, New York City.
***I love riding the subway. I know it’s probably one of those things where if I did it all the time like I used to, I’d take it for granted and not think twice about it. But that’s another major improvement in cleanliness and safety by New York City. All the subway maps are clearly marked and easy to read, the cars are well-lit, and I just never once felt at all unsafe.
**I raked leaves for an hour Saturday. It was actually fun, I hadn’t done it in so long. We don’t do much leaf-raking in Central Florida. It made me miss fall even more, but this was a good temporary fix.
And my question is this: Is there ever an age when you’re too old to rake a big pile of leaves, then jump happily into them, spraying them everywhere?
Didn’t think so.