Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sportsmen of the Month: Our 100th Post

Felt it was appropriate to christen the 100th post in the long, storied history of "The Other B.S. Report" with my annual column, in which I basically take Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year pick, rip the decision to shreds, and give my 12 Sportsmen of the Month, from each of the 12 calendar months (duh).

But this year's different. For once, I actually agree with SI's pick. Derek Jeter might be getting this award as somewhat of a 'Lifetime Achievement', but you know what? He had an awesome year offensively, he saved his best for last, he won a championship, and most importantly, he embodies everything that is right with sports - and not to mention, he did it in a near-impossible position to do so, as a prominent figure in New York sports. Can't disagree with SI's call one bit.

But is that gonna stop me from doing the 4th annual Sportsman of the Month column???

Here they are: your 2009 SPORTSMEN OF THE MONTH...

January: Larry Fitzgerald
Five games, including the Super and Pro Bowls. 33 catches. 627 yards. Nine - nine! - touchdowns. And he's a nice guy! See, he's just like Jeter. Without the rings and army of gorgeous babes by his side.

February: Rafael Nadal
He won a scintillating Australian Open men's final against Roger Federer, putting everyone on notice that Federer's pursuit and overtaking of Sampras' 14 Grand Slam titles is much like Barry Bonds in the home run race: yeah, you're now the leader, but don't get too comfortable, because you know A-Rod and Rafa will hold those records before long.

March: Team Japan, WBC Champs
Like Nadal, they also won a great championship victory, this time in the World Baseball Classic against bitter, bitter foe South Korea. Stars such as Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka were rare on a roster with just five MLB players.

April: Crazylegs Classic Record-Setters
Cruddy weather wasn't enough to chase away 18,541 crazy souls ... er, noble men and women who braved the elements and completed the Madison, Wisc. course, one of the great annual athletic events in Mad-town not directly involving a certain group of Badgers.

May: Calvin Borel
It might be freezing in December, but let's not forget that horse racing was the "in" thing last spring. The little man who rides horses fast was responsible for that. Borel won the Kentucky Derby (atop 51-1 underdog Mine That Bird) and the Preakness (riding slightly-less underdogish Rachel Alexandria.)

June: Ed Thomas
A legendary football coach out of Aplington-Parkersburg High in Iowa, Thomas was tragically shot down by a former player in his own weight room, putting a perspective-ridden spell on the entire 2009 football season. Thomas' impact was felt on such a widespread scale that he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated just weeks after his death.

July: Roger Federer
For setting the all-time record with 15 Grand Slams. Until Nadal shows he can stay healthy and win majors consistently the same way Federer has, Roger is officially the greatest tennis player in history. The sickest statistic that people don't know about, besides those 15 titles, is making 22 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals.

Let me repeat that in all caps and bolded font for you. ROGER FEDERER HAS MADE TWENTY-TWO CONSECUTIVE GRAND SLAM SEMIFINALS. That, to me, is even greater than the Yankees' 27 championships or the Braves' 14 straight division titles. Making 22 straight Grand Slam semifinals would be like, I don't know, the Lakers playing in 12 straight NBA Finals, or Tiger Woods placing in the top five in 15 straight majors or Michael Phelps winning eight golds a piece at four different Olympic Games and never losing a single important race. It's that dominant. The tennis world will be shocked the next time Roger loses before the quarterfinals.

August: Danny Macaskill
He just had a sick video. Here, I'll post it again. Needless to say, August was a slow sports month.

September: Jim Tracy
I can't really say it any better than Jayson Stark. Tracy is an absolute savior.

October: Kirk Ferentz
Here was the post-Oct. 3 schedule laying before the 5-0 Hawkeyes: vs. Michigan (Homecoming, night game, national TV), at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, Indiana. Iowa took Michigan's best punch and held on at home, and Indiana gave Iowa fits before the Hawkeyes hung on. But Ferentz gets his due for the two middle games. Who the heck could ever have predicted a team to win back-to-back games in those two environments?

Iowa shook off a 10-0 deficit and thrashed the Badgers at the Camp, then scored a dramatic touchdown at the horn to shock the Spartans in East Lansing - and all of this came with a running game very much in flux (Shonn Greene bolted for the NFL and Jewel Hampton was out for the year with a preseason injury, making that position a revolving door all season). It's no wonder Ferentz is always rumored to be leaving for the NFL, but the kind, gentle guy says he's quite happy in Iowa City, thank you. Hawkeye fans are thrilled for that.

November: Peyton Manning and Drew Brees
Time will tell if the Colts and Saints can hold on for 16-0 regular season records - or, for that matter, if one or both teams even try to do that with No. 1 seeds wrapped up. But both men have played brilliantly all year, making this - along with Brett Favre's resurgence - one of the toughest MVP races I can remember in any sport. Can they just split it multiple ways?

I don't think I'm the only one who hopes Indy and N'awlins hang on for 16-0. Because if they meet in the Super Bowl ... I mean, does that automatically become the most anticipated sporting event of the past 30 years? It's got to be up there.

December: Elin Nordegren
Ha, psych. Just screwin' with you.
December: Hunter Lawrence
I am STILL waiting on an explanation from Colt McCoy. WHAT. THE. HELL. WAS. HE. THINKING???? That last-second incompletion was beyond inexcusable. He's a lucky, lucky man. This had better be rehashed when the wave of BCS title storylines come out around New Year's Day.

But amidst McCoy's near screw-up, was every kid's dream coming true. Who doesn't want to score the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals or hit the winning basket in the NCAA title game or the walk-off home run or 18th-hole putt? Hunter Lawrence lived that dream to a great extent, calmly nailing a long field goal and sending the Longhorns (finally!) back to the title game.

Fortunately, with the Heisman stuff behind us, Colt now has a bunch of time to learn the clock rules.


This is the part where I'm supposed to pick my Sportsman of the Year. Honestly? I don't have a problem whatsoever with Jeter winning. Verducci's story sold me. It's a little Lifetime Achievement-y, but that's fine. Jeter played awesome in the postseason, his team removed a rather large monkey from its back, he plays in the most impossible of spotlights and does it all with a genuine smile on his face. He's a true role model in a world with few. So, for the first time in the history of this column, I second SI's motion for Derek Jeter as Sportsman of the Year. Congratulations to the magazine and even more so to the Yankee shortstop.


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