Monday, November 30, 2009

One columnist (not me!) thinks A-Rod, not Jeter, should be Sportsman of the Year

As had been rumored, Sports Illustrated named Derek Jeter today as their Sportsman of the Year. I think it was a great choice. Funny thing is, though - New York Post columnist Joel Sherman doesn't. He thinks the award should have gone to Alex Rodriguez.

Sherman wrote this in his blog entry about the Jeter rumors:
Alex Rodriguez should be the Sportsman of the Year. Before you hit me with how that title should go to someone who embodies the best in sports let’s remember that both Pete Rose and Mark McGwire have won the award, and before long we might remember that Tiger Woods has won twice.

Jeter has a brilliant year in which he became the all-time Yankees’ hit leader while remaining a high-level star who wears his pinstripes well on and off the field.

But sports are publicly messier these days, and we should not run away from that.
Heck, the initial broken story on Rodriguez’s steroid use was published by Sports Illustrated. He also touches on the advancement of sports medicine as he came back successfully from significant hip surgery months after undergoing the operation. And he was again a great player, this time finally in the postseason, as well.

In the end, A-Rod offers a story of second chances and redemption. He was a better teammate and was rewarded with the most positive feedback yet as a person while scoring that elusive championship.
Go here to read more of his reasoning, and how he wonders why Jeter is any more of a Sportsman of the Year than Mariano Rivera is.

I didn't even think there was any chance SI would pick A-Rod - the player they outed as a steroids user - as Sportsman of the Year. It seemed incongruous to me with what SI says the award is supposed to be about. So I think the Jeter selection is fine. As SI explains it:
It was that combination of on- and off-field achievement that helped make Jeter this year's Sportsman. Said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell, "Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class; he does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he's extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field."

That being said, I see Sherman's point about how "sports in 2009 are no longer just about the games, and Rodriguez touches on so many of those other important elements while remaining a unique athlete." There is something to be said for the flawed hero being a role model in his own way.

A-Rod has gotten more grief than any other active baseball player I can think of. Yes, more than Barry Bonds when he was playing - at least Giants fans didn't boo their own player. Yet Rodriguez, after hitting rock bottom, thoroughly redeemed himself, and had one of the greatest postseasons ever. One of the more moving things in the World Series film is when, after the Yankees won the series, A-Rod hugs Joe Girardi and literally weeps in his arms. Rodriguez may not be Sportsman of the Year material, but his story is inspirational in its own way.

It's why I'm so happy to see Vince Young getting his chance to shine this year with the Titans. He, too, hit rock bottom - getting benched in favor of Kerry Collins must have been hard to swallow, especially when the Collins-led Titans went 0-6 this year. Yet VY, after Tennessee owner Bud Adams finally demanded he get to play, has made the most of his opportunity, going 5-0, capped with a thrilling last-second victory against Rose Bowl nemesis Matt Leinart and the Cardinals yesterday. VY hasn't done everything right over the years, but the fact that he's flawed makes him more accessible. 

In today's sports world, there's room for both the Jeters and the A-Rods, the Bradys and the Youngs.  And that's a good thing.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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