Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's the 2009! Nonsportsman! of the Year! (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Drum roll, please...

Thank you! That drum roll (and other clips of my All-Time Second Favorite Christmas Movie) serves to herald a major event, the awarding of the

2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year! Award!

You can tell it's important because of the exclamation points!

Every year, since time immemorial* (*2007, and I didn't do one last year) I have given out the Nonsportsman! Of The Year! Award!, an award that is given to the nonsportsman who had the biggest impact on sports that year.

This award doesn't go to overpaid, whiny athletes who tax our collective patience when they say things like It doesn't look like they'll be able to go Christmas shopping this year, because they were fined $7,500.

That's a true story: Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon "Gucci Louie" Jennings recently was fined $7,500 for tweeting too soon after a game (Why wouldn't the NBA have a rule about that?), and when asked about it, Brandon Jennings said, appropriately,

"That's a lot of money, especially around Christmas time."

That's fine, so far as it goes. But Brandon Jennings didn't shut his stupid mouth there. Instead, he went on to say...

... wait a minute. Let me first point out that Brandon "Gucci Louie" Jennings, at the tender age of 20, has already earned $3.65 million before he entered the NBA this year; he was paid $1.65 million to play in an Italian League, and signed a $2 million Under Armour Contract during that time. Then, he got signed by the Bucks, and will be paid $2.16 million this season and $2.33 million next season. So the $7,500, which is a lot of money to almost everyone, is 0.1% of Brandon "Gucci Louie" Jennings' salary.

So, Gucci Louie Jennings -- you'll see why I call him that in a moment, who first acknowledged that $7500 is a lot of money, then went on to prove he's an ignorant jerk-off by saying:

You do a lot of shopping for the family. It doesn't look like I'll be able to do that this year.

How do you feel about that, Bucks fans? Gucci Louie Jennings -- who's going to spend $2.16 million of your money this year, thinks he won't be able to do much shopping because he got fined 0.1% of his money.

Gucci Louie then went on to add:

"Twitter cost me 7500. Looks like no Gucci and Louie for Xmas."

Thereby proving he's a jerk and an idiot. Twitter didn't cost you $7,500, Gucci Louie; you cost yourself $7,500 by not knowing the rules. And then you insulted your fans; Milwaukee's median income, Gucci Louie, is about $37,000 per family. There are many many people who root for you who never get Gucci and Louie for Xmas, and you're a jerk for making jokes like that.

This is the actual tattoo Brandon Jennings has on his back.

Ah, well: With that out of my system, it's time to get back to the 2009! Nonsportsman! of the Year! award, which, as I said, does not go to an athlete; athletes get lots of meaningless awards, like the "Cy Young Award" (named for Richard Nixon, its first recipient) and the "Heisman Trophy" (given annually to that athlete who will get paid $23 million by the NFL team that drafts him the next year, and who will then never be heard from again.)

No, the Nonsportsman! of the Year! award does not recognize athletes, but instead focuses on those nonsportsman who had the biggest impact on sports in that year -- shining the light of attention on that noteworthy person who, despite not being an athlete, still managed to achieve great things in the world of sports.

Prior winners in this coveted award include:

2007: * ("Asterisk,") winning as a recognition of a lifetime of involvement on sports that culminated in the high water mark of 2007, when Barry Bonds didn't set the home run record (and had the non-record setting ball marked with an asterisk), when Videogate tacked an asterisk onto Tom Brady's career, and then even Don Shula suggested that an asterisk go on the Patriots* almost-undefeated season.

This year's recipient is almost as dignified and important as Asterisk, as we'll see in a moment. But first, a word about the person everyone thought would win this.

The first-runner-up for 2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year! is...

Elin Woods.

Elin Woods
-- here's a photo, in case you already forgot that last one...

was, almost everyone thought, the frontrunner for Nonsportsman! Of the Year!, and it's easy to see why: With a couple swings of a golf club, Elin had more of an impact on the world of sport than her gonna-be-ex-husband had in his entire career. Hamstring injuries, changes of swing, Phil Mickelson, arcane rules for intercontinental play: none of those could keep Tiger from winning 1 or more majors each year. But everyone has his Achilles' heel, and in Tiger's case, his Achilles heel was literally his heel, that being probably one of the many places Elin caught him with one of her swings, swings which cost golf its number-one draw, cost Tiger many of his sponsorships, and which hijacked the media for the past two weeks, all of which is a major impact.

And all of which would make Elin a consensus choice for the 2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year!, and a great choice, too, because it would let me keep putting up pictures like this:

which would guarantee this blog about 30,000,000 hits, but two things held her back.

First, golf isn't a sport. Sure, Elin had a major impact on golf, a major impact that included not just "taking out the number one golfer for a year or more," but also "making people aware that some golfers think that they're athletes" (and, as a sideline, "making people aware that Tiger Woods thinks he's gangster, but then can't even properly name the band "Bone, Thugs-n-Harmony.")

But you can't be the Nonsportsman! Of The Year! if your impact wasn't on a sport, and I've scientifically proven in the past that golf isn't a sport.

Even if it golf was a sport, though, another factor would keep Elin from being the recipient of this year's Nonsportsman! Of The Year! award, and that other factor is that there's a better person to win it. That better person is, as I said, almost as distinguished and accomplished as Asterisk, and he will now have the 2009! Nonsportsman! of The Year! award to add to his kind-of impressive resume.

It's been a while since the intro, so drum roll again, please.

Did you notice? That was a one-handed drum roll. I didn't even know you could do that!

Anyway, the recipient of the 2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year! award is:

Barack Obama.

I know, I know -- you're all saying "What? Wasn't getting the Peace Prize, and those two Tony awards he got when he filled in for a week on Avenue Q, enough?"

Or you think that I'm jumping on the bandwagon -- sucking up to the President who has promised to turn back the tides. Or, you're expecting some kind of health care commentary because I never give up on that.

But this is none of that. This is a genuine recognition of Barack Obama as the 2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year! because Barack Obama not only had the single biggest impact on nearly every sport this year, but Barack Obama embodied sports this year.

No person, in 2009, left his mark more on the world of sports than our esteemed President. Obama began the year choosing to root for the Steelers -- a move people said was motivated by electoral college concerns. (The people saying that, though, were apparently familiar with the electoral college but unfamiliar with the fact that the election was already over.)

He hosted a Super Bowl party at the White House (and John McCain said he was invited but wouldn't come.)

This is Obama watching the Super Bowl. In 3-D.
Don't you wish
you were president, so you could watch the
Super Bowl in 3-D?

Then, Obama became the first president in my memory to actually fill out and release an NCAA Tournament Bracket -- and he did it live, with coverage by ESPN, leading people (me) to wonder if someday we might have all-day coverage of Obama's NCAA Bracket filling-out, the way we have all-day coverage of the NFL draft.

Obama threw out the first pitch at the All-Star game,

(maybe doing that to make up for his ad in 2008 that delayed the start of a World Series game by 30 minutes?)

Obama plays tennis with Mrs. Obama (and beats her, she says), and attended a George Washington U. basketball game in order to cheer on his brother-in-law, the Oregon coach.

He organizes pick-up games of basketball in a bipartisan way, drawing controversy for that anyway, as he refused to invite women to play. (He did, though, invite a female to play golf, buttressing my point about that not being a sport.)

As though any more proof that golf
isn't a sport were needed, here's a photo showing
you can play the game without any equipment!

The sportsman-in-chief even weighed in on bowling, and lent his presence to the attempt to get the Olympics to Chicago.

Those accomplishments alone would merit giving him this coveted award, but more than His Omnipresence's extension into the world of sports alone is the fact that Obama didn't just affect sports; he embodied them.

Think about the world of sports, 2009: We began the year with a seeming novelty: The Steelers and Cardinals in the Superbowl, the Cardinals' improbable appearance seeming to promise changes in the world, a new era of sports with teams that traditionally hadn't fared well rising up to challenge the assumptions of the Old Guard...

... only to have the Cardinals lose, and struggle again this year, while the Steelers carried away their 160th Super Bowl trophy, the Old Guard triumphant again (and me losing my Super Bowl bet.) The message: It's hard to change the way things have always been done, something The Jump Shot-In-Chief has learned, too.

2009 saw the end of the era of "Moneyball," the idea that smart teams armed with computers and nerds could match up against the Big Spenders. All the computing technology in the world couldn't prevent the Yankees, whose payroll slightly exceeded TARP, from winning their 160th World Series, while in the NFL, teams that lingered far below the salary cap (Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Green Bay) struggled to stay even with teams like the Cowboys, who spent more on their Over-The-Field Television Screen than Tampa Bay spent on players' salaries in 2009. That's a sports mirror held up to President White Sox Fan's fight to convince people health care could be universalized for less money -- a fight he carried on, somewhat, but nobody's really buying it; we all know big money is needed to accomplish big things.

Obama tried to bail out the economy, and sports pitched in, with baseball paying C.C. Sabathia $15,000,000 for 2009 alone (or $65,000 per inning pitched),

Or, if you want to measure it another way,
CC Sabathia could have paid for
2,000 of Gucci Louie Jennings' tweets.

... Jerry Jones spending $1.2 billion on his stadium -- and the NFL planning on building a $1.6 billion stadium next year. That's a pretty big shot in the arm for an economy that still seems to be staggering under an economic swine flue -- and both the World of Sports and the World Of The Real World face potential economic nightmares next year: Obama will continue to fight against a sluggish economy and stagnant job growth, while the NFL faces the prospect of a season without a salary cap (something that the NFL treats as amazingly unusual and complex, even though the salary cap has only been around since 1994; for most of its existence, the NFL had no salary cap and did just fine. It's the sharing of TV money which keeps small-market teams alive in the NFL, not the salary cap, and in any event, one year without a cap won't matter much, since the vast majority of players are under contract and won't become free agents in 2010.)

Obama's biggest "accomplishments" were hypothetical or overblown; he was awarded a Peace Prize based on voting that was done when he'd been in office less than a month, an award he accepted in the same month in which he sent 30,000 more troops into battle. He was given credit for "Cash For Clunkers," a program that was passed mostly because it was attached to a bill to fund war efforts (that Peace Prize is looking more and more foolish now, right?) and a program that most people agree didn't do much in the long run to increase fuel efficiency or stimulate the economy; is Obama's Peace Prize any more of an honor than the Heisman Trophy award? (Before you answer, remember that in the 74 years of that award, only 16 recipients have had anything resembling a great career, and one of the recipients now sits in prison; there is a 4-in-5 chance that a Heisman winner will not have a good NFL career.)

Like the president, the Sports World gave honors that didn't matter much: The Yankees were lauded for another World Series win, but how could they lose? They owned all the great players in Major League Baseball. Serena Williams won another Wimbledon title, a victory that seems to be given to a Williams sister the way we give Peace Prizes to people whose names are in the news a lot.

Name the MVP of the NBA Finals. Name the Cy Young Award Winner. You can't, can you? (Kobe Bryant and Zack Greinke [who?], by the way.)

The Steelers won the Super Bowl early in 2009 -- and then stumbled through the NFL season so far.

Seriously; they have literally stumbled.

Obama and the world of sports even collided on the Big Issue of the year: health care. While Obama occasionally paid attention to one of his major campaign themes (he promised universal health care by the end of his first term, remember)(hey! It's my health care reference! You knew I'd get one in!), health care was front and center on everyone's mind (except the Senate's) this year, and the world of sports was no different, as the NFL instituted its own version of Universal Health Care, which might have been called "Let's pretend we care about head injuries while not actually mandating concussion-proof helmets," and the two worlds really did collide when a 16-year-old girl who had to quit basketball because she'd suffered 11 concussions testified before Congress in support of the "Contact Act," a bill to impose protections for high school athletes.

Don't worry-- health care got no further in the NFL, or high school, than it did in the Senate: The "Contact Act" was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in March, 2009, and has been sitting there ever since. If you don't remember what that means, re-watch this:

Died in committee. Sorry, 16-year-old girls and Ben Roethlisberger; you'll have to take care of your health the way the rest of us do: Praying our insurance company doesn't drop us.

Obama began the year on a high note, seemingly invincible as he went from rally to rally and striding forward with his TARPs and Cashes-For-Onomatopoetic-Things programs, but there were chinks in the armor: the Olympic bid failed, health care is mired down, the economy isn't turning over yet and may need another jolt, there's still terrorists in Gitmo but they'll be transferred to New York and Illinois soon...

... and who else seemed invincible but wasn't? The Saints and the Colts, both starting off 13-0 and both lagging as they hit the home stretch. The Saints dropped their first game of the season last night despite a furious rally, and Obama can only hope that the Colts, not the Saints, are the true metaphor for his first year, since the Colts struggled to 14-0 instead of fumbling away their last chance and hitting 13-1, the way Drew Brees' team did. In either case, though, the surface perfection hides a troubled turmoil underneath and the calls keep getting closer and closer, for both the NFL's two leading teams and the Frontrunner-In-Chief.

Obama was forewarned about the troubles he'd face: last year's NFL playoffs saw number ones knocked off left and right, a sign of ill omen for the Man Who Would Be Everywhere in 2009. And while he was everywhere (appearing on TV so much that the networks complained about the costs, and getting onto 5 consecutive Sunday morning shows one weekend, as examples), so much of what he was talking about seemed to not matter so much: He was killing a fly with his bare hands, or showing his dogs to Oprah, or pardoning a turkey, but where was the substance? Where was the health care, the economy, the rolling back of the tides?

In that, too, Obama was the living embodiment of Sports, 2009: It's hard to recall a year when so much was said about sports figures, with so little of it having to do with sports. Kurt Warner's age, Tiger Woods' mistresses, A-Rod and Kate Hudson, Serena's swearing, Michael Phelps' pot-smoking, the track runner who was both woman and man, the Brett-Favre-retirement stories, the continuing questions about steroids (including, at the end, one that dragged Tiger Woods into that controversy, too), and, finally, putting Stephen Colbert on the cover of Sports Illustrated...

I had a picture of the actual cover, but I very
much preferred this image, instead.

... all of that was talk involving sports but wasn't about sports, letting sports surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without any actual sports talk taking place. It was all sizzle and no steak this year, in the world of sports and the world of government, and Obama stands astride those two worlds like a Colossus,

Good, but not as good as the Stephen Colbert picture.

albeit a Colossus who has yet to actually pick up the world and carry it; Obama is a Colossus who's still warming up and stretching for his big feats of strength, and in that, too, he embodies the world of sports like no other person did in 2009, because Obama, as always, carries with him hope: the hope for a better tomorrow, the hope that we have the ability to do better next time.

The ability to look at the troubles of this time, and say to ourselves: We can fix this.

The ability to look at a perfect season gone awry, and say We can still win the championship.

The ability to take adversity in stride and still throw that last-minute touchdown pass to win the big game.

The ability to look at the titans of the world -- the Lakers, the Yankees, the health care industry, the economy -- and say You might have won this round, but we're not giving up and we'll keep on fighting next year.

In sports, as in the Real World, there are the ridiculous moments and the sublime. There are the stupid people and the smart. There are the triumphant victories and the terrible defeats. There are moments of glory and struggles with defeat, and each of those can be transient or lifelong; we hope the bad fades soon and pray the good lingers on, but even when it doesn't, we can look away from the bad result, lift our chin up, clench our fists, and in the manner of the 2009! Nonsportsman! Of The Year!, continue to fight on, continue to lead, and continue to hope.

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