SI's 2013 Sportsman of the Year
The 2013 Sports Person(s) Of The Year – Part I
by Michael Maynard
January 5, 2014

Congratulations to Peyton Manning for being nominated Sports Illustrated’s 2013 “Sportsman of the Year”! While he is a very good choice, I believe there are better selections for 2013’s person(s) of the year in sports.

In 1954, Sports Illustrated Magazine (SI) first presented the “Sportsman of the Year” award to “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” Previous nominees have included Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Arnold Palmer, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, and in 2012, LeBron James. All are or were the best in their respective sports. All transcended sports into becoming popular culture icons. Proof of this is that they can all be identified by one name: Ali, Tiger, Brady, Arnold, Gretzky, Jack, Michael, Kareem and LeBron.

Great athletes have great rivalries: Arnold vs. Jack,  Ali vs Joe Frazier,  Tiger vs. Phil Mickelson, Jordan vs. Larry Bird and Kareem vs. Akeem Olajuwon. Sometimes the rival is the race to be the best in the record books. Tiger Woods is trying to match or break Jack Nicklaus’s 18 wins in major championships.  Roger Bannister strove to be the first to run a sub 4 minute mile.

SI’s 2013’s choice, Peyton Manning, quarterback of the National Football League’s (NFL) Denver Broncos, is in keeping with those previous choices. It is almost a lock that Manning will with his  5th NFL Most Valuable Player award this year. Manning has had an exceptional season, breaking Tom Brady’s record (50) for most touchdowns passing with 55 and Drew Brees’ most passing yards record with 5,477. The Broncos set records for most points in one season (606), and touchdowns (76), set by Brady’s 2007 New England Patriots. Manning also set or tied records for most 4 touchdown, 2 touchdown and 400+ yards passing games. And he is also recognized by just his first name or to his teammates as “The Sheriff”.

Even his chief rivals, New England Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady respect and like Peyton Manning.

But too often, the real world has entered into the world of fun and games. Not all SI’s Sportsman of the Year have been awarded for just their athletic performance. The NBA’s Bill Russell, Track and Field’s Rafer Johnson and Tennis’s Arthur Ashe were awarded for their sports achievements and civil rights efforts. In 1996, the winners were “Athletes Who Care” – the National Hockey League’s Bob Bourne for helping handicapped school children, Track and Field’s Judi Brown King for helping abused school children and Keyna’s Track and Field’s legendary distance runner, Kipchoge Keino, for his care of orphaned children. In 1997, Major League Baseball’s Dale Murphy, National College Amateur Association football’s Chip Rives, Ladies Professional Golf Asociation’s,Patty Sheehan, National Basketball Association’s Rory Sparrow, and NFL’s Reggie Williams won for their charity works. The award has gone to a varied mix of star and non-star athletes for their on and off-the-field performance.

Peyton Manning  is a very deserving candidate. He has come back from a potentially career ending injury, having single level anterior fusion neck surgery. There were rumors that his career was through. He admits he almost was not able to come back.

Manning does not get enough credit for his charity work, but to his credit, unlike some celebrities, he doesn’t go around promoting himself through his charities. Peyton’s and his wife Ashley’s Peyback Foundation focuses on providing economically disadvantaged youth programs in Life and Leadership Skills, Mentoring, After School and Summer Programs and Healthy Living.

“Each year, the PeyBack Foundation funds various programs in Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, and the Denver metro area. The Foundation has distributed more than $6.5 million in grants since 2002, including $581,000 in May 2013 to 90 youth-based organizations. The deadline for grant applications is February each year.

The PeyBack Foundation focuses primarily on economically disadvantaged youth. Emphasis is placed on programs that have a direct benefit to children through relationships and activities. Programs that are intended to enrich the lives of disadvantaged youth through activities conducted outside the typical school day (i.e., after-school and summer programming) are particularly favored by the Foundation.”

He’s even appeared on Saturday Night Live, certifying his pop culture stardom. He acquitted himself well, making fun of his good-guy image.

With Sandra Bullock, he stars this classic spoof of the football movie,“The Blind Side”.

And, oh yes, there is that “Cut That Meat” commercial (and others).

Peyton Manning deserves to win a Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Award. Just not this year.

Whether we watch sports to watch exceptional athletes and teamwork, root for our favorite team and players, or  check on our various monetary interests, sports are meant to be a diversion from our everyday lives. Sports can serve as motivation to become better than we are. However, in 2013, the world had two reminders that sports cannot be totally separated from the “real world”. There are real acts of bravery and heroism in sports that are more important than any of those occurring on the field. My candidates were also feature stories of Sports Illustrated in 2013.

My two selections for the 2013 Sports Persons of the Year represent those acts of bravery and heroism. What they did transcended sports and changed the course of lives.  I will discuss who they are and why I selected them in Part II.

But Peyton Manning did play professional football better than any other player in 2013 and had as good or better  performances in 2013 than any other professional or amateur athlete.  Courtesy of The Huffington Post, here are the record breaking 51 of his total 55 touchdown passes.

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

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