Joel McHale: My 2014 Sportsman, Russell Wilson
This essay is one of more than 20 nominations for SI's 2014 Sportsman of the Year. You can see all of this year's nominees here.
When I think of the word sportsman, I think of the word “man” being placed at the end of the word “sports.” It think it represents a man who either likes sports, or participates in them. And, if nothing else, it sounds a lot better than “Sports-Playing Guy of the Year” or “Sportsperson of the Last 12 Months.” And when I think of Sportsman of the Year, I think of Russell Wilson.
First off, there’s his story: Wilson wasn’t drafted until the third round, he wasn’t lauded as a hero, but then he became one -- and on top of everything, he did it all in Seattle. This is a sports town where Howard Schultz sold our basketball team in 2006; where our baseball team won 116 games in 2001 and still didn’t make it to the World Series; where, when our team finally got to the Superbowl in 2006, we lost in a game in which the ref later admitted to screwing up crucial calls.
All throughout the 2013 season, people was constantly surprised by how well the Seahawks were doing. Then we got to the Super Bowl and there was Chris Berman saying during the pre-game -- literally, “Rooting against Peyton Manning is un-American.” I just thought to myself, ‘Sign me up, Mexico or Canada!’ And then you know what happened next. Suddenly it wasn’t about whether Wilson was a dark horse, and it wasn’t as if this kid squeaked by with a win.
It was about the Seahawks' domination of the game. Obviously Seattle’s defense was crucial in picking apart the Bronco’s offense -- they took one of the greatest QBs of all time and shut him down completely -- but meanwhile, we were also scoring. With XLVIII, Wilson changed a city.
What's more, Wilson inspires an entire stadium to scream so loud it provokes a seismic event. He causes earthquakes! Prior to Russell Wilson, only Thor could do that, and even he needed a hammer! On top of that, there aren’t many other sportsmen who are 5-foot-11 [the six pro-football QBs named SOTY average 6-foot-3]. It’s like he has to use other senses to locate receivers.
Also, Wilson is one of those guys who says things before games you actually believe. There’s this pre-game language that athletes, especially baseball players, speak: “We’ve gotta reach down deep. We’ve gotta come together. We’ve gotta execute!” But when Wilson says it, you believe it. He’s like a Boy Scout leader whose troop is stuck in the woods, and tells them, “Oh, no. We’re getting out of here. We might have to eat a couple of guys, but we’re getting out.”
And that is why I nominate Russell Wilson as my Sportsman of the Year. But not my Sportsperson of the Last 12 Months.