November 28, 2012

Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. This year we asked a select group of people from outside the staff to offer nominations for that honor. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir selected San Francisco Giants' third-base coach Tim Flannery, and they explain why below as told to Bryan Armen Graham. Please vote for your Inspiring Performer, Photo of The Year, and Moment of The Year onour Facebook page.

We had a problem when the Giants asked us to sing the national anthem a few years back. We like to do a three-part harmony, but we couldn't get a third singer. Then someone told us Tim Flannery sings. We tried it out, the three of us, and from that first time it was just magical. That's our unit now whenever we sing the anthem at Giants games.

Tim is unique. He's got it all. He's a coach. He was a player. He's a musician -- a good musician. His lyrics and songwriting are strong and his music is a step beyond appropriately simple: there's more musical development that happens in his songs than one might expect. He would easily make it in the music scene if he had more than three months a year to devote to it. But his first love is baseball and that's that. It's in his blood, as you can see any day or night when the Giants are playing and someone comes around third. You can see the guy is into his gig.

There's no overlooking Tim. He doesn't sit quietly in any corners in the clubhouse. He's really a part of the glue and the groove that makes the Giants what they are. The Giants really are a team in a sport where a lot of clubs just throw money at guys and hope they get together in the clubhouse. They don't have anywhere near the high payrolls of other teams, but they get the job done. The brotherhood and camaraderie in there is palpable. They play for each other and Tim is a central part of that. You can see it on TV when he's flagging somebody around third base: he runs all the way home with them. He's that into it and that's infectious. The guy is a sportsman down to every fiber of his being down to the cellular level.

The energy Tim brings is so positive, it's like sometimes you feel he's willing the ball to go out of the park or willing the player to move his legs faster and get around third base to home. That's perceptible: if we can feel it in the stands, the players on the field certainly must. That kind of energy that coaches can provide to the players in those moments is critical. Some coaches have that. Others just sort of stand there and wave their arms.

We sang the national anthem with Tim before Game 2 of this year's National League Championship Series against the Cardinals. Even though the Giants were behind in the series, they didn't seem rattled or anxious. We had a nice little chat with Barry Zito, who was scheduled to pitch Game 5 -- mostly about music -- and he looked like he couldn't wait. The fans and the punditry were edgy about Zito, but we saw he had it in him. He was going to go out and burn some people and that's what happened. The Giants didn't lose another game after that. He just wanted to get out there and have fun and play baseball the way it should be played: as a game. Tim's influence breeds that attitude.

What makes Tim our choice for Sportsman of the Year, however, goes deeper than helping the Giants to a second championship in three years.

Last offseason Flannery put on two benefit concerts for Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who spent months in a coma after he was attacked at Dodger Stadium in 2011. The concerts sold out before they were even promoted and he raised more than $60,000. We're hoping it will be an ongoing deal. Bryan is not getting all that much better all that quickly. He's making progress and that's wonderful, but he's going to need some assistance as time passes. We're all down for the long haul.

Tim approached Bryan's cause much in the way that we would have, and he taught us a little something about Giants fans. They're more than just yahoo baseball fans. There's a lot of heart there. If you scratched beneath the surface of any fan pool in the U.S., probably anywhere in the world, you could find that. But we saw it first-hand here thanks to Tim.

Tim talks about never letting the hate take away from the good. To love harder. That's sort of what music is. By combining it with the Giants community, it gives off a lot of synergy and he reaches a lot more people that way. We could all link arms and skip through life with that song in our hearts.

Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are founding members of the Grateful Dead.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)