Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
Consider the golden child of the red-haired stepchild of the Big Four professional sports: Sidney Crosby of the National Hockey League. Perhaps that characterization is unfair to both.
Although Crosby is still clumsily referred to as "Sid the Kid" -- he turned 20 last August -- he is a man well equipped to handle anything, legally, except a wine list. And the gross revenues of the NHL (a league that used to be considered the NASCAR of the North and now can only dream about having NASCAR's clout) are within a billion dollars of the NBA, which is not bad considering that hockey's principle cable carrier in the United States (Versus) is as easy to locate as Judge Crater.
Anyway, the futures of Crosby and the NHL are inextricably linked. If the league is going to muscle its way back to the NHL-Is-Hot/NBA-Is-Not days, it will be on the muscular shoulders of the third-year star of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby certainly is holding up his end of the deal.
Let me bore you with some statistics. In compiling an NHL-best 120 points last season, Crosby became the youngest scoring champion (19 years, 244 days) in league history. He became the youngest Hart Trophy (MVP) winner since Wayne Gretzky in 1980. He was the seventh player to win the Hart, Art Ross (scoring) and Lester B. Pearson (MVP as voted by the players) awards in the same season. The Penguins also named him the youngest captain in league history. Crosby carried the team into the playoffs, playing the last six weeks with a broken foot.
He is not Wayne Gretzky, of course, but he is on a Gretzky-like arc. Not in scoring, obviously. Crosby will not finish north of 200 points when the regular season ends next April. But in his willingness to be the public face of his sport, to speak with unfailing humility, to carry himself with unwavering class -- he has even cut way back on his on-ice whining -- Crosby is tripping lightly down the same path Gretzky blazed a quarter of a century ago. This is Sportsman of the Year territory.
OK, so Crosby probably won't win the award this year. (For one thing, that would mean having a hockey player who isn't a Hanson Brother on the SI cover -- and what are those odds?) But now is the time to get his name out there. Like his quick-release wrist shots, think of this as a preemptive strike.
Agree with this selection? Give us your pick for Sportsman here.