Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year this week. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
For four years running, I have used this space to trumpet tennis Yahweh, Roger Federer, as Sportsman of the Year. All he's done is win 11 of the last 16 major events, take more than 50 titles on every imaginable surface and forestall any debate as to the identity of tennis' greatest male player of all-time.
Agile and fluid as he is on the court, Federer hasn't budged from the top spot in the rankings for nearly four years now, the longest streak at No. 1 in the Open Era. And if you're looking for a true "Sportsman," you won't do any better here either. Several years ago, another SI staffer wrote that the next person Federer offends will be the first. That still holds.
Each year, Federer has fallen just short. If this were a presidential election, Federer would be the guy with the perfectly credible candidacy, the unimpeachable character and the unassailable record who makes it out of Iowa, but ultimately fails, for whatever reason, to capture the imagination of the vote.
So now I am encouraging you to look elsewhere. Surely there are more deserving candidates than Roger Federer. Let me count the ways:
For one, Federer failed yet again in his Ahab-like quest to become the first man since Rod Laver to win the Grand Slam, i.e. take all four majors in the same calendar year. Sure he came close, a match away in fact, losing to Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, in the French Open final. But in a sense, this only makes it worse. Here Federer was, on the precipice of achievement, tantalizingly close to pulling off a feat many have deemed no longer possible. And he couldn't close the deal. No Slam? No Sportsman. It's that simple, pal.
Take a look at Federer's won-loss ledger, too. The dude's record for 2007 was 68-9. Pretty nice, dominating even. But it hardly suggests invincibility. In fact, his winning percentage is not even 90 percent. And not only that, but two of those losses came during a spring slumplet -- at least by Federer standards -- to Guillermo Cañas of Argentina. Sorry, anyone who loses consecutive matches on hard courts to a clay-courter guy named "Guillermo" gets voted off the show.
Federer's off-court conduct also makes him unworthy. For example, there was this one time he wore white after Labor Day. We think. Oh, and during the U.S. Open, the venerable New York Post reported that Federer received an $800 haircut. Didn't John Edwards' presidential candidacy suffer a blow when reports surfaced that he shelled out $400 for a haircut? Extending that logic, Federer's candidacy for Sportsman just got doubly reduced.
Finally, the Sportsman of the Year ought to be accorded a person of valor and fortitude, a modern-day Achilles, someone who embodies the warrior ideal. You think that Oscar De La Hoya internet album was embarrassing? Check out this incriminating image of Federer.
Heaven help us if this is the picture of a Sportsman.
Who does that leave to take the award for 2007? Some quarterback who may have won a dozen games during his four-month season, or a college basketball team that caught fire in March. Whatever. Doesn't matter to me. Just not Roger Federer.
Anyone but that loser.Agree with this selection? Give us your pick for Sportsman here.