When you think about it, Drew Brees is the logical and sentimental choice to be Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year." SI singled out the the New Orleans Saints signal caller for a championship season on the field – and, more importantly, for the way he and his wife have worked to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.
But who else in the world of sports deserved a shot at the prize? We've been considering the choices.
Some might say pro football players have an edge: The NFL is in full swing and top of mind now, just as SI is making its annual award announcement. By that logic, either former SI sportsman Tom Brady of the Patriots or Eagles QB Michael Vick would be better choices because they're both having a better fall season than Brees. On the other hand, their on-field performances are not that far beyond that of Brees, who has New Orleans one game behind the Falcons in the NFC South and in playoff contention.
In other sports, there were several candidates to challenge the Brees pick.
Sidney Crosby of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins led his team to the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, where they fell in the second round. But, possibly more important, he scored the gold medal-clinching goal for Team Canada over the US in the finals of Olympic men's hockey in Vancouver this past February. Another hockey contender was Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, named MVP of the Stanley Cup finals as Chicago won its first Cup in 39 years.
A perennial candidate is Kobe Bryant of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was selected MVP of the NBA Finals in June as the Lakers outlasted the Boston Celtics in seven games for their 16th NBA title.
Major League Baseball brought a pair of interesting sportsman candidates. Coming back from substance abuse, Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, offers a compelling narrative. He was overwhelmingly voted the American League MVP, posting monster offensive numbers as he helped Texas reach its first World Series. Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds also had a stellar year at the plate as he won the National League MVP, the first Reds MVP since 1995.
Of course, this is not an award for "Athlete of the Year." It's "Sportsman," which brings a values and compassion component into the decision. Sports Illustrated quotes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Brees' inspirational role off the field: "He symbolizes the people of New Orleans in many, many ways. Drew believes in that community. He believes in doing what's right. He's one of the most genuine people I've ever met.''
You can look back at the varied list of past SI sportsman winners and see men and women who were champions and gave back to their community, country, and world. Rafer Johnson, Arthur Ashe, and Johann Olav Koss are some prominent examples.
SI didn't say who else it considered this year. But in the end, I yield to their choice. Drew Brees is worthy of joining such select company.
Who would you choose?