Sportsman of the Year

Ever since I started writing for Sports Illustrated back in 1996, I’ve had a personal love-hate relationship with its Sportsman of the Year. Sometimes, the choices have been unarguable—the women’s soccer team, Tiger Woods, Buddy Biancalana. Other times, however, I’ve wanted to rip my hair out. Brett Favre? Dwayne Wade? That Roger Federer never won the damn thing—and now it’s too late—is a shame. I mean, who was better?

This year, I consider the choice to be relatively obvious: Either the New Orleans Saints as a team, or Drew Brees solo.

We always talk about sports changing lives and bringing hope and blah blah blah, and 90 percent of the time it’s made-for-TV Stu Scott-infused garbage. I even thought that was the case in New Orleans until, a few months ago, I went there. Man, was I off. That Super Bowl triumph genuinely recharged a metropolis that had been beaten down time after time. The horror of Katrina still looms large, and while a football team can’t fix anything, it can help in the mental health of a region.

Personally, I’d pick Brees. Now only was he terrific all season—he adopted New Orleans as his own.

Brees is my sportsman. I hope he’s SI’s, too.

PS: Guest speaker at my class tonight—Steve Cannella, SI’s baseball editor and a longtime friend. Guy did a great job.