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My annual Sports Illustrated rant is early this year(17 posts)

My annual Sports Illustrated rant is early this yearTypeOne
Oct 28, 2002 8:06 PM
This has become a yearly post for me, and perhaps I should just pull threads out of the archives when I bring up the topic of the SI "Sportsman of the Year" and Lance's omission. Let's see, in 1999 there was a flame war about women's soccer, in 2000 the anti-Tiger/anti-golf factions chipped in, and last year people could only laugh about giving it to two baseball pitchers (one with a mullet) which was followed by a long discussion over the definitions of "sport" and "athlete." Then there was the usual counterpoint that who cares about the corporate Sports Illustrated, cycling is a "fringe" sport and let's hope it stays that way, etc. But it does matter. LA deserves any recognition and award possible.
This year, I must confess that it has to go to Barry Bonds. He is an egotistical jackass and doesn't fit any classic definition of "sportsman," but he had one helluva year. I guess Armstrong has to win 5 or 6 Tours to get the nod. I won't raise a fuss.
good calltao
Oct 28, 2002 10:39 PM
Though I'm not sure SI will give it to Bonds. The argument in baseball is akin to cycling, the current generation is more specialized so you can't expect a fair comparison. That is, Armstrong can't have a year like Merckx and Bonds can't have a year like Babe Ruth. Problem is, Bonds's last two years are arguably better, though more likely as good as, Ruth's best. Like it or not baseball is a sport, and it's been nearly 80 years since we've seen as dominant a player. Too bad he's a real jackass. So maybe next year if LA wins Flanders and Roubaix, The Giro and Tour, and caps it off with a double at Worlds he'll win it. jk, you're right though, 5 or 6 should do it, we'll hope.
I don't think it goes to Bonds,TJeanloz
Oct 29, 2002 5:45 AM
Whether or not Barry Bonds had a good year is a matter of perspective. He didn't break the home run record. He didn't win the World Series. He was, undoubtedly, the most feared hitter in baseball, and even if his numbers were spectacular (or his walks comical), at the end of the day, when it mattered in October, he lost.

I think SOTY goes to Serena Williams- who won 3 grand slams this year. It's similar to the Tiger Woods story of a few years ago. Look at it this way, winning the Tour de France, while challenging, is not spectacular in and of itself. It was in the 'comeback' year, but now, we expect Lance to win. Each of the candidates for SOTY won their respective championship- it takes something more to win the SOTY award. I think, for Lance, we have to wait for something truely spectacular- like a record-breaking 6 straight.
Another good callTypeOne
Oct 29, 2002 8:59 AM
Your pick of Serena Williams is probably accurate. She dominated women's tennis and she's getting a lot more commercial exposure lately (and I'm not talking about the exposure with her oncourt outfits), which seems to be important to SI.
Despite losing, I do think Bonds should have won the Series MVP, however. The Angels cast their vote for him by intentionally walking him so many times. But that's another debate for another time.
suretao
Oct 29, 2002 11:19 AM
Yea it's a level of perspective, but there's no debating whether Bonds had a good year as you suggest. The debate is whether he had the best offensive year in the history of baseball. The easiest way to judge is to add OBP (on base percentage) to Slugging percentage to get OPS (on base plus slugging). Bonds's 1.381 is the best year ever. 2nd is a tie between Babe Ruth and Bonds. Other measures such as Win Shares and Runs Created will put him at the top as well.

As good as Serena was she didn't win the Slam, which has been done several times. So how good was it relative to the greats in her sport? (Not nearly as great as Bonds methinks) Speaking of team, she didn't win the Davis cup right(?), so she should be out by your measure, even if it wasn't her fault?

Yes the Gaints lost the World Series, in spite of Bonds having the best series ever. Likewise, it sounds like USPS has to win the team competition as well before LA gets the nod. 'Cause if he's really so great he'll lift his team to the win also, right?
It's an interesting debate,TJeanloz
Oct 29, 2002 11:45 AM
A slam in womens tennis has not been done 'several' times; it hasn't been accomplished since 1988, when Steffi Graf did it.

On the question of Bonds though, I don't think statistics are enough to win SOTY. His on base percentage is the highest ever- but he also set a record for number of walks (which isn't his fault, granted), which contribute to his gaudy OBP. Baseball is a game that is madly in love with statistics, but at the end of the day, all that matters is whether or not your team wins. Which is why Bonds has historically been knocked down a peg or two. If the Giants had won the World Series, Bonds is absolutely the SOTY. Without the Series ring, he has a great individual effort, but not a complete story.

To draw a comparison between the Giants and USPS is ridiculous, as cycling is only a semi-team sport. An individual wins the Tour de France, a team wins [or loses, in this case] a World Series. You can't compare an individual sport with a team sport; it just doesn't work. And it doesn't work because at the end of the day, Barry Bonds' individual accomplishments are of no real value in a team sport. In the individual sports, athletes' sole accomplishments are the whole value.

I don't deny that Barry Bonds had a spectacular year. Perhaps the best offensive year in baseball. My contention is that it takes more than statistics to win the award.
Point of fact...Brooks
Oct 29, 2002 12:44 PM
the women's Grand Slam has been accomplished "several times". Mo Connoly in '53, Margaret Court Smith in '70 and Graff as you mentioned in '88. Three counts as "several".

I don't see a dominant player in any sport, mainstream or not, that is also considered a "Sportsman", thereby eliminating Bonds. Lance is as good a choice as any and certainly a better sportsman than Bonds. And I'm a Giants fan.
3 is a 'few'; more is 'several';TJeanloz
Oct 29, 2002 12:57 PM
It's wordplay, but from dictionary.com:

Several
1) Being of a number more than two or three but not many.

We have the argument every year about what a 'sportsman' is, and whether it requires something more than athletic achievement. I think the crux of it is that in the scope of the award, 'Sportsman' is defined as 'dominant athlete'.
agreetao
Oct 29, 2002 2:21 PM
I completely agree, SOTY = most dominant athlete. My argument is that Bonds was the most dominant because he was the most dominant his sport has ever seen. No one else can really argue that sensibly, with respect to their sport.

Of course it's hard to compare sports, let alone individual vs. team vs. semi-team. My analogy was meant to point out the fallacy, I believe, in incorporating the team aspect when the award is solely an individual one. And while the cycling analogy is far from perfect, it is a semi-team sport as you say, and we both seem to agree that it doesn't matter whether USPS wins the team comp. in terms of evaluating LA's individual achievement. This logic should naturally extend to "whole" team sports as well, so whether Bonds wins the series shouldn't impact his individual accomplishment in terms of an indiviual award.
Team vs. Solo AchievementTJeanloz
Oct 29, 2002 2:43 PM
Bonds was incredibly dominant. I'll give you that.

But I maintain that the award should go to a winner. A winner of a real competition, and no, obscure statistical categories are not real competitions. If he had hit .400; if he had broken the home run record (I supported his canidacy last year); if he breaks the all-time home run record; I think he wins sportsman of the year. But at this point, a bunch of baseball statistical wonks are the only people who are convinced that he had the best year ever. I'm not thrilled and amazed at what he did, largely because I think Peter Gammons just made up statistics like OBP + SLG to make Bonds look good. Did Ruth chase his OBP + SLG? I didn't think so.
funnytao
Oct 29, 2002 5:14 PM
Granted I'm a statistical wonk, but OBP, OPS, Win Shares, and Runs Created are actually from the mind of Bill James, circa the 80's, well before Bonds. Gammons is one of the first to use some of the measures in the mainstream media, but it even took him years to accept them. Billy Bean is the first GM to use them and it's why the A's are consistently good w/o a large payroll.

They were invented to judge player performance, largely in ranking the greatest seasons and players ever, but can be used to evaluate any player in any year. None of the current players were even close, until Bonds broke basically every offensive category that matters in the last two years. The year McGwire broke the home run record was great, but even if his Cards had won the series that year, his performance pales in comparison to the likes of Ruth, Hornsby, and yes, Bonds. Even if Ichiro hits .402 next season w/ a .900 OPS it'll be very, very hard to argue he had a better season than Bonds at 1.381.

Yes, to the everyday fan, homers and average are great. But to people who take a closer look at the data, there are much better measures. I'm not going to convince non-believers very easily, but people are slowly coming around. Just think, you know OBP and probably realize some of its value, 20 years ago you would have been laughed at if you'd used it in a discussion. You have to get on base to have a chance to score, have someone slug you in to score, and you have to score to win... maybe in 20 years OPS will be the causal fans batting average.

I'm not so sure us wonks are the only ones who thought his season was the best; cnn, espn, and baseball america to name a few have suggested as much. And most of those writers don't know OPS from a high climbing cadence.
WRONG by your own definition!Brooks
Nov 1, 2002 5:28 PM
Three is more than two but not many. That counts as "several". ;-) Yeah, just wordplay. SI does not consistently give the award to the most dominant athlete of the year. When I first got SI in the early 70's there were co-winners: Bilie Jean King and Coach Wooden. King was a great athlete, but Wooden was well past his prime as an All-American basketball star. Can't argue with his success as a coach though. Also, a few years back were "Athletes That Care" or something similar with a dozen or so top athletes but the emphasis was on "sportsmanship" and not records on the field of play. I still believe that is a vital criteria in the selection. Would I be surprised if Bonds won? No. Would I be surprised if he didn't win? No, again.
He'll get it. Of course he'll have to win Le Tour 6 times first.Sintesi
Oct 29, 2002 5:16 AM
But then again maybe we could care less about Sports Ilustrated.
he wins 6 and I'd bet he gets it nmtrekkie1
Oct 29, 2002 12:50 PM
Goddam better!Sintesi
Oct 29, 2002 1:23 PM
I can hear them now. "It's only the Tour De France. Tiger's just won 4 major golf tournaments in a row." I'll ride my bike right up the SI editorial board's wazoo. I'll march on Washington. But then again maybe I don't care.
Not to devolve this into a cycling discussion on the...Wayne
Oct 30, 2002 10:36 AM
non-cycling forum, but I would argue Armstrong wasn't even the cyclist of the year. That honor goes to Mario Cipollini (MSR, G-W, 6 stages Giro, 3 stages Vuelta, and others, capped off with a road race WC, and everyone said he was over the hill now!)
Lance won the Tour de France (again) and two stage races in France that most US cyclists wouldn't even recognize. He has not had a major one-day victory since his return from cancer. I only throw that in because he is clearly capable of winning a big one but hasn't delivered the goods.
So as others have posted the sportsman of the year award should go to someone (well, an American) that has lifted their game above what is tops for their sport. Armstrong did not do that. In recent comparison, you have Indurain's and Pantani's Giro and Tour double. And Roche's Giro/Tour/WC Road Race triple. If Armstrong get's to six maybe he'll be considered but it will be for the streak not because he did anything (in that specific year) that alot of cyclists before him have not accomplished.
Oh, and if the Sportsman of the Year...Wayne
Oct 30, 2002 11:56 AM
didn't have a strong (exclusive?) American bias, I would think the winner handsdown would be Michael Schumacher. He acccomplished something in his sport that was above what anybody else has ever done.