For me, 2016 will always be remembered as the year the Cubs finally won.
Cut through the presidential election, the never-ending violence, the protests, the myriad of celebrities who’ve died, and this is the one thing that has brought happiness to the lives of so many across this country.
The curse is no more. Think about that. No more goat jokes. No more 108-year references. No more “Wait until next year.” The century-old drought is over. The Cubs are World Series champions.
Even so, for the second time, Sports Illustrated decided to give its prestigious Sportsperson of the Year award to LeBron James.
I read the article. I even read the SI’s editors’ piece, “Greatest of the Great,” which gave the reasoning behind the selection.
Sure, he won a championship, they wrote, but it was more than that.
“(James) lent his voice, too — fitting, because this Sportsperson honor, his second, also represents the impact an athlete can have beyond winning rings,” the editors said.
They said he’s willing to discuss the presidential election or Black Lives Matter, which, to be fair, is more than Michael Jordan ever was willing to do during his iconic career.
But, and this a big one …
“Sportsperson is not a political honor,” they write.
Beyond politics, the article by Lee Jenkins fairly points out that LeBron’s return has lifted an entire region of Ohio. That he has given from his vast fortune to help his area’s schoolchildren realize their God-given potential. That he’s given a voice to the voiceless.
But didn’t he do all that stuff before he won a championship in Cleveland? After all, he won that title in his second season after his return.
So, let me ask you, if he didn’t lead that comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to the historically dominant 73-win Golden State Warriors to grab the city’s first crown in 52 years, is he still honored by the magazine?
No. And Jenkins points that out.
“LeBron James is SI’s 2016 Sportsperson of the Year because of those three games in June,” he writes. “Considering the opponent, the deficit and the stakes — for himself and his region, eternally entwined — it is hard to find a more prodigious championship performance in sports history, much less basketball history.”
Let’s pump the brakes a bit.
Basketball history I’ll give him. But sports history? That was matched and surpassed months later when the Cubs clawed back from their own 3-1 hole with the pressure of 108 years on their backs.
And that’s to say nothing of Game 7 when the Cleveland Indians came back from three runs down to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth to force extras.
The pressure of a World Series Game 7 can be crushing in and of itself. But throw in that 108-year drought. And late-inning heroics by the opposing team. And extra innings. And a rain delay.
But the Cubs proved resilient in scoring 2 in the top of the 10th and held on in the bottom of the frame to win that endlessly elusive World Series crown.
But, according to SI’s editors, that historic, drama-filled championship was lumped in with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson’s seventh title. And the Olympic dominance of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles. And Leicester City’s improbable soccer championship across the pond.
Ho hum. Just another championship.
But it wasn’t.
Think of all that’s happened in 108 years.
We fought in two World Wars.
We went from learning how to fly to putting a man on the moon.
We endured two of the greatest economic collapses in history.
We elected an African-American president and nearly elected a woman to the same post.
Not to mention the many millions of loyal fans who lived and died without ever having glimpsed what we were so blessed to enjoy.
Now, think of the impact of that last out popping into the glove of first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the hand of third baseman Kris Bryant.
Think of the tears shed. The memories made.
But that championship doesn’t quite measure up to LeBron’s title?
Come on now.
Listen, please don’t misunderstand me. LeBron James is one of the greatest to ever play the game. And he should be recognized for all he does, has done and will do.
But when people look back on this year, they won’t remember LeBron’s third NBA crown or the city of Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years.
No, they’ll remember those once lovable losers. They’ll remember watching that last out.
And for that reason, the Chicago Cubs are my Sports People of the Year.