Every December, Sports Illustrated selects the Sportsman of the Year, bestowing the award upon the "athlete or team whose performance most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement." Past winners include Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken Jr., and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. This year's selection is still months away, and since the year is still young, I'm unable to offer any solid predictions for frontrunners. What I can offer, as of late April, are two athletes who have effectively eliminated themselves from the running.
Last week, Delonte West of the Dallas Mavericks committed a fairly typical foul, then followed it up with a highly unusual foul--one that left the announcer stunned, saying, "I don't know if I've ever seen that in professional sports!" West got called for a foul after pushing Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. After the ref blew the whistle and called him for it, West walked over to Hayward and delivered a school yard classic--a wet willie--then gave him a little shove. Check out the video:
Why the wet willie? West wasn't even the one who was on the receiving end of the original foul--he was twice the aggressor! Even more confusing is why he would decide that sticking his finger in another guy's ear was a winning proposition--I wouldn't even want to put my finger in my own ear...but that's why West apparently has a reputation around the NBA as a crazy person.
This incident begs the question: how do some professional athletes get so good at being so bad? Well, just like a jump shot, a home run swing, or a touchdown pass, bad sportsmanship is a skill that must be practiced--and starting young age is a clear advantage when it comes to reaching the highest levels of un-sportsmanship in professional sports.
Miles away from Willy-ville, a high school baseball player looks like he's well on his way to the top. Down in Palm Beach, Florida last week, an unnamed player on the Dwyer High School team prepared for a match-up with crosstown rival Palm Beach Gardens by doing some "decorating" in the visiting team's dugout. Prior to the game, the player covered Palm Beach Gardens' dugout in urine. The quantity of urine involved in the prank was so impressive that fans were complaining about the odor during the game.
The coaches of both teams, both painfully aware of the toxic smell, discussed calling off the game, but eventually decided to proceed. When interviewed, the visiting coach claimed, "You couldn't get away from it." Despite his team's 7-4 loss to Dwyer, he was able to say in defeat, "I don't think that (the urine) was a factor in the game."
After an investigation, officials determined that the dugout dousing was the act of a single urinator. The "pee-rpetrator" claims that he acted alone, though many suspect that others must have had a hand (among other things) in the prank due to the sheer amount of urine and the overwhelmingly powerful odor. Not one to piss and tell, that unnamed player now faces a pending suspension.
There's still a lot of games left to be played this year. Baseball season is just getting started, the NBA playoffs are fast approaching, three of the biggest tennis tournaments remain, and the summer Olympics roll into London this summer. There's no telling who's going to be the Sportsman of the Year, but I'm happy to help cross two names off the list. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess...
Here are some links to the stories--enjoy!