Douglas Andrews / December 9, 2020

A Deserving Sportsman of the Year

In an age of self-indulgent professional athletes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is a breath of fresh air.

Years ago — many years ago — we used to look forward to the Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” issue. There was a time, after all, when SI actually covered the sporting part of sports, as opposed to the sociology part of it, and when its annual award went to the year’s most worthy athlete: Nicklaus, Gretzky, Montana, Jordan, Ripken, Woods, Brady, Phelps, Jeter — deserving recipients like that.

But these days? Yeeesh.

We probably should’ve seen it coming back in 1987, when the award went to eight “Athletes Who Care.” Last year, though, SI really jumped the woke shark when it presented the award to Megan Rapinoe, the World Cup soccer champion with the purple hair and the penchant for publicly insulting our nation’s president.

And this year, SI is heralding the year of “The Activist Athlete,” with the award being shared among five champions who’ve gone woke. Well, four of the five are wokesters. One of them, far and away the most deserving of the five, is a real dude and a real servant. More about him in a moment.

First, though, the most notable and most galling of the five awardees: basketballer LeBron James. He’s the Black Lives Matter huckster with the $100 million Bel Air mansion, and the white gardener, the white chef, and the white driver. He’s also the clueless ChiCom apologist — the guy who, without a hint of self-awareness, tweeted on March 12, the day after the China virus forced the suspension of the NBA’s season, “Man we cancelling sporting events, school, office work, etc etc. What we really need to cancel is 2020!”

What depth. What insight. What originality. If ever there were a sign that the apocalypse is upon us, it’s that LeBron James has 20 times more Twitter followers than Franklin Graham.

Sports Illustrated’s puff piece on James wants us to know that he’s working to “bend the arc of history” and taking “the more difficult option, the braver path” as a social justice warrior. Barf bag, please — and reality be damned.

As Zachary Faria opines at the Washington Examiner, “The five athletes chosen by the once prestigious sports magazine were headlined by reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and NBA star LeBron James. The other three selected were WNBA player Breanna Stewart, tennis star Naomi Osaka, and Mahomes’s teammate in Kansas City, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. … It’s a great honor for LeBron, a proud purveyor of Chinese propaganda. His big claim to fame for this year’s award is fighting voter suppression, the faceless phantom that preoccupies Democratic politicians. Mahomes, Osaka, and Stewart all get boilerplate accomplishments, promoting Black Lives Matter, social justice, racism, and women’s equality.”

Meh.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, though — he’s the one. The deserving one we mentioned earlier. He’s an interior lineman, the right guard for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and a protector of the team’s franchise quarterback, fellow honoree Patrick Mahomes. He’s also a medical doctor, having graduated from Montreal’s McGill University, one of the finest medical schools in North America. As one might imagine, he’s the only doctor playing in the NFL and only the fourth in league history. And in the face of a global coronavirus pandemic, he decided against pro football and in favor of COVID duty.

As fellow doctor and world-class athlete Jenny Thompson writes, he opted “to go back to the front lines, because he’s a doctor, and he wants to help people, even if that’s performing tasks like changing diapers and dispensing medications at a long-term care facility just outside of Montreal.”

Duvernay-Tardif thus went from being one of the best in the world at what he does to being a relative novice. “Most who go into medicine do so because they love science, sure, but also because they love people and humanity, because they want to make a difference in the world,” Thompson continues. “His choice was difficult but admirable, in the most staggering way, and he should be celebrated not for his accomplishments on the field but for the choice he made in 2020 to leave the gridiron for something more important. Well done, doctor.”

Exactly that. Well done, Doctor. And well done, Sportsman of the Year.

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