I'd love to hear anybody else's opinions on the above; here's my take on
it, elongated as it will be here...
Anywhere she went this year, Bonnie Blair left history in the dust. Like
in Calgary, where she won her first World Championship outside of the
Olympics in five years last January 30. Like in Lillehammer, Norway,
where she broke a half-dozen Olympic records and tied two others in the
successful defense of her 500 and 1000 meter speedskating titles. And in
the race in which she didn't medal, the 1500, she <still> broke the
American record. And was the ONLY U.S. medalist who went the way of her
Norwegian brethren and donated their prize money to OlympicAid. Like on
March 26th back at Calgary, when she did a Roger Bannister and did what no
one of her gender ever did before - skate 500 meters in less than 39
And today, in which Blair joined the aforementioned Mr. Bannister, Stan
"The Man" Musial, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Chris Evert, Bobby Orr,
Bill Russell, Tom Seaver, etc., etc.; sports legends one and all, when she
was named Sports Illustrated's 1994 Sportswoman of the Year. She shared
the award with Norway's speedskating icon (and fellow OlympicAid
contributor) Johann Olav Koss. She is the best American athlete of 1994,
and no less of an authority than Sports Illustrated said so.
This was historic in a zillion different ways. She is only the 6th woman
to ever win the award. She is the 1st American Winter Olympian to win on
their own (the US hockey team as a whole won in 1980). She is the first
woman to grace the SOY cover in 7 years, when Judi Brown King and Patty
Sheehan were part of 1987's "8 Athletes Who Care". Those are the tangible
ways in which to look at her victory today.
The intangible ways follow here [be prepared, for I'm about to start
rollin' ;-) ....
Bannister was the magazine's first SOY in 1954 when he broke the 4-minute
mile. How fitting that on the 40th anniversary of that feat, SI chooses
to honor a woman who pretty much did the same thing in her sport. The
editors obviously also realized that no athlete from the four major
sporting leagues of this country, two of which cut short their seasons and
are on the verge of committing hara-kiri, deserved consideration.
The editors of SI also exposed every journalist in the print or electronic
media that thought Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan was a better story,
not just on the on the day of Blair's 5th career gold medal and 6th medal
overall, but as a better story during the entire Lillehammer Games run,
period, than Blair's "drive for five" as stone-cold clueless. And that's
the next-best thing about it.
Leo Durocher, may he rest in peace, was wrong. Nice guys do finish first.
Once in a blue moon, certainly, but they do. And in a year when so much
in sports went into the toilet and the news media with it, 2 athletes rose
above the dreck. Two amateurs, who are anything _but_ in their actions on
and off the field - and who put their counterparts; the Dennis Rodmans,
the Dwight Goodens, the Nancy Kerrigans and Tonya Hardings, the roidheads
of Chinese women's swimming, the pampered, millionaire baseball players
and the Jennifer Capriatis of sports to utter shame.
Thanks Bonnie and Johann - you done <<great>>!
Paul Hanlin, Jr.