Friday, December 20, 2019

19 for 2019: Profiles in Sports and Spirituality. Drew Brees and Megan Rapinoe

When I learned that Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s all-time passing touchdown record in a 34-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, December 16, 2019 I immediately thought of the picture of him that hangs in my classroom. The 20-year veteran quarterback was SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's 2010 Sportsman of the Year (SOTY). That honor stays with me. Why? Every year, I anticipate this award and when I saw his profile on the cover, I remember thinking: this one is special. 
Brees brought much more than the Lombardi trophy to New Orleans in defeating the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts (feel free to connect the dots here). He brought hope. He helped rebuild the city both literally and metaphorically in the way that he always has—without much fanfare, with joy, humility and good, old fashioned hard work. I kept that cover because though easy honoree is both distinct and deserving, some of the honorees are unsuspecting. Brees too often flies under the radar. And yet, he commands respect. I wonder if he hasn't made a single one of his teammates better. He would never say it, so I will: try me. 

He might be the active player in the NFL with whom I would most like to have dinner. I am certain he is first ball Hall of Fame. I wonder how many sports fans might include him in their ideal golf foursome? Other thoughts?!

The 2019 SOTY honoree is equally deserving. Megan Rapionoe led the USWNT to victory at the World Cup. She was the tournament's leading scorer and its top player. She won the Ballon d"or as the year's best female player. 

Jenny Vrentas, the author of the cover story wrote, 
Megan Rapinoe is SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsperson of the Year. She is just the fourth woman in the award's 66-year history to win it unaccompanied, a feat that is both a remarkable athletic achievement and a reflection of entrenched gender biases. Rapinoe challenged perceptions of her, of female athletes, of all women. She led her teammates, three months before their tentpole tournament, to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay; to declare in advance that they would not visit the White House when they won the Cup; to score 13 goals in a group-stage match against Thailand, without apology.
Vrentas adds "Megan Rapinoe is Sportsperson of the Year, though not because of what she subversively calls her "newfound fame." but because of how she's handled it. She owned the biggest moment of her life and silenced all the doubts. Except, perhaps her own."
It should go without saying that Rapinoe is a different athletes, and a different person than Brees. I love her precision, focus and athleticism on the pitch. I appreciate her relentless pursuit for equal pay and gender equity. I understand, from her interview the message she is sending with her iconic pose. It leaves me conflicted. I am not a fan of crass language from her or any person with that type of platform. The fact that she stands on the cover holding a sledgehammer says it a lot and it makes me think. I want to be clear—I value that, even if it does not resonate with me. NB: Sports Illustrated works in collaboration with the SOTY for the clothing and setting to be used in the photo.

Born SOTY nine years a part, I started to think about the men and women who colored 2019. With that, I would like to present 19 profiles for 2019. In the next few blog postings, you will read about the athletes who have made an impact, left a footprint, raised a trophy, called a play, challenged the status quo....or at least the local fan base.

2019 has been another exciting year in sports. I hope these postings capture a slice of the flavor, color, sounds, emotions and memories they have imparted into our communities, homes and hearts. Enjoy!

Photo Credits
Drew Brees

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