Some athletes wow us with their sheer physical brilliance, others through displays of courage, poise and passion, or by their willingness to push limits, break barriers and hoist fans’ hopes on their shoulders. This week’s Sports Illustrated celebrates those special stars—the inspiring performers who made 2012 a sports year to remember.
For their refusal to be silent victims of sexual abuse, two of those performers, New York Mets knuckleballer and 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey and 2012 Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison are featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. In a year when the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State rocked the sports world, award-winning SI senior writer Gary Smith asks us to reimagine, a century from now, looking back on the plague of sexual abuse and celebrating the courage of Dickey and Harrison, who shined a light on a dark history.
Both were abused as children—Dickey by a babysitter and a stranger, Harrison by her judo coach—and the pain of abuse became part of who they were. Smith describes the torture Dickey and Harrison had to endure en route to breaking their silence, and how they support victims who now have the courage to tell their own stories.
“My heart broke for those boys in the Penn State scandal because I knew what they would be up against,” Dickey would say. “And then … I felt for Jerry Sandusky because of what happened to him in his life. The toxicity of it all is so frightening. It energized me, made me see that there’s a real need for activism. The taboo’s been breached. Finally the elephant in the room is out—it’s raising its trunk and bellowing” (page 66).
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Sports Illustrated is giving fans the opportunity to select the Most Inspiring Performer of 2012. Beginning today fans can go to Facebook.com/SportsIllustrated and rank their favorites among 15 candidates selected by SI’s editors. The Fans’ Choice will be included in the Dec. 17 issue of the magazine. Fans have through Wednesday, November 28 to vote.
The Top 15 candidates include ten Olympians from the London 2012 Olympic Games, six whom are women.
- Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos Quarterback)
- Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts Head Coach)
- Jeremy Lin (Houston Rockets Point Gaurd)
- Alex Zanardi (Italian racing driver and paracyclist)
- Missy Franklin (Team USA Olympic Swimmer)
- Gabby Douglas (Team USA Olympic Gymnast)
- Andy Murray (Tennis Player)
- Megan Rapinoe (Team USA Women’s Soccer Midfielder)
- Jessica Ennis (British track and field athlete)
- R.A. Dickey (New York Mets Pitcher)
- Manti Te’o (Notre Dame Linebacker)
- Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings (Team USA Women’s Volleyball)
- Bradley Wiggins (British Cyclist)
- Mo Farah (British track and field athlete)
- Oscar Pistorius (South African sprinter)
In the following weeks SI will be asking fans to vote on Picture of the Year (balloting begins Nov. 29 for the Dec. 24 issue) and Moment of the Year (Dec. 6 for the cover of the Dec. 31 year-end issue).
Following a wild weekend of upsets in college football, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history, and No.1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time since November 1993. This rise to the top lands them on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, marking the 24th time the Notre Dame football program has been featured on the cover, and the first national cover since Maurice Stovall on September 30, 2002. You can purchase this week’s cover here.
The Irish are marching onward to the national championship game – and downward from the moral high ground they have claimed for a century. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior writer Tim Layden goes inside the football culture change at Notre Dame, a place where the team can’t merely be good; it must also call to mind the glory of a century-long football tradition. This year’s team is the first one in awhile to do both.
Says current Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who played five years at Notre Dame, including two under current head coach Brian Kelly: “You’re expected to go to class and not just be a football player. That’s real. It’s going to be hard academically, just like it’s hard academically at a lot of schools. But we’re all just college kids, we’re all playing football, and we’re all going to make mistakes. Notre Dame is not some golden perfect place. It’s a place that tries to do the right thing” (page 57).
In the 42 years since Tom Dempsey kicked the longest field goal in NFL history, his mark has been matched three times but never surpassed. Now the most mysteriously enduring record in sports may finally be ripe to fall. Sixty-three should have fallen years ago, as kickers became more deadeye snipers – more explosive, more accurate and better schooled from a younger age-but the record remains intact, shared by a logjam of four kickers across 42 years of football. It has been protected by circumstance, strategy, worship at the altar of field position and, in no small part, the inherent challenge of guiding a football 63 yards through an opening 10 feet off the ground and 18 feet, 6 inches wide.
Lee Jenkins Investigates Why the Pick-and-Roll is the Surest Way into the NBA
The pick-and-roll has been a pillar of NBA offenses since Oscar Robertson and Lenny Wilkens were delivering pocket passes, but never has the set permeated playbooks as it does today. Powerhouses like James Harden, Derrick Rose and Chris Bosh may make it look simple, but Sports Illustrated’s “Data by Synergy Sports Technology” proves that a skilled pick artist has become a standby that teams are relying on more than ever before. Weber State coach, Randy Rahe is convinced that the pick is now invaluable to college basketball, “Pick-and-roll is such a big part of the NBA … so it only made sense to add more of it to our offense” (page 66).