Kirk Wessler reviews the best and worst of sports in 2007
Drum roll! Trumpet fanfare! Mighty roar!
It's time for the annual Kirk and Jerk Awards, founded by the Great Prophet Sesom, who once upon a deadline appeared to Yours Truly in a dream and proclaimed, 'There are two kinds of people in the world: Kirks and Jerks.'
Here's the deal.
It is not possible for a Kirk to be a Jerk. A Jerk can act like a Kirk, but doing so is unnatural and time will expose the Jerk as a phony. Likewise, a Kirk can behave like a Jerk, but not for long and never without deep regret followed by a period of penance.
Winning a Kirk is not difficult. All you have to do is pursue your sports-related endeavor with intensity, intelligence, grace and class, comport yourself like a decent human being and treat others well.
It is exceedingly hard to receive a Jerk, mainly because Kirk believes even most Jerks have redeeming qualities we simply don't get to see. How can you call someone a Jerk if you're not with them 24/7/365? What happens if you see someone only 23/7/365, and in that one hour the person feeds the cat instead of kicking it?
That said, the Jerks this year just kept marching in. And marching, and marching ...
This one goes to Kirk himself, who started a blog to keep track of award nominations, but fizzed out by summer. He'd like you to believe this was because there were too many Jerks to keep up with. But the truth is, he was a slug. His New Year's Resolution for 2008 is to blog better.
To Don Imus for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team 'nappy-headed hos,' to Al Sharpton for making a federal case out of something said by a guy nobody listens to, and to the spineless hacks who fired Imus for doing what they hired him to do (
, say stupid, offensive things).
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association seriously considered a ban on booing. Just wait, a proposal to ban cheering is sure to follow.
JERK HIS WHISTLE:
NBA ref Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to betting on games he officiated. Isn't that a flagrant foul?
BIG TEN NETJERK:
Conference commish Jim Delany got all his teams to pull their games off free local TV, packaged them for sale as part of a league network and then blamed the cable companies for not buying on his terms.
JERKS AND ROIDS:
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn ... The Mitchell Report implicated 86 current and former baseball players for allegedly using banned substances, mostly steroids or Human
Growth Hormone. But let's not forget the two biggest enablers of Baseball's Juice Era: players union boss Donald Fehr and Major League Baseball commish Bud Selig.
JERKS GONE WILD:
If it wasn't dogs, it was strippers. If it wasn't strippers, it was guns. Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson ... Anybody else up for some jail time?
First, USA women's soccer coach Greg Ryan benched unscored-upon goalie Hope Solo for the World Cup semifinals. Then, after USA got drilled 4-0 by Brazil, Solo pitched a hissy. Then Ryan got fired. And you thought the NBA had the spoiled-brat market cornered.
JERK ON THE PHONE:
Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, your three-way is waiting.
Former NBA player Cedric Maxwell, providing colorful commentary for Celtics broadcasts, had this to say about league ref Violet Palmer: 'Get back in the kitchen and fix me some bacon and eggs!'
JERK OF THE YEAR:
North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was disbarred for 'dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation' in his prosecution of Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape. Jerkdom doesn't get much worse than that.
Thankfully, one Kirk is worth a thousand Jerks.
KIRK'S BOISE BOYS:
They pulled out the hook-and-ladder and even the Statue of Liberty. The Boise State Broncos' 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was the most entertaining big football bowl game in years.
O, SAY CAN YOU KIRK?
'Stretching it beyond recognition is not my thing,' Piano Man Billy Joel said before singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. 'It's a difficult song to begin with, so why make it more difficult than it is?' Amen and amen.
KIRK'S SWEET CUBBIE:
From his discovery during spring training that 'this is no push-button operation,' to his bizarre muse about 'the seven fountains of Rome,' which don't exist, to his exhortation during the playoffs ('Relax, it's just a game'), Sweet Lou Piniella was a joy to behold in his first year as skipper of the Cubs.
One more salute to former Bradley basketballer J.J. Tauai, who for two seasons demonstrated why the best team captains are not always stars.
Native Peorian Jim Thome became the 23rd member of baseball's 500 Home Run Club, and native East Peorian Joe Girardi was named manager of the New York Yankees. How much more can we ask out of one year?
KIRK'S ROAD WARRIOR:
God bless Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo for bringing his nationally ranked Spartans here to play Bradley.
KIRK OFF THEIR BACKS:
Coach Pat Ryan and the Metamora football team finally got over the hump and won a state championship. That felt real good.
Call me stunned. The National Football League, the original Evil Empire of Pro Sports Greed, caved in to good sense and fan friendliness this week and decided to put the Patriots-Giants game on not just one, but two free, over-the-old-fashioned-airwaves TV networks, CBS and NBC. Previously, only subscribers to the league's money-grubbing NFL Network would have been able to see the Patriots' attempt to finish the regular season unbeaten. Commish Roger Goodell still ain't ready for sainthood, but at least he's no Scrooge.
KIRKS OF THE YEAR:
Coach Jim DeRose and the Bradley University soccer team. Unanimous decision. No other contenders. And if you don't know why, you wouldn't care anyway.
KIRK WESSLER is executive sports editor/columnist with the Journal Star. Contact him at email@example.com, or (309) 686-3216.