Unsurprisingly, Michael Phelps is SI's Sportsman of the Year. He should be everyone's Sportsman of the Year. He is arguably Sportsman of the Decade and, if you believed me back during the Games, he is the Greatest. Sportsman. Ever.
But he is NOT the DanShanoff.com Sportsman of the Year.
The DanShanoff.com Sportsman of the Year is Barack Obama.
Much as he will be named regular ol' "Person of the Year" in a consensus probably not seen in the history of "Person of the Year" award-giving, he similarly deserves Sportsman of the Year.
Here is the case for Barack Obama as Sportsman of the Year:
*Single-handedly re-drew the sports-cultural map, with basketball -- certainly pick-up basketball -- back in its center, thanks to the gravity of the man's passion for the game.
*Successfully used basketball as a centerpiece of his campaign, from the fields of Indiana to the UNC practice court in Chapel Hill to military-base gyms around the world.
*Inspired amazing T-shirts like this and this and this. (And video mixtapes like this.)
*Laid out a brilliant anti-fairweather summation of his fandom for the White Sox over the Cubs.
*Used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to lobby for... a college football playoff.
Mostly, Barack Obama is as close to a sports fan like you or me as has ever been in the White House.
He plays pick-up hoops. He watches SportsCenter. He has a strong opinion on a college football playoff. When asked, he answers questions about sports in the same way you or I would.
In short, Obama cares about sports like a fan cares about sports, and to that point, the strongest reason for his selection as Sportsman of the Year:
Obama became the ultimate representation of the fan ascending to the top of the power structure in sports, a moment that has been building for the past decade.
That's why Barack Obama is my pick for 2008 Sportsman of the Year.
For your Comments: Who is YOUR Sportsman of the Year? And, if you think Phelps is the overwhelming choice, who would be your runner-up?
UPDATE: And it appears that SI's Seth Davis beat me to it. Kudos on an inspired choice, Seth. (Although a bit ironic, given that Seth's father, Lanny Davis, was Hillary Clinton's designated on-air hatchet man against Obama during the primaries -- and even beyond into the general. You can't spell "Oedipal" or "Obama" without "O," I guess.)