Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tiger Woods?!? The REAL Athletes of the Decade

E of S Nation: Have an Edge of Sport Christmas and support a good cause! Get any Dave Z book from the Teaching for Change website, and you support one of the most important non-profits working today. Teaching for Change strives to make sure that our children actually have access to our people’s history in the classroom.

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Enjoy this week’s article, which is in today’s NY Daily News

In struggle and sports,

Dave Z

Tiger Woods?!? The REAL Athletes of the Decade

By Dave Zirin

It feels almost liberating to say the words "Tiger Woods" and "outrage" in the same sentence, without referencing any of the sleaze of the past month. This particular outrage involves the Associated Press and their naming of Woods as "athlete of the decade."

Even worse is their top four - which includes, in order, cyclist Lance Armstrong, tennis player Roger Federer and swimmer Michael Phelps. This list is so bizarre, so male and so near-Caucasian, it seems to have been conjured by Glenn Beck.

But let's leave aside for a moment the country club pursuits and plethora of testicles defining the list. The fact that there is no soccer or basketball player immediately brands it a sham. And the thought that a golfer - any golfer - would be No. 1 is absurd. Golf is not a sport. It's a game. It's darts. It's billiards. It's the World Series of Poker with walking. I believe that anything that you can gain weight while performing, or anything you can do at a world-class level while smoking, just isn't a true athletic competition.

Otherwise the AP should've included people like the Great Takeru Kobayashi, who held the competitive hot dog eating record for six straight years. In 2001, he doubled the old mark, scarfing down 50 weenies in 12 minutes. Disgusting? Sure. But no more vile than the amount of acreage and water needed to maintain a golf course.

Even more obnoxious is the presence of Lance Armstrong and the absence of Barry Bonds in the top five. Armstrong won every Tour De France from 2000-2005. But it's been rumored that the man has done more illegal pharmaceuticals than Keith Richards. Bonds didn't receive a single vote despite becoming the all-time home run champion, and the first player to have 500 home runs and 500 steals. If an anabolic odor cost Bonds, it should cost Armstrong as well.

So who really deserves to be in the top five? Considering all mental and physical athletic variables, my No. 1 is soccer star Ronaldihno. By combining speed and an unholy stamina, the Brazilian has become the sport's consensus player of the decade. He has achieved this while representing a country where soccer ranks somewhere above oxygen.

My No. 2 two choice is Serena Williams. Serena has won 10 majors this decade, which is impressive enough. But she's also risen to the top as an African-American in the lily-white world of tennis, while also playing out from under the shadow of her sister Venus. And she rose to the top with a powerful and decidedly un-ladylike style that was as audacious as her infamous catsuit.

My third pick is Kobe Bryant. In addition to four championships, he may go down as the greatest scorer in the history of the sport not named Wilt Chamberlain. Consider Kobe's decade. In addition to four titles, he scored 81 points in a game, had four straight 50-point games, and nailed 62 points in three quarters against Dallas, outscoring their entire team.

Fourth on the list for me is Roger Federer. Federer's numbers overwhelm the senses. Fifteen Grand Slam titles, 22 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances, and 237 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1. Yes, the AP got that one right.

For No. 5, I go with Ray Lewis, middle linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens - one of the great players in league history, as well as the epitome of controlled adrenaline. He belongs on this list.

That's my top five. And to the AP: Thank you for offending us all with a Tiger Woods story that has nothing to do with his zipper.

Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at .

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