The nominees for the 2014 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year are a Murderers Row of talent. There's the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed pitcher who produced as dominant and memorable of a season as anyone out there. He'd be a near-lock out of the baseball realm if not for Madison Bumgarner, a 25-year old pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who picked up his third World Series ring by nearly singlehandedly winning the trophy.
Or maybe it should be Rory McIlroy. McIlroy was a flat out assassin this year on the golf course, making the sport a must-watch in the same sense it was during the peak of the Tiger Woods era.
Tim Howard is a good choice. His quiet, steely demeanor embodied everything about the new day of USA Soccer, and he became a household name thanks to his memorable World Cup run. If not for Howard, the United States wouldn't have survived the Group of Death, especially as he faced down some of the world's best athletes.
Russell Wilson and Serena Williams—they're good choices. Wilson changed the face of quarterbacking, stepping to the forefront over Colin Kaepernick by beating the 49ers head-to-head, then winning the Super Bowl. Serena's seemingly never gone away, defying all logic in a run of dominance that's made women's tennis something worth watching.
The LA Kings? Outside of their fair-weather, California fans, they were great last year, knocking off rivals San Jose and Anaheim before eliminating the Blackhawks. They won the Stanley Cup by dominating the world's best goalie (Henrik Lundqvist) and his New York Rangers.
Gregg Popovich restored some faith in the NBA by leading a selfless basketball team to a championship. Michael Sam might not have made it through training camp on an active roster, but he broke new ground by becoming the first openly gay athlete drafted by an NFL roster.
Pete Frates...was not nominted.
In 2014, no story took over a season quite like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Over 2.4 million videos circulated on social media, personalized through Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. It brought society together in ways we're simply not seeing in the winter; name something else where Bill Gates and Matt Ryan would be involved together, where Julian Edelman and Blades (the Boston Bruins mascot) would take part in the same thing as us. It went beyond the United States to Europe and beyond. It made us study what Lou Gehrig's Disease is, and it made heroes out of people formerly suffering in silence.
Arguably, no story in 2014 made as large of an impact as the Ice Bucket Challenge. Over $100 million reached the ALS Foundation in the United States, another $3 million reaching the ALS Therapy Development Institute. That happened despite only roughly 10% of participants actually donating. The criticism warranted over people participating just for the sake of participating wasn't unfounded, but at least it got people talking about a disease many knew nothing about before.
The Ice Bucket Challenge made Pete Frates a household name. ESPN, ABC News, and all the major news outlets jumped on the story, and conversations centered on Pete's ordeal. While we've been on the front lines, Boston College no longer stood alone in its initiatives to strike out ALS. It got more people involved, even if it they didn't donate, and it brought ALS out of the darkness and into the light as a real disease.
That Sports Illustrated doesn't even mention Pete in the same breath as those who made an impact on the sporting world this year is a travesty, and the magazine should be ashamed of itself. Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl, but to be honest, everyone will associate the Seattle Seahawks with their Legion of Boom defense. Gregg Popovich did masterful work as a head coach, but the San Antonio Spurs had a 15-year foundation with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and great front office work. What Pete did goes so far beyond the fabric of sports, but it started in athletics.
He's in the conversation for Time Magazine's Person of the Year. That he's not even in the discussion for the SI Sportsman of the Year is a travesty and a damn shame.