FANtastic: My Sports Person of the Year
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The mythical ballot for 2013 Sports Person of the Year was full of worthy candidates.
Peyton Manning, LeBron James, David Ortiz and Jimmie Johnson were prominent among them.
But my guy is That Guy.
As in, "Check out That Guy sitting up there in Section 427 of Soldier Field."
Whether anyone acknowledges it, certain fans long ago passed most athletes as the real legends of sports.
One day That Guy joined that group with a great performance featuring no running, jumping or throwing. Actually it was great because he hardly moved.
Some would think That Guy was absolutely insane. I thought so, too, but also found him absolutely fascinating.
The day was Sunday, Nov. 17. The occasion was the Bears-Ravens game.
Remember? Chicago weather reared its violent head with Baltimore leading 10-0 in the first quarter.
Heavy rain. Hawkish wind. Tornado watch. Fears of lightning. Overall frightening conditions.
Play was suspended. Players from both teams retreated to their locker rooms. Fans filed from their seats onto the concourses under the stands.
Finally, after nearly two hours, the threat passed and fans that stuck it out returned to their seats.
Conditions, windy and wet, still weren't ideal and hardly anyone remained in Section 427. The sane had retreated to either a big-screen TV at home or walls of them in sports bars.
Yet, That Guy returned to the highest southwest corner of Soldier Field, the last seat up in the upper deck, nobody near him.
All sorts of better seats closer to the action were available in that mostly vacated section and other sections as well.
But no, That Guy stayed up there in that seat in that section, with no protection from the elements except for his hoodie.
The wind still blew hard enough to knock over a good-sized gentleman walking five rows beneath the press box. He also was a candidate for Sports Person of the Year. So was the woman who tried to stop the blood gushing from her nose that had crashed against the back of a seat.
However, I'm sticking with That Guy as my award winner.
While the game proceeded toward a dramatic Bears victory, I kept looking up and wondering who That Guy was, how old he was, where he came from, what possessed him to do what he was doing, who would catch him if the wind swept him over the top of the stadium.
I considered climbing up there for answers — but I'm stupid, not crazy.
The Bears and Ravens were paid handsomely to put up with the day's inconveniences. Unless That Guy's ticket was an early Christmas gift, he paid to be soaked.
The more I looked up there, the more it struck me that That Guy represented what it means to be a faithful follower of Chicago sports.
He was a Bears fan enduring the weather in Soldier Field. He was a Cubs fan looking for inexpensive parking near Wrigley Field. He was a White Sox fan dealing with the commute to Comiskey Park. He was a Bulls fan and/or Blackhawks fan donating mortgage money for a single-game ticket.
Then athletes have the audacity to charge these same people for their autographs at card shows.
Why fans put up with all this is incomprehensible, but bless them if you enjoy professional sports because without their patronage there wouldn't be any.
That Guy up there at the top of Section 427 of Soldier Field — along with others like him at other venues — too often is taken for granted. Not in this space they aren't.
For representing all these wacky die-hards, That Guy is my 2013 Sports Person of the Year.
Congratulations to him, and Happy New Year to all.
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