Top 10 Sports Personalities of the Year
1. Mark McGwire
Sure he's a 6'5", 250 pounds, and built like a California redwood. But when McGwire reached that imaginary line he set for himself of 50 home runs going into September, we started to see him as less as a professional athlete and more of a human being. Never once could he believe this was happening to him. He made all of us want to work harder, be humbler, and make better role models. His .757 slugging percentage was the best in baseball's modern era, and his 70 home runs can be attributed to years of hard work despite painful back injuries… not to mention the quickest, most compact swing in baseball. Everybody knew his name, everybody listened to what he had to say, and nobody will ever forget what he did.
2. Sammy Sosa
Didn't it seem like he loved going to work this summer? Sosa played the hero for one of baseball's most tragic teams. An undisciplined batter a few years ago, the Cubs right fielder was patient and smart in 1998, drawing 73 walks and tallying a .377 on-base percentage. A product of hard work, Sosa seemed to take time and reap the benefits this summer. His relaxed, confident, care-free relationship with the media rubbed off on McGwire, who always handled the press better with Sosa around. Sosa's 20 home runs in June were amazing. He did so much for baseball and its fans by just being himself.
3. Lindsay Davenport
America's new first lady of tennis surprised the world in early September when she won the first Grand Slam final she'd ever been to. She didn't lose a set in seven rounds of U.S. Open play, proving to the rest of the world that though she may not be as heralded as some of the other young stars, the road to the number one ranking goes through her. She has lost 30 pounds in the last year, but at 6'2½" she remains a powerful, intimidating player who will be playing in many more grand slam finals in the future.
4. Marion Jones
Even though this powerful sprint champion is just 23 years old, she is already being mentioned with names like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Wilma Rudolph. Talk about pressure. Jones stormed on to the racing scene in 1998, and is quickly becoming the world's best female athlete. Blessed with natural talent, Jones has worked hard to make the transformation from a college basketball player to sprinter — a move some thought could never evoke her immense high school potential. She is ranked number one in the world in the 100-meter run, 200-meter run, and the long jump. She has not been challenged by any other athlete this year, and may not be for quite a while. Make room in the record books for this MJ.
5. John Elway
When the 15-year NFL veteran held the Vince Lombardi trophy above his head 31 days into 1998, things were good. Football fans and media could smile at Elway, knowing that their decision was easy now: he is going to the Hall of Fame. It would have been difficult to keep him out, but a decision to label him "great" without a Super Bowl championship to his name would have been debatable. In San Diego, however, Elway finally erased three world-watched failures and could once and for all say that he won the Big Game. His determination and ability to forget failures and succeed in 1998 shouldn't be forgotten.