Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How Will We Award the New York Athlete Championship Belt?

Last year, I retroactively handed out the New York Athlete Championship Belt for every year since 1921. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of that series.

Since there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut, runaway winner for 2015, I figured I'd put it up to a vote before I wrote about my selection. The 10 nominees are Henrik Lundqvist, John Tavares, Kristaps Porzingis, Yoenis Cespedes, Daniel Murphy, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Odell Beckham, Alex Rodriguez, and Dellin Betances.

You can vote on the right side of the page. Sorry to Sasha Vujacic and Stephen Drew, who both just missed the cut for my nominations.

In case you need some guidance, here are the criteria I came up with last year:
  • The most important New York athlete is usually easy to spot. The Belt is held by each superstar for as long as he dominates the sports conversation in the city. That almost always entails at least one memorable season that garners a great deal of media attention.
  • It takes true dominance to steal the belt away. This point should go without saying, but it's extremely important. It takes a lot to knock the top guy off his perch. The most recent season matters the most, but it isn't necessarily enough to change the titleholder. So even if Joe DiMaggio didn't have his best season in '47, he retained the Belt because no other player dominated enough to rise to the top that year.
  • Cultural relevance matters. The title of "most dominant athlete" goes beyond the playing field. Cultural icons (Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath) should expect to fare very well. A great nickname or pop culture crossover appeal certainly helps.
  • We'll start in the 1920s. Since we're mostly confining this list to pro sports, we'll skip over the early part of the 20th century, when boxing and horse racing dominated the American consciousness. However, even using the '20s as an arbitrary starting point, we should be prepared to see a bunch of baseball players as the earliest Belt-holders.
  • Subjectivity = Fun. I realize that this list is incredibly arbitrary, and that's by design. I will factor subjective measures like "coolness" into my decisions, so feel free to hit me over the head with a beer bottle if you disagree with me. Now that we got that disclaimer out of the way, let's track the history of the New York Athlete Championship Belt!
Check back at the end of December for my pick for the 2015 Belt-winner!

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