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An early Lou Marsh vote that’s a bit outside the box


The great minds and Tall Foreheads of Canadian sports journalism will gather tomorrow to determine the winner of the Lou Marsh Award as the country’s 2016 athlete of the year.

It’s not an event I’ve been invited to, which is totally understandable and entirely fine with me; I can only imagine the difficulty the panel has each year trying to figure out who might be deserving of what is generally considered the year-end honour in Canada.

But just because I’m not in the room doesn’t mean I don’t have ideas and, for what’s it worth …

I am of the opinion, and always have been, that an Athlete Of The Year needs to be about more than just winning.

Something of that magnitude – and it is important in many ways — needs to encompass such things as being inspirational, to include a level of over-achievement, to embody much more than medals or a title.

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It’s hard to explain, I’ll go back to Potter Stewart and just say, paraphrasing, that I don’t know what an athlete of the year is but I know when I see one.

This time around, there are all kinds of worthy contenders, which is not surprising given that it was an Olympic year and that always adds to the list of candidates, rightfully so.

Penny Oleksiak, Andre De Grasse, Rosie MacLennan, Erica Wiebe all vaulted into our consciousness in Rio at the Games and, thanks to the timing of their exploits and medals they will get consideration. They performed their best when everything was on the line and that has to be a huge part of anyone winning such an honour as the Lou Marsh.

There are others, as well. Damian laid them out in this piece on the weekend and I know a case can be made for everybody he mentioned.

But if I was in the room and part of the discussion, there’s one name I’d throw out and would then hope to hear it echoed by others.

Evan Dunfee.

Remember him? I hope so.

He was the Rio Olympics racewalker caught up in one of the great controversies of the Games (Kerry’s day-of story spells it out quite clearly) who caught our imagination and attention like few others.

The way he handled it – refusing to go through a futile appeals process because he knew what was right (read the statement he gave late that day) – and his pride he showed for what he’d done was enough to satisfy him.

He did everything the right way after racing the race of his life and I know there were no medals but is that truly always the most important thing?

If what he did and how he handled a difficult situation doesn’t represent what we want in our athletes, I don’t know what does and it should be held up as an example and heralded.

I know he didn’t win, per se, but, you know what? He did win. He pressed himself as far as he could go, he competed honourably and with integrity and was proud of how he comported himself.

I remember sitting at a media availability with him the day after his race and coming away incredibly impressed with him; he was proud of what he was and what he’d done and hoped that Canada would be as well.

I think it would be an upset of epic proportions if he were to win the Lou Marsh and whomever the panel picks will undoubtedly be worthy.

But for the total package – determination, skill, an example to be set for others, bringing pride to himself and his sport – Dunfee would be my choice.

Okay, less than two weeks to Christmas – I should start thinking about gifts for all the loved ones, right? – so we may as well get in the festive spirit, even if it takes being dragged screaming and kicking there.

You know that She Who Supports Arsenal and I will be all over the MLS Cup and what happened when we tape I’ll Have Another today.

Until then, let this be said:

Penalty kicks remain a truly horrid way to determine a championship, it’s a capricious way to end a game, it doesn’t mean the winner is the best team on the day.

I know it’s never going to change and that sucks.

I figure we’ll eventually do a poll, likely off today’s show, that asks which of these ways is best:

Play 15-minute halves with a Golden Goal rule and allow teams an extra substitution for each half.

Play 15-minute halves with a Golden Gold rule and force teams to take one player off the pitch after each extra period.

I’d go with the former because the latter is also a bastardization of the game but I could support each because I think something other than the basic luck of penalties should determine the outcome.

Pretty quiet on the Raptors front yesterday because everyone was getting ready for a rather elaborate Christmas party, it seemed.

But there was this and I got enough ahead that another four-game week should be manageable.

Speaking of I’ll Have Another, bet we can still sneak in some Listener Mail for this morning ‘cause it’s going to take forever to drive downtown in this weather since people forget how to drive from one winter to the next.

So get ahold of us somehow – if you tweeter Number Sign IHAPodcast someone will find it – and we’ll see what we can do.

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS | DOUG_SMITHS_SPORTS_BLOG

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