Derek Jeter is Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Derek Jeter is Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year

Shortstop is first Yankee to take the honor



    Derek Jeter is Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year
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    Derek Jeter is SI's Sportsman of the Year.

    They called Derek Jeter "Mr. November" for a home run he hit in the 2001 World Series, but he's truly earned the title in 2009.

    He won his fifth World Series ring with a strong performance against the Phillies, took a Caribbean vacation with his lovely girlfriend Minka Kelly and wrapped it all up by being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year on Monday -- the first Yankee ever to receive the honor.

    And, if you were wondering, there's no chance that his turkey was the least bit dry last Thursday.

    Debating the relative merits of Jeter's spot as Sportsman of the Year is a foolish exercise. There wasn't an overwhelmingly obvious choice this year -- see Michael Phelps in 2008 -- nor was there a particularly significant event that overshadowed the rest of the sports year, see the U.S. Hockey Team in 1980.

    You could make a case for other athletes -- Sidney Crosby, Manny Pacquiao and Tim Tebow come to mind -- but Jeter's choice is right in line with the magazine's habit of mixing athletic brilliance with off-field charitable work when it comes to making their selections.

    "Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class," said SI editor Terry McDonnell. "He does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he's extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field."

    You wonder if his squeaky clean record when it comes to steroids came into play at all when the editors were discussing the choice. Jeter had a terrific season, with his improved fielding giving extra shine to his typically fine offensive skills. He also played very well in the postseason, with a couple of plays in the field that were manna to those who believe he's simply a smarter player than anyone else. The drug angle can't be totally ignored, though.

    SI was the magazine that put Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa on the cover as a pair of Greek gods when they gave them the award in 1998, a pretty good touchstone for the media's role in both ignoring and, some might say, promoting the rise of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Celebrating Jeter gives them a chance to do something about baseball that has nothing to do with steroids, which can't bother them too much in a year with A-Rod, Manny and Big Papi joining the ranks of the tainted.

    That could also be said of Albert Pujols, of course, and all he did was continue his assault on every offensive record in the game. Jeter's a terribly marketable personality on one of the most prominent teams in the country, however, and that'll tip any scale in the publishing business. Jeter's a strong choice and it's a nice feather in his already bursting cap.

    Now if he could just sit down and focus on getting us out of this mess in Afghanistan, we could find a way to get him the Nobel Peace Prize that he has coming to him. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for