Brewers Grace Cover of Sports Illustrated for First Time Since 1987

It’s tough to believe it has been almost 25 years since a member of the Milwaukee Brewers was featured exclusively on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Actually, no it’s not.  The Brewers have not been very good in recent history.  Since 1987, they have had only five winning seasons.  They made the playoffs once during that span — in 2008 — and won only one game.  Simply put, there hasn’t been much to talk about in Milwaukee since the 1980s.

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Sports Illustrated Places High School Sophomore Baseball Player on Cover

I had some reluctance in even doing this post because I fear that I’m playing right into Sports Illustrated’s hands by mentioning their cover this week — the more buzz about the issue, the more people will want to buy it and purchase or renew subscriptions, the more it reinforces poor behavior by SI. Let it be known however, that I talked about their cover when Zach Johnson got the snub in favor of Tiger Woods following the Masters, and I talked about it recently when Royals pitcher Zack Greinke made the cover. To get back to it, SI decided to place a 16-year-old high school sophomore baseball player you nor I have ever even heard of on the cover of its storied magazine. The athlete prodigy to whom he’s compared in the article is LeBron James. I’m not sure exactly what SI’s trying to accomplish here — to prove to people that they were “first” in on the kid when the guy strikes it big, or to just start dumping all the hype and corresponding pressure on him so that they’re the first to ruin him?

I’ll admit that I went to go read the story because there was an element of shock to it, almost like hearing that a golf magazine put a noose on the cover or something. What’s so damn special about a kid who might not even be able to drive, considering he’s in a sport where most players need years of development in the professional ranks to blossom and that he’s so far away from the top level. There are two points I’d like to make here. The first is that I’ll read the magazine and talk about it anytime they have a good article — it can be something simple on a player like Albert Pujols who has earned the spotlight; I don’t want them to feel as if they need to “shock us” in order to get extra eyeballs. Secondly, I think it’s downright despicable that they’re using their powerful platform to promote and hype up some 16-year-old kid who could wind up discovering weed and booze by July, or worse yet, cocaine, crack, and tats. I’m sick of the A-Rods and Josh Hamiltons who couldn’t handle all the pressure and became either extreme unlikable or pissed everything away. If this guy really is that much of a prodigy, then I don’t appreciate respected outlets like SI ruining him at such a young age. At least let him win a Rookie of the Year award before you start singing his praises. How is it the that kid gets a cover while Jorge Posada wins four World Series rings, hits about 25 bombs and drives in around 90 runs a year for a solid decade, and never makes it into the front page? Something about that just isn’t right.

Oh yeah, and I can’t let this kid’s family get away without criticism. They’re equally responsible as SI for allowing this to happen — all they have to do is say “no” and the story doesn’t come out. Maybe they’re blinded by the fame, the luster, the hype, the buzz, and the money that can come with being on the cover of a magazine. It’s unfortunate because they’ve already lost sight of what’s most important for their son in the long run.

Sports Illustrated Snubs Zach Johnson

Obviously I read Sports Illustrated. Obviously Sports Illustrated bears a load of significance in the sports world. Obviously what appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a reflection of the particular time in sports. Obviously I am upset over what was on the cover of this week’s issue. Obviously it was a conscious decision to usurp Zach Johnson and his accomplishment of winning a major, with the failings of Tiger Woods. And that disappoints me.

It’s not that I’m a golf fan; I cannot properly describe the context of Zach Johnson’s victory. I don’t know whether or not to liken his win to George Mason making the Final Four, or the 83-78 Cardinals winning the World Series. I cannot tell you that. But what I do know is that he won The Masters. Yes, you can try to sportadox the tournament — did Tiger Woods choke it away (which is the angle SI is taking), or did Zach Johnson steal it away (which is playing a secondary role in all of this). To me that doesn’t change the overarching story, that Zach Johnson earned his day in the sun.

The Des Moines Register took issue with the cover as well, considering Johnson is a native Iowan. Here were Johnson’s comments in response

“Does that surprise me?” Masters champion and Iowa native Zach Johnson said today. “Absolutely not. That’s probably a good thing.”

“That’s fine. I’m happy he’s on there,” said Johnson, who plays in the first round of PGA Tour’s Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C., on Thursday.

Johnson may not be making a stink about it, but deep down it has to hurt. Yes, Tiger failing to win will most likely have greater historical significance in the big picture. Does his fall now change the outlook for his opponents on Sunday? Did Tiger lose his stripes? Is it no longer a given that Tiger will wrap up a major he’s leading in the final round? Yes, these are all more important issues in the context of golf’s future. But still, I believe the cover should be a reward for the accomplishments of a player, not his failings. Let me ask you this, if Peyton choked in the Super Bowl, would it have been Rex Grossman on the cover, or Peyton Manning? That’s what I thought.

Sports Illustrated consciously erred in this case, and I hope they make up for it.  Zach Johnson deserves it.