Man of the Year: Big-Money Sports and Community Service in Trump’s America (working title). (Updated 1/29/17 to reflect communication with Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office.)
The night before the Super Bowl, here in Houston the NFL will hold its annual Honors ceremony downtown in the Wortham Center. One of the awards is for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, for the football player who most contributed to community service. The finalists are Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Eli Manning of the New York Giants, and Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. Fitzgerald’s extensive community service includes supporting breast-cancer awareness and prevention programs, providing vision care and hearing aids to people around the world, and promoting technology access for school children. Manning’s community service focuses especially on programs helping families with children battling cancer. Olsen contributes extensively to programs related to cancer and congenital heart disease. Their combined fundraising and charitable giving amounts to millions of dollars each year. One of them will be named NFL Man of the Year, and will be given another half-million dollars to contribute to a charity of his choice.
That same night, in southwest Houston hotels near NRG Stadium, players and coaches of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will hold meetings and then try to get some sleep before their upcoming endless day of waiting for the 5:30 p.m. CT kickoff of Super Bowl LI. Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots (on injured reserve) and Matt Ryan of the Falcons were their teams’ nominees for the Man of the Year award.
Another group of men and women will be hoping to get some restful sleep that Saturday night, February 4, 2017. They may be bedding down under the 59 overpass in downtown Houston, just across the street from major-league baseball stadium Minute Maid Park, and according to the Mayor’s Office, they will not be moved or disturbed unnecessarily by the big circus that comes to town with the NFL’s summit event. They are Houston’s homeless, and they share the neighborhood of their soup kitchens and missions and outreach agencies with the homes of the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. According to the long-range forecast, they won’t have to worry too much about dying from hypothermia, since the overnight low will probably only be in the high 50’s. They will just have to worry about dying from “natural causes,” or maybe being killed in random violence.
According to Time magazine’s 2016 award, the reigning Man of the Year is President Donald Trump. How will his “pro-business” administration impact the business of community service and charitable giving by the big-league sports franchises and athletes?
Why has community service grown to be such a big part of the culture of big-league sports? How much good do these charitable programs do for the needy? What can we, as fans, do to follow our teams’ lead in community service? Questions like this will drive the inquiry of this new work of non-fiction.