Earlier this month, when the SportsBusiness Journal decided to name Donald Trump as its “Most Influential Person in Sports Business” this year, executive editor Abe Madkour wrote:
“This isn’t the choice we wanted to make. But when pressed to decide who had the greatest influence … positive or negative … for his angry, loud and visceral rhetoric that has divided the sports industry and caused massive reaction, response and reflection,” Trump checked all the boxes for them.
It pained Madkour and the SBJ that in a year when stories of what J.J. Watt, Chris Long, and Doug Baldwin did “represented the biggest influencers of 2017, examples of influence that bring us together rather than pushing us apart,” it was unfortunate “we can’t in good conscience” overlook Trump’s train-wreck-type impact.
That’s about the best explanation we can borrow in trying to justify the Ball family choice made for our 2017 Sports Person(s) of the Year.
Cases could be made for Rams coach Sean McVay, running back Todd Gurley, quarterback Jared Goff or GM Les Snead, reflective of the team’s turnaround. USC blind long snapper Jake Olson (Huntington Beach/Orange Lutheran HS) and his inspirational story. Dodgers third baseman and Lakewood native Justin Turner, relief ace Kenley Jansen or rookie teammate Cody Bellinger for their Fall Classic run. Summer Olympics negotiator and L.A. native Casey Wasserman, for what he brought, or retiring Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, for what he left us.
They all brought the goods.
But the Ball family had the goods, bads and the uglies. It was a 21st Century version of Fred MacMurray and “My Three Sons,” without network censors.
We hope we justified the choice with more at this link ...
Yes, we got email from readers about this choice. Here are some of your responses (names withheld) sent directly to me, with my thoughts:
== “Needless to say I don’t need to waste many words in that I’m sure you will be inundated with responses to your embarrassing article featuring the Ball Family. While I have many obvious points to make it is the fact as a father of young athletes myself their circus act sets a horrible example. You should be embarrassed for promoting it!”
If you don’t promote the story, no one reads it. If you didn’t read it, you’d not have been inclined to respond. Thanks for responding and adding to the dialogue.
== “You must be kidding to make these guys sports persons of the year. Absolutely a joke. If I could get the Orange County Register I would drop you guys like a hot potato.”
Please, no physical harm. We didn’t intend to harm you.
== “This is why I’m just about giving up on Sports. I’m sick and tired of hearing sports writers praise a—whole people. And people like you just keep giving all of our (sic) more and more publicity.”
We don’t think we were praising anyone here, just pointing out all the news they made.
== “I find this totally appalling.”
We’re not all that pleased with the selection either, but it is what it is.
== “Sports Persons of the Year? Give me a break. LaVar Ball deserves Jackass of the Year, but that’s about it. I really don’t understand the obsession of the press with the Balls, especially LaVar. I guess you will do anything to sell papers. LaVar is nothing but an obnoxious, self-serving, loudmouth, publicity hound exploiting his children for personal gain. My life would be immeasurably improved if I never heard or saw another word about the Balls.”
Truth is, the Balls made the news, we just reported on it.
== “I have been a long time subscriber of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin but after reviewing the article on the Sports Persons of the Year I’m contemplating canceling my subscription. I’m appalled at the recognition given to a person representing our country and local community to boldly steal items in another country. They should have paid the price for their actions but were released possibly from the assistance of our government officials. Unfortunately some members of the family didn’t appreciate efforts to have them released.
“Then there is the issue of taking a 16 year old out of high school for “Home Schooling.” I’m just questioning where the checks and balances come into play for this child’s education. Was this action in the child’s best interest?
“So you recognize this group for “Sports Persons of the Year.” What kind of example are you setting for our children? It’s OK to steal and drop out of high school? You put this group in the same category as past recipients such as last year’s winner Vince Scully? Unconscionable.
“You have disgraced this award and I hope that some of the past recipients return their awards in denouncing your actions.”
You bring up many points that what we brought up as well — they questioned our values and believes in what is right and what isn’t. Have they hurt anyone along this way? Sometimes, they make a lot of noise that isn’t pleasant to hear. If you look at the past recipients, there are a few in there who aren’t really ‘winners.’ It’s how the thing is framed.
== “Giving any publicity at all to that unethical egomaniac LaVar Ball just shows how far we have fallen as a country. God help us all!”
== “Great pick for your “Sports Persons Of The Year”. You and the rest of the decision makers at OC Register Sports are morons. Merry Christmas!”
== “I can hardly keep my lox and eggs breakfast down after reading your story on the selection of the so-called “Sports Persons of the Year.” So something called the Southern California News Group decides to ignore several legitimate candidates (Andrew Friedman comes immediately to mind) in favor of a basketball family headed up by a loud-mouthed Little League Dad who is best known for his obnoxious self-promotion? This is the same guy who basically defended his second oldest son, who, while a guest in China and a representative of UCLA and the NCAA, decided along with a couple of other players, to go on a shopping spree of the five-fingered discount variety, resulting in embarrassing the school, the NCAA, the country and himself. Of his three sons, only one has legitimate professional-legal talent, and he is one you have heard little from. Since this News Group has become involved with this fish wrap of a publication, the paper and this Sports section has gone steadily downhill. This, however, is too much. It is a sad symptom of the Kardashian/Trump society we now live in, and the paper, and anyone who tries to defend this move (that would be you), should be absolutely embarrassed. Shame on you.”
We agree. It is a bit sad. But all we are trying to do it point it out.
== “Not saying you’re wrong, but how sad it is that you might be right. LaVar has marginalized his children while seeking attention. And yet, we paid attention.”
== A great pick, but not worthy. Anyone whose father is so controversial, and who says he wants to be the Afro-American version of the Kardashians, is just a crass opportunist IMO.”
== “For Southern California? Sure, a great choice. I guess McVay, Spanos and Candace Parker were possibilities, but Ball DOMINATED headlines.”
Finally, someone who gets it.