It was revealed last week that Taylor Swift was the TIME Magazine “Person of the year” for 2023. While she’s largely responsible for the happiness of millions from doing quite literally anything, the award isn’t necessarily bestowed as the “best” person, but rather the most impactful or memorable to encapsulate the year, for better or for worse. It’s a nice way to reflect. Other nominees on the shortlist this year included the Hollywood strikers, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and yes, even Barbie. It’s been everything from Adolf Hitler in 1938, inanimate objects when the computer won it in 1982, and even YOU (yes, it just said you won in 2006. Add that to your resume.).
The sports world often struggles with this facet in voting in things like the MVP races because oftentimes the winner is not what you take away from leaving in that snapshot of the sports timeline; sometimes the BEST performance to bookend the season is not what you take away from the season.
Taking that into account, let’s try and determine, for better or for worse, the “Person of the Year” in each of the four professional sports leagues.
NFL- Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs Tight End
Speaking of Taylor Swift, yes, her boyfriend has transcended superstardom realming beyond the mere sports world that even your mother, your grandmother, and elementary school girls know his name.
Before the phenomenon of the power couple, Kelce played a tight end position where the NFL social media accounts had to create and promote a “National Tight Ends’ Day” in order to show the gritty, often overlooked position some love for all that they actually do on the field. Fantasy football managers relentlessly complain at the dearth of producing tight ends in the league every year.
However, the gap between the second most-relevant or producing tight end with Kelce since appearing in 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls with Mahomes has been astounding, and this year was no less than that despite having a down 2023-24 production-wise. He started off the year winning another title over his own brother, Jason. Along with an Amazon Prime documentary, they’re now in commercials together and host a top 20 podcast in the world. Fantasy managers ahead of their draft picked Kelce in the first round because of the astronomical gap between he and the second best at the position, operating pretty much as a receiver with over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes’ security blanket. Now, he’s dating the person of the year and elementary school girls are wearing his jersey to school as his sales went up 400% and has a whole new kind of media attending Kansas City Chiefs’ games.
It was the year of Kelce in the largest corporation on the planet.
NBA- Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs Alien
7’4 209 pounds with an 8 foot wingspan at just 19 years old.
Those physical characteristics on paper were enough to catch the eye of any basketball scout regardless of if they’ve even touched a ball or not, but when they saw the clips of the French teenager carrying the ball up the
court with the prowess of a point guard, taking step-back threes like a guard, and blocking shots effortlessly from the perimeter, you get hailed like you’re the “best prospect since LeBron James” as Victor Wembanyama. You get ESPN broadcasting random French games nationally because everyone wants to see the unseen, every highlight looking like you created an unrealistic player on NBA2K. You get NBA teams doing a disturbing amount of tanking and intentionally losing towards the end of the season to have a shot at the most can’t-miss, team-changing entity.
It was the year of Victor Wembanyama, the first overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs who is in fact an alien. The Spurs lost 16 straight and won a grand total of 1 win in November with Victor, who is averaging 19/10/2 on 43% shooting, but the highlights you see of him even on a team as miserable as this one feels like teenage Spider-Man learning the capabilities of his powers, and we should all be terrified going forward.
NHL- Connor Bedard, Chicago Blackhawks Centre
Speaking of tanking for a can’t-miss prospect, it’s the golden age of young talent in sports, and the NHL had its own “best since McDavid” in Connor Bedard, the 18 year-old Canadian hailed as one of the best up-and-coming prospects of all-time coming off of winning the U18 Championships with Canada. It led to an absurd amount of losing during the season by the bottom-feeders of the league in 2023 to improve draft lottery position (aside from the Coyotes, who despite having no expectations and not even an arena to play in, looked surprisingly competent and played their way out of the Bedard sweepstakes) in order to acquire the playmaker with unbelievable speed that simply makes his teammates better in all facets.
The conspiracies were running rampant as the Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise in a big market acquired the boy wonder, but he’s someone you SHOULD want in a big market to bring all eyes, even those just seeing him make a highlight end-to-end finish, are now tuned into the hockey world.
It’s been a rocky start for Chicago to start the season on and off the ice, but Bedard’s play has been everything you could have wanted from him, leading the team in points, goals, and tied for assists with Seth Jones. It was the Bedard year.
MLB- Competition Committee
Sure, we’re coming off of the most insane baseball free agency sweepstakes in sports history with Shohei Ohtani signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 10-years and $700 million the day after he was all but a Canadian with fans tracking his flight, but, as we said, we’re not awarding it to the best. Ohtani was the AL MVP again and could theoretically be the Person of the Year and MVP every season because he transcends what we have ever seen. It was also a season of turmoil, with the Angels being the embarrassment that they were once again, Ohtani having to undergo Tommy John surgery, and the reality that we never got to see him traded to a postseason contender before inevitably landing where many of us thought he would end up last season.
The MLB Competition Committee may have changed the sport forever with the implementation of the new rules this year in a league that feels dominated by the oldheads, reluctant to change the game we played when wars were fought by our ancestors. The pitch clock and the pace of play was an adjustment, for better or for worse, for pitchers and hitters that led to free bases, change in routine, and what felt like a new sport. The fans witnessing the games were more locked in to their television screens knowing they could not turn away before the next pitch was thrown and watched more games with the now less-grueling four-hour runtime; those that were at the game did not want to pee or get any concessions for fear of missing any action.
Along with that, the ban of the shift and the larger bases brought a whole new stylistic advantage to the games; we just saw the Arizona Diamondbacks make the World Series due to their base-running and stealing capability, Luis Arraez threaten a .400 batting average for a large portion of the year, and Ronald Acuna Jr. win an MVP with the first-ever 40 homer 70 stolen base season.
The rule changes implemented by the committee left an imprint that will be felt for a long time; while they may be tweaked, it was the year that altered the sport in a way we did not see coming.