This award transcends athletic prowess

I cannot stop smiling when I think of this news item.

J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve have been named Sports Illustrated’s co-Sportspersons of the Year.

Why does this bring a broad smile to my face?

For starters, Watt — a standout All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans — hasn’t played a lot of football this calendar year; he has been injured. He did, however, step up in a big way to help Houston’s beleaguered residents recover from the battering delivered by Hurricane Harvey this past summer.

Watt helped raise more than $37 million for hurricane relief. He became the voice and the face of Houston’s still ongoing battle to rebuild after being inundated by record-breaking rainfall that Harvey brought with it.

And then there’s Jose Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2017. He had a stellar season for the World Series champions. However, SI decide to honor both young men because Altuve, too, embodied the “Houston Strong” motto that has helped fuel the city’s recovery from Harvey’s wrath.

As the Associated Press reported: “I think the World Series gave the people a big smile and hope during the tough time they were getting through,” he said. “And I feel really happy that we did it because they really deserved it.”

For those of us who have grieved along with the Texas Gulf Coast residents affected by nature’s intense power, this award sends a heartfelt message that professional athletes — who often receive their share of criticism for their off-the-field antics — are quite capable of exhibiting heart and compassion to those who are struggling.

Indeed, many professional athletes have done much to lend their high profiles to worthy and noble efforts. This award should be seen as a statement of thanks for all the good work that these men and women do when most of aren’t looking.

Sports Illustrated chose well.

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