Sports Illustrated Player’s Poll: Bully or Advocate of Athletes?

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IFebruary 6, 2009

The player's poll in Sport Illustrated magazine is usually a fun little tidbit to check out.

The poll surveys pro athletes about certain topics.  For example, a couple of weeks ago the question asked of a panel of NBA players was: Who is the best pure shooter you’ve ever seen?  The winner was Ray Allen.

This week, the editor's page the poll appeared on made a mistake about the question he allowed to be published.  The question was: Who thinks he’s better than he is?

Why, of all the things to ask a pro athlete, do you publish a poll that basically humiliates the player who wins? 

SI has asked MLB players who the fastest players are, NBA players who the best pure shooter in the game is, NFL players which stadium has the best field, and NHL players who the best skater is. 

These are questions that produce good, constructive answers and single-out top players in terms of what they are best at.  There’s no problem with that. 

The questions to avoid are the ones that, as cheesy as this will sound, tear players down, like some huge kid who bullies his classmates just because he can.  Questions like, “Who is the slowest player in the MLB?” or “Who is the worst free throw shooter in the NBA?” or “Who is the most uncoordinated skater in the NHL?”

Despite the fact that they’re pro athletes who aren’t supposed to listen to what the media say, no one can cut himself off from all forms of non-constructive criticism.  An athlete who is being criticized for the worst part of his game will likely take some offense at criticism, no matter how much they try to deny that the flak they catch from the media doesn't bother them.

With all the pressure athletes face from fans, they don’t need the media honing in on the worst part of their game and making a mockery out of it because they don’t have anything better to cover.

There’s just no need to single players out for their weaknesses.  That’s what tabloids are for, not the best sports magazine in the country.