If your memories of 1997 are neither warm nor fuzzy, blame it on sports, which were seldom warm and rarely fuzzy in the last 12 months. Ninety-seven was a bear. Ninety-seven had no hair.* Fuzzy Zoeller wasn't Fuzzy, was he? So rather than choose a favorite Moment of the Year, as other SI writers have done in the following pages, I have selected a Letter of the Year. Is that cheating—picking a unit of type, not a unit of time? I think not. In sports one small letter can make all the difference. Ask Johnnie Cochran: He defended O.J. but offendd P.J.
Of all the letters from A to Z (AZ being the postal abbreviation for Arizona, which won the ICAA basketball title), one clearly emerged as the inner in 1997. It was not L. L almost got the W. L had one 'elluva year, what with all the L's in Latrell Sprewell and Ernie Els's winning the U.S. Open and El Ni�o's elevating sales of L.L. Bean outerwear.
But in the end 1997 belonged to E. E for E-4 (as Tony Fernandez will attest). Or E-vander. Without is, you can't get to F (which the Florida Marlins wore on their caps) or G (which the Green Bay Packers wore on their helmets). Ninety-seven gave us some remarkable champions, and '98 will have some size 15EEE shoes to fill.
Indeed, the best E of the year was one that never even appeared. After Holyfield retained his heavyweight boxing title in June, this magazine ran a story on the bout's referee, Nevada judge Mills Lane. The headline read THE ULTIMATE ARBITER. Now put an E in front of arbiter. You have the headline for our next Mike Tyson story.