Wouldn't you like to give yourself a Hickey? Of course you would.
But you can't. Because only Fred Hickman can hand out a Hickey,
the one trophy that honors near greatness--semiexcellence,
demieminence--in every area of human endeavor.
Last month 121 men and women who cover the NBA voted for the
league MVP. One hundred twenty of them did the obvious and cast
their ballots for Shaquille O'Neal. One of them--CNN/SI anchor
Hickman--had the courage to dissent and thus prevented the Lakers
center from becoming the first unanimous MVP in league history.
"You take Shaq away from the Lakers, and you still get a great
team," reasoned Hickman, who voted instead for Philadelphia guard
Allen Iverson. "You take Iverson away from the 76ers, and they're
Granted, this logic contains more fuzz than Jerry Ball's navel.
(Take John Lennon away from the Beatles, and would you still have
a great band? No, you'd have Paul McCartney & Wings.)
Nevertheless, Hickman has hit on something profound: Americans
would have greater self-esteem if we rewarded the achievement of
mediocrity more often--and not only (as we do now) during
presidential elections, wild-card playoffs and the Grammys. You
filled out your census form? Here's a Congressional Medal of
O'Neal merely made a good team great this season. (The Lakers
tied for the sixth-best record in league history.) Iverson made a
bad team adequate. (The Sixers had the third-best record in the
Atlantic Division.) While we can't give the Answer the MVP that
such adequacy might mandate, we can still right this wrong and
give him a more meaningful trophy: We can give that man a Hickey.
Live! From the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles! It's the First
Annual Hickey Awards! Celebrating the not-quite-great! The
sub-first-rate! And starring...the Buffalo Bills! Bill Buckner!
Deane Beman! LeRoy Neiman! Greg Norman! Fab Morvan! Fabio! Foge
Fazio! Fritz Mondale! Fuzzy Zoeller! Uri Geller! Teller, of Penn
& Teller! Hootie! The cast of Rudy! All of them asking the same
question tonight: Who will go home with a Hickey?
Will it be....
--John C. Breckinridge? The Southern Democrat ran for President
in 1860 against the wealthy Republican, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln
didn't just have money, he's on money! The GOP machine could
have financed an empty stovepipe hat all the way to the Oval
Office. (If you ask me, it did!) Whereas Breckinridge had all
the skills to put the South on the map. (Is it his fault that
the South wanted off the map?) So we give a Hickey
to...Breckinridge, without whom the South would have really,
really lost the war.
--Shecky Greene? The Florida thoroughbred--not the Borscht Belt
comedian--overcame a ridiculous name and lack of any physical
gifts whatsoever to seize sixth place at the 1973 Kentucky
Derby. The horse finished just 15 3/4 lengths behind that
self-promoting glory-suck Secretariat, who should have won by
much more given his famously oversized heart (enlarged, no
doubt, by years of substance abuse on the A-list party circuit).
So we give a Hickey to...Shecky Greene, a much classier horse
than the Triple Crown winner, who never missed a chance to show
up his opponents. (Was it really necessary to win the Belmont by
31 lengths? Get over yourself, Secretariat!)
--Ayatollah Khomeini? In 1979 he orchestrated the armed takeover
of the U.S. embassy in Iran, where 52 Americans were held
hostage for 444 days, enabling each of the captives, upon
release, to receive a lifetime pass to major league baseball
games. Yet the Nobel Committee--five Norwegians suffering
level-5 frostbite of the brain--awarded that year's Peace Prize
to Mother Teresa. Don't get me wrong: The Angel of Calcutta was
good people. But we give a Hickey to...Khomeini.
Coming up: Branch Rickey! Bill Dickey! Don Criqui! Plus the
Hickey for Best Mickey--Mantle or Klutts? The winner may surprise
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO