Previous Winners: 1992: H. Ross Perot, 1993: St. Francis of Assisi, 1994: Newt Gingrich, 1995: Cal Ripken Jr., 1996: The Bob Dole Campaign, 1997: Dolly the Sheep, 1998: El Nino, 1999: Belinda Jensen, 2000: The Taco Bell Chihuahua, 2001: Randy Moss
As the selection committee gathered to begin the process of voting for the Newsletter's 11th annual Woman of the Year, members made it very clear that this year they finally wanted to select somebody who accurately reflected what the award is all about. Unfortunately since the turnover on the committee has been historically high due to the internal and sometimes public tri-partisan bickering bringing deliberations at times to a complete standstill, no one remaining was quite sure what the award really is supposed to be about. Still there was a general feeling that some of the last few recipients were picked more for the flash and attention than for being the best representation of the Woman of the Year.
Fortunately committee members agreed that this year unlike past years there was an abundance of qualified candidates and the challenge was not like in the recent past about selecting the lesser of two evils but rather making a tough decision between several intriguing possibilities. Among the nominees:
Michael Jackson: The image of an increasingly less than human looking Jackson dangling his blanket covered newborn over a several story up balcony was the most unforgettable news image of the year. Remember the good old days when the man was merely eccentric, collecting the remains of the elephant man, sleeping in an oxygen chamber? Now he's just plain weird. We repeat a newsletter mantra, "Has Jacko gone Whacko?"
Lindsay Whalen: the Gophers' star point guard is a tremendous player with multiple skills, the ability to penetrate to the basket, wonderful court vision and above all else cockiness to want to be the one the rest of the team relies on when the game is on the line. Her response to the defection of Coach Brenda Oldfield was award winning stuff in itself. Whalen stoically faced the press and said the team didn't need anyone around who didn't want to be there. And as a new season has started with the Women Gophers ranked in a place no one could have envisioned a mere two years ago (top 10 in the latest AP poll) Whalen has newsletterly like backed up her words without saying anything else.
Winona Ryder: Caught red-handed the skilled actress proved she is always on. Her defense? Admirably that she was just doing research for a part. In the end being a convicted shoplifter however didn't seem to be what the Cheapo Newsletter Woman of the Year should be all about.
George W. Bush: Maybe it was all the talk radio committee members had playing while involved in the selection process but there was a palatable sense of the shift to the right felt even before the November election. Americans have made it clear they can agree on two things: they hate taxes and they don't trust big government. Give credit to the Republicans and particularly their painfully inarticulate but highly popular leader Mr. Bush for cashing in on these two themes. That some taxes are sure to rise as the economy tanks at the same time as government expands its role in our lives in the name of the war against terrorism (or is it Iraq?) and that the turn to the right continues somehow suggests G.W. is some sort of secret genius. His opponents underestimate him while the public doesn't bat an eye at the inconsistency and incoherency of the message. Is there any more accurate reflection of the words that appear on this particular page week after week?
Spike the Vampire: TV's best character from TV's best show is delightfully complex. He's the forlorn and scorned poet; he's the frolicking yet forever failing not good enough and too disturbing to be Buffy's boyfriend. This season he sacrificed his sanity for the restoration of his soul. That was a familiar trade for many on the selection panel.
Randy Moss: Yup the committee was this close to naming its first ever two time winner. The running over the traffic cop incident was typical Moss- an overly publicized act of immaturity. His rambling apology to everyone on the planet except the traffic cop was classic Moss- he's gonna be who he's gonna be no matter the consequences.
The 2002 Newsletter Woman of the Year?: The Cheapo Newsletter. The search for a permanent name has been as fruitful as spitting into the wind. But being elusive doesn't necessary mean being meaningless. In the end committee members had to agree that the best representation of what the newsletter has been for the past 10 years is the newsletter itself. Never missing publication for any week during the past decade (yet still managing to miss a beat or two for sure) the newsletter is as predictable as it is inscrutable and that has been its everlasting sole redeeming quality, its very reason for continuing on. As the company it chronicles continues to change in a world that more and more has come to be about searching for the familiar in an ever evolving (and harsh) environment- just being there week after week is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And the newsletter itself has been a constant 'gesundheit' if nothing else.