Each year, The Onion's esteemed Board of Directors faces the daunting task of singling out one individual who most embodies the spirit of the times, who is most deserving of the title "Man Of The Year."

The Man

In 1997, only one man stood out as deserving of inclusion among the ranks of past Man Of The Year honorees, who include John Ritter, The Guy From The Police Academy Movies Who Makes The Funny Noises With His Mouth, The Denorex Guy, stomach cancer, the San Diego Chicken, and the great sleeping nightmare god Cthulhu.

This year, no man has distinguished himself by relentlessly dominating society, controlling the global marketplace, and keeping the little guy down quite like the man we honor here today, and that man is The Man.

NBA stadium-crowd chants of, "He's the man, he's the man!" notwithstanding, the truth remains that only one man is truly the man, and that's The Man.

Though countless agitators, malcontents and miscreants may exhort their fellow disaffected outsiders to "Fuck The Man," the undeniable fact remains that The Man will never be fucked, because nobody fucks with The Man.

Who is The Man? The Man is, quite simply, the shit.

Woe betide any man who gets in The Man's way. Each and every man on this Earth, however great or small he may be, must suck up to The Man, lest he in his foolishness be in turn screwed over by The Man.

Who among us can honestly say they have never backed down in the face of the staggering magnitude and power of The Man? Many have devoted their entire lives to resisting The Man, but, in the end, their efforts have brought them failure, degradation, and, more often than not, utter destruction at The Man's mighty hand.

The few who survive in this cruel and unfair world know and respect the unbending will of The Man, and, in shameless displays of sycophancy and toadyism, they prostrate themselves before The Man to win a tiny fraction of The Man's favor. Those who harbor even the slightest ambition to succeed, to earn some measure of status and influence in this, The Man's world, understand well its unwritten yet all-encompassing rule: You Can't Mess With The Man.

The Man has been with us always, and, by all indications, he always will be. When the Hebrew slaves of Moses' time bent their backs to make bricks without straw under the cruel whips of their Egyptian taskmasters, they did so in obeisance to The Man. When the serfs of Medieval Europe sweated and toiled away their pitifully brief lives in the fields of the Lord of the Manor, they toiled only for the Man. When our pilgrim forefathers on the Mayflower fled the Old World in search of a New Jerusalem, it was The Man from whom they were fleeing.

Yet no sooner did the pilgrims arrive on the Massachusetts shore than the Native Americans living there met for themselves The Man. Ever-vigilant and all-seeing, The Man makes brutally clear to all the undeniable inescapability of the force that is The Man.

Throughout history, The Man has been known by many names in many cultures: Pharaoh, Caesar and Czar; Regis, Magistrate and Chief Executive Officer.

It was the kidnapped Africans slaving in the cotton fields of the American South who first coined his present title of "The Man," and today, it is the descendants of those enslaved Africans who know better than perhaps anyone what it is like to live under the iron fist of The Man.

Yet by whatever name he may be called, he is still The Man, and The Man, even to this day, stands alone in his utter and total mastery of all within his sight.

In 1997, no one dominated the international global marketplace, bent the economies of Third World to his singular advantage, broke the will of the working class, and reaped untold wealth exploiting the collective suffering of the vast majority of humanity as did The Man.

In 1997, The Man bedded more whores, made more deals, ingested more high-quality illegal pharmaceuticals, and made and destroyed more careers than all the competition put together. No one else came close to flexing the sort of unimaginable power and influence possessed by The Man.

One might wonder if, perhaps, in some remote, still-human corner of his blackened, iron heart, The Man does not at times shed a tear upon his throne. Is it lonely being The Man, ruling the world from far above, with not one peer of equal status with whom to share his thoughts and feelings?

As The Man stares down at the cold and tiny world from atop his towering skyscrapers, or gazes at the ceaseless ocean beneath him as his fleet of private luxury jets speeds him from one continent to another, does he ever experience a brief moment of vulnerability, during which he wishes for a kind word, a loving embrace, a single sigh to break the silence of the isolated, ivory-tower supremacy that envelops The Man like an unbreakable cage at all times?

While no man can presume to know what lies within the secret heart of The Man, there can be no doubt that the answer to such questions is, as The Man himself might put it, "Not on your life!" For The Man dwells far outside any realm clouded by doubt and human frailty. Does the soaring eagle cry out in sympathy for the tiny field mouse miles below? Does the cheetah feel sorrow for the slower-footed prey it rips to shreds in the predatory frenzy of bloodlust? Does the mountain feel lonely as its craggy peaks touch the sky?

Mortals such as us have neither the means nor the right to ponder one such as The Man. This year, as stock markets continue to soar to unprecedented heights, as technology closes ever tighter its grip upon the global flow of information, as members of the global-industrial elite continue to merge their multinationals into ever-larger aggregations of power, one thing is clear: that 1997, like all years past and future, was the year of The Man.

The Onion salutes its 1997 Man Of The Year, The Man. Let's hear it for The Man!