Of the 12 finalists for Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” award, only 11 are actual persons.
The twelfth is a horse but not just any horse. He’s American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and the first Grand Slam winner (winning the Triple Crown and the Breeder’s Cup) in history. He has accomplished this year what no other race horse has done before and along the way has built himself a dedicated fan base.
As of Thursday, 46 percent of Sports Illustrated readers who voted in their reader’s choice poll voted for American Pharoah, with the other 54 percent divided in their support of the other 11 finalists but united in their disdain for American Pharoah’s fans since he is “just a horse.”
Sports Illustrated editors will make the final choice on Monday and who knows if they will take into account their reader’s overwhelming choice. At 30 percent, the Kansas City Royals are the only other contender that has support that’s even in double digits.
Matt Ufford, a featured contributor at SBNation.com, speaks most eloquently, or obnoxiously, depending on your point of view, for the people who not only don’t think AP should win but don’t think he should even be a contender. He went on a five-minute Twitter rant where he called American Pharoah’s fans among other things, idiots. Well, there was another descriptive term before ‘idiots” but in a family newspaper we’ll just have to go with “idiots.” And more importantly, he called our hero “sentient sports equipment.” That was just mean.
Has this bozo really considered that it might not be the best of ideas to pick a fight with horse people, a bunch of folks who are all by definition crazy? I mean seriously crazy. Horse people think nothing about hopping on a 1,200 pound animal and making it jump over an obstacle that could be roughly as large as a single-wide mobile home. Mr. Ufford might want to think a little bit about making inflammatory statements to a group of people whose primary fun in life is based on having absolutely no fear of consequences.
It can’t be easy for non-horse people to understand what a big deal American Pharoah is to us. It’s been 37 years since a horse has won the Triple Crown and during most of those 37 years, the only horse races we got to see on television were the three Triple Crown races each year. Imagine as a football fan if the only game you ever got a chance to see was the Super Bowl or as a baseball fan, the only baseball you ever got to see was the World Series. Think how hard that would be. That’s what it’s like for us. So don’t begrudge us this moment. And don’t begrudge it to American Pharoah who made it happen.
Thirty-seven years is a long time to wait for a Triple Crown winner. And no one has ever won the Grand Slam before. Never. Ever. Who knows if it will ever happen again? American Pharoah is our hero and the fact that he is not a person should not stand in his way of being “Sportsman of the Year.” He certainly embodies sportsmanship and achievement which are the qualifications Sports Illustrated lists on their website.
It’s also important to remember that a race horse gets one chance. Serena Williams had a great year but not to be snippy about it, she didn’t actually come through with a grand slam. But she’s got next year. And every year after as long as she stays at the top of her game. Same with all the other finalists. They’ve all got next year. And they had last year.
American Pharoah had this year. The Triple Crown is only for three-year-olds. There is no second chance. Not that he needed one. He took it all so give him his award that he so richly deserves. Voting continues at www.si.com until 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Vote early and vote often and hope that Sports Illustrated hears the will of the people.
That silver cup should be very impressive to the hundreds of mares that American Pharoah will be entertaining in his stall each year as he begins his new career as one of the world’s most highly paid sex workers. I wish him every happiness in that endeavor as well.