SI Pharoah Snub Much Ado About Nothing

I will make this column brief. There has been quite an uproar over Sport Illustrated’s editors selecting Serena Williams as Sportsman of the Year, ignoring the historic accomplishments and world-wide popularity of American Pharoah.

While I totally disagree with their decision, there is no reason for the uproar or to get even mildly upset over the snub because it means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is only about the opinion of a few editors in a magazine that has had a history of treating racing shabbily over the past 30 years, until recently focusing on only the nefarious aspects of the sport.

This is not about Serena Williams or to say Serena Williams is not worthy of the honor, but she really did nothing this year that she hasn’t done in past years and was the victim of what many in tennis consider the greatest upset of all time. Did she really accomplish more than even her male counterpart Novak Djokovic, who won the Australian Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon? She failed in her quest to win her sport’s Grand Slam. American Pharoah did not.

Let’s be honest, if you were the editors of Sports Illustrated, would you rather have a photo of Serena Williams in a black leather top with her legs draped over an ornate chair on the cover or a horse? Before anyone attaches that comment with the word sexism, I’m not the one who orchestrated that photo, which by the way is a great shot. I merely described it and its salability. Would you rather have an interview inside with Serena Williams or a horse…or Novak Djokovic?  So is that what this is all about – selling magazines or did SI simply vote for her because she’d never won it before and they felt she was deserving after all these years? Understandable, but not necessarily acceptable.

Serena Williams was a great champion once again, but so was Jordan Spieth, Djokovic, Steph Curry, and several others up for the award. A vote for any of them would have created the same uproar. Sports Illustrated decided to stick with their agenda and not go out of the box and do something different, like selecting a horse who made history, stood out in his sport more than the others, endeared himself to the public on a personal level, and certainly affected more lives than the others.

Let’s remember that Secretariat lost out on the same honor to a charismatic race car driver. Let’s say a precedent was set.

Before people continue to go ballistic over something so trivial, ask yourself, what is more meaningful, being selected as Sportsman of the Year by hundreds of thousands of sports fans or by a handful of editors who have an agenda?

Compared to American Pharoah’s accomplishments in 2015 and his exalted place in history, being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year has as much significance in the long run as, to quote the movie Sideways, a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper or a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage. Sorry, I just love that line.

Sure, it would look good to racing fans to have another SI cover photo of American Pharoah, and to rejoice in another of his many honors. And, yes, it would be a boost to the sport, but no one is going to remember whether or not he was awarded this title. How many people remember that Madison Bumgarner won it last year for getting hot in the playoffs and World Series?

So, American Pharoah’s team can tweet that he was “ROBBED. ROBBED. ROBBED” and “This is total BS,” only adding fuel to a fire that would have extinguished on is own in a few days, and people can vilify Sports Illustrated all they want. It was obvious that cover photo was set up and the article written well before the actual announcement. There reportedly was another reason why Serena Williams might have been chosen, in regard to something in the future that was contingent on her winning this award. But for now that is no more than a comment made on a well-known sports talk show, so no use going into more detail.

The bottom line is, should we really care why Serena Williams was selected and American Pharoah wasn’t? Isn’t it better to just congratulate Williams and respectfully disagree if you wish, while acknowledging the triviality of all this and focus on the magic that was American Pharoah and all the awards he WILL be given, if that’s what you believe is important?

The phenomenon that is American Pharoah is about so much more than awards and honors. To me, the cover of a magazine and a subjective award such as Sportsman of the Year pale in comparison to the treasures this remarkable athlete left in all our hearts -- treasures that will last for all time.

Disagree with Sports Illustrated all you want. That’s fine. But let’s not make this into something more than it is. If American Pharoah doesn’t give a hoot, why should we? Who really cares about one magazine’s Sportsman of the Year when to many of us we witnessed the sportsman of our lifetime.

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