Every year since 1954, Sports Illustrated has awarded the “Sportsman of the Year” award to “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” You can vote online by clicking HERE
This year’s award should go to American Pharoah and the voting shouldn’t even be close. You can debate the merits of whether a horse is really an athlete–they are and yes they know what their task is each race. Just talk to those close to Zenyatta on why she did her famous dance steps before each race.
Anyway, the Sportsman of the Year has gone to golfers, racedrivers, tennis players and the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Horse racing is a sport–one of the oldest sports in the world–and American Pharoah has revitalized the sport of horse racing in North America like no other athlete or team has done this century. Check out my blog statistics for the month of October shown below. I received 8 1/2 times more views than my previous best month. This is mostly due to one horse: American Pharoah.
If the Sportsman of the Year can go to a team like it did the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, then it should easily go to American Pharoah because he is an integral part of a similar team, from his owner Ahmed Zayat, his trainer Bob Baffert, the stable hands, the veterinarians who kept him healthy (remember he had a foot bruise that kept him out of racing towards the end of his 2 year-old season) and his jockey Victor Espinoza who rode him into the record books.
It had been 37 years since we had a Triple Crown Champion and there have only been 12 Triple Crown Champions in the history of a sport that predates the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, etc. And in the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing–the Breeders’ Cup Classic–American Pharoah wired the field, posting the top Beyer Speed Figure of the year (120), thus becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Horse Racing. He is truly a horse of a lifetime and it will probably be another 40 to 50 years before the next horse accomplishes this feat. American Pharoah will always be the first and the horse that set the bar for all others after him.
American Pharoah’s main competition in SI’s Sportsman of the Year voting is another team–the Kansas City Royals. Having grown up and lived in the Kansas City area all of my life, I am huge Royals fan. I went to two World Series games last year and to the American League Championship Series clincher this year that catapulted the Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances. I am extremely proud of my hometown team and glad they are getting recognized. However, the Kansas City Royals’ accomplishment pails in comparison to what American Pharoah achieved this year. To me, this vote was a no-brainer.
And the award couldn’t go to a nicer more deserving candidate…