The racing world is a-flutter – and so am I: American Pharoah is up for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. As is Novak Djokovic once again.
OK, Nole – who hasn’t lost a tournament since the Ice Age – is never going to win. I’m assuming that when posters say they haven’t heard of some of the nominees, they mean him. And when they point out the year fellow nominee Serena Williams had, I know they don’t know what they’re talking about. No disrespect to Serena, but she won three Slams, lost in the semifinals of the fourth and then basically retired for the rest of the season.
Nole won three Slams and lost in the finals of the fourth – the French Open. His loss there to Stan Wawrinka was no less heartbreaking than Serena’s to Roberta Vinci at the US Open. But he kept on going after the French – to victories at Wimbledon and the US Open, in Beijing, Shanghai and Paris, becoming the first player to win six ATP Tour World 1000 Masters tournaments in a season. That to me is the mark of a great champion, a great sportsman – to come back from devastating defeat. Nole – who has said that while no one is perfect, we should aim for perfection so that we may attain excellence – is a man after my own heart. He has my admiration and my congratulations.
But not my vote this year. That goes to AP, for doing what no horse has done since my beloved Affirmed 37 years ago – win the Triple Crown.
So far the Pharoah is running neck-and-neck with the Kansas City Royals. Sorry, KC, somebody wins the World Series every year. When you become the New York Yankees with 27 World Series titles, let me know.
Of course, there are those who say a horse shouldn’t be, pun intended, in the running. He doesn’t know he is being sporting. And horseracing has an unsavory, unsportsmanlike atmosphere.
Here’s what I say: AP is the American Pegasus, our own wingéd spirit, who lifted the soul of a nation during a magical season and in doing so, rose to the top of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. He showed as much heart, as much poise as any two-legged athlete.
So vote for AP – early and often at si.com. The fans’ choice will be announced Dec. 13, with the SI staff choice named a day later.