As the entire world knows by now, Lanny H Golf was once again spotlighted in the Mailbag feature of famed sports journalist Gary Van Sickle (Sports Illustrated).
My query concerned the possibility of Jordan Spieth being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. I erroneously referred to the honor as SportsPERSON of the Year, thinking SportsMAN would be a no-no. Alas, SI still calls the award Sportsman of the Year. Good for them. I jumped to my faulty conclusion based on, among other things, the fact that SI’s sister Publication, Time, changed their yearly award from Man of the Year to Person of the Year.
But enough about that. Mr. Van Sickle, after chiding me for my political correctness, allowed this regarding Spieth:
Spieth is a leading candidate for Sportsman of the Year, as SI still calls it. But in the world of political correctness in the magazine biz, I’m going to say the U.S. women’s soccer team (maybe the whole team?) is the leader in the clubhouse, with Spieth and American Pharoah second by a nose.
It’s interesting that Van Sickle brings up political correctness. That has been my biggest concern. But, in my eyes, the choice has to be Jordan Spieth. Let’s go through Van Sickle’s two mentions along with Serena Williams.
Secretariat did not win the award. Need I say more?
U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
The U.S. women winning the World Cup is just not that big of an accomplishment. There have been seven Women’s World Cup competitions. The U.S. has won three. People seem to think that since it would be a miracle for the U.S. men’s team win the World Cup, it must be equally difficult for the women. Nothing could be further from the truth. The U.S. women’s soccer team has never finished worse than third. (Third is the best the men’s team has managed in twenty World Cups — many for which they didn’t even qualify. And that third came in 1930.) If the women’s soccer team gets Sportswomen of the Year, the award has completely lost its way.
She still has to be a consideration. I don’t think her year was better than Jordan Spieth’s, but she had one helluva year, and she’s had one helluva career — without ever winning Sportswoman of the Year. It seems obvious that SI cannot give the award to the women’s soccer team (for a second time) and snub Serena.
However, there are some major problems for Serena. Stephie Graf won the Grand Slam in 1988 — then won three of four in 1989 — and yet SI did not reward her in either of those years. Then there is Monica Seles, who won 7 of 9 Slam events before a psychopath stabbed her with a knife. She never got Sportswoman of the Year during that great run, and who knows what she would have accomplished had she not been attacked.
Bottom line: Winning Grand Slam tennis events isn’t as difficult as winning major golf tournaments. There was a six year period (1988-1993) when a woman won three or four Grand Slam events in five of those year. Three modern-era women have completed the Slam (1953, 1970, 1988).
Jordan Spieth’s year is already, at a minimum, equal to Serena’s, and, should he win in Atlanta this week, would certainly surpass hers. And we must not forget Jordan’s two majors and his run for the Grand Slam occurred when he was all of 21 years old.
Jordan also has this going for him: Tiger Woods won the award as a youngster in 1996 for two big amateur wins and some weak PGA Tour fall series tournaments. It is going to look very odd if Woods got the award for winning the U.S. Amateur and NCAA Championship and Jordan doesn’t for winning the U.S. Open and the Masters.
A very real possibility is a compromise, such as a “Crowns and Slams” winner, with American Pharoah, Serena Williams, and Jordan Spieth all honored as the Sportsman and Sportswoman and Sportshorse of the Year. It still seems wrong to give American Pharoah the award when Secretariat didn’t win it, but, on the other hand, Serena and Jordan fell short of their ultimate goals. American Pharoah did not.