Wednesday, December 23, 2009

AP BREAKING NEWS: Horses are women

I can't not discuss this story that came out yesterday, no matter how many other people have written about it on their own blogs. (By my count, it's about everyone.)

Let's go back to two days ago. Two days ago, the Associated Press named NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson as the AP Male Athlete of the Year. This honor is voted on by sports editors around the country who are AP members. (I'm not sure the exact number that includes.)

The list of vote-getters in this category, and the number of votes they received:

Jimmie Johnson: 42
Roger Federer: 30
Usain Bolt: 29
Kobe Bryant: 9
Albert Pujols: 9
Tiger Woods: 9
Michael Phelps: 8
Peyton Manning: 6
Joe Mauer: 4
Manny Pacquiao: 4
LeBron James: 3
Tom Watson: 2
Brett Favre: 2
Drew Brees: 1
Derek Jeter: 1
Tim Tebow: 1

There's been some debate about the choice of Jimmie Johnson as the winner. Seems a number of sports fans don't think driving in NASCAR falls under the term "athlete." I disagree, I think drivers are athletes (just as much as golfers and bowlers are). One thing I think we can all agree on: Jimmie Johnson is a human.

The day after that news came out, AP named it's AP Female Athlete of the Year: Serena Williams.

The list of the top vote-getters for Female Athlete of the Year:

Serena Williams: 66
Zenyatta: 18
Kim Clijsters: 16
Lindsey Vonn: 15
Diana Taurasi: 14
Maya Moore: 13
Rachel Alexandra: 10
Bridget Sloan: 3
Jiyai Shin: 2
Erin Hamlin: 1

The bolded names? Well, those are horses. Female racing horses. The ones that are ridden around race tracks, bets are placed on them, etc.

I've seen all kinds of arguments about this list and the inclusion of horses on it, from "this is pure sexism" to "those horses had historic years and deserve to be included" to "'female athlete' can include more than humans." Is this pure sexism? I don't know. I sure hope not, because if it is, it would be some of the most blatant in recent memory. Does this list represent a year of not-very-achieving women athletes combined with a year remarkable year for fillies? My guess is that's the argument the sports editors who voted this way would make; whether that's actually true or not is up for debate.

I don't think it would be that hard to have a top 10 list of women athletes, horses excluded. I think laziness played a role here -- laziness in covering women's sports or women athletes in general, and laziness when casting votes. Easier to write down a horse's name that you remember than to think about which women athletes had the best year. (I don't know that Serena had the best year of women in professional sports, for that matter.) I think the real argument here is should horses be included, male or female, on these lists. It's hard to get an accurate history of how many times a horse has made either of these lists. As far as I can tell, this is a first for the female list. As for the male list, it would appear, according to this article, that Secretariat was No. 6 in votes in 1973 for AP Male Athlete of the Year, the year he won the Triple Crown. Five years later, Affirmed also won the Triple Crown, but apparently did not receive any votes. So that's one confirmed horse -- Secretariat -- receiving votes since this poll was started in 1930-something.

Any thoughts on what's going on here? Are you offended by this? In agreement with the list? Should horses/nonhumans be excluded, just to avoid confusion?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Driving a race car is extremely physical and exhausting. Jimmie Johnson trains around the clock, on and off the track for this reason.

Many sportswriters and sports fans see race horses as athletes. And with males and females racing head-to-head, I think this is legit. It was an outstanding year for fillies.


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