It's the end of the year, which means magazines, newspapers and online publications are recapping 2015 with top 10 lists and best-of-the-year awards. It never fails that one of these fairly innocuous pieces provokes an over-heated reader debate, and Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year" award announcement has taken the pole position for most ridiculous response.
On Monday morning, SI gave the award to Serena Williams, a person, who in 2015 went 78-4 en route to winning three Grand Slam titles. She narrowly missed winning the calendar Grand Slam, and did so at 34, well beyond the age when most tennis players are put out to pasture, which for a tennis star usually involves giving lessons to younger players, doing media appearances or endorsing brands. Serena Williams, like all sportspersons, is a person.
SI also had a fan vote for Sportsperson of the Year, where American Pharoah, a horse, received 47 percent of the vote to Serena's 1 percent. In 2015, American Pharoah was whipped into turning left the fastest at three distinct times and places that have been deemed by the horse racing establishment to be more important than the other times and places that horses are whipped into turning left the fastest. Had American Pharoah stumbled and broken his leg, he would have been put out pasture, which for a race horse means killed on the spot and eventually made into glue. American Pharoah, again, is a horse.
Look back at American Pharoah's accomplishments:
SI readers mad horse wasn't named 'Sportsperson Of The Year'
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: American Pharoah #18, ridden by Victor Espinoza, crosses the finish line to win the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 13: Trainer Bob Baffert walks Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in the barn after arriving in preparation for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 15: Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah trains on the track for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 15: American Pharoah is bathed at the barn after training for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After the announcement on Monday that Williams won the award, horse racing enthusiasts and American Pharoah loyalists went nothing short of bananas over the "snub," with the horse's human owner Ahmed Zayat leading the way:
Furious readers bombarded SI's Facebook post about the award with angry messages. Many said they planned to cancel their subscriptions to the magazine as a result. With SI changing the award from "Sportsman" to "Sportsperson" this year, some alluded to a possible conspiracy against the horse:
"YOU SUCK SPORTS ILLUSTRATED!!! why have a fan vote if you're going to pick for yourselves anyway?! Changed it to 'sportsPERSON' you should be ashamed of yourselves!!! Many people have done, will do, and will do better than Serena!! Been almost 40 years since there was a horse of this caliber, no telling how long it will be before there is another!! Let's put a true athlete on the cover, one that DOES NOT need to be photoshopped at that!! Your agenda is showing!!!" one reader (maybe a horse) remarked.
Another reader believed that American Pharoah's intangible qualities merited the award:
"Shame on you for taking the vote away from the people and American Pharoah, who has shown, along with his connections more class than anyone in your contest." Nothing says class like sneezing on everyone you meet and shitting where ever you damn well please!
At itppp3s worst, the Williams vs. Pharoah debate devolved into racism and misogyny, as readers attempted to turn the alleged omission into yet another culture war football. The photo on the cover of the "sportsperson" issue shows Serena with her legs bare. The combination of the photo and the Pharoah snub prompted one commenter to suggest that The End is Neigh (pun intended):
"Disgusting photo, is this Playboy ...and you have her sitting on a gold throne???! She gets a big fat ZERO for sportsmanship. What a joke. Nice going Sports Illustrated, way to set an example for our youth. No wonder this country is such a mess. A rebellious nation thumbing it's nose at God in every arena! #nowtheendbegins"
American Pharaoh, a horse, has yet to issue a statement.
Related: See Venus and Serena Williams facing off through the years:
Venus and Serena Williams through the years
SI readers mad horse wasn't named 'Sportsperson Of The Year'
Venus Williams (L) and her sister Serena of the U.S. celebrate their victory in the doubles finals against Mariaan de Swardt of South Africa and Elena Tatarkova of the Ukraine at the European indoor championships in Kloten October 18. The Williams sisters won 5-7 6-1 6-3.
Serena Williams (back) goes after a second set shot from her sister Venus Williams March 28 in the final match at the Lipton Championships. Venus defeated Serena 6-1 4-6 6-4 to take the title.
Serena Williams from the United States (R) holds the Grand Slam Cup trophy after the final match against her sister Venus at the Grand Slam Cup in Munich, October 3. Serena won the match 6-1 3-6 6-4.
USA'S Serena Williams (L) and sister Venus practice for the Olympic Games in Sydney, September 21, 2000. The Williams sisters are competing for the United States in the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.
Venus Williams (R) embraces her sister Serena Williams after she won the women's final at the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in New York September 8, 2001. Venus Williams won 6-2 6-4 in a sixty-nine minute match, repeating her final's win from last year. Tonight's final is the first Grand Slam final contested by sisters since Maud Watson beat Lilian Watson 117 years ago in the first Wimbledon women's final in 1884. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
Venus (R) and Serena Williams of the U.S. confer during their women's doubles match [against Slovenia's Tina Krizan and Katarina Srebotnik] at the Wimbledon tennis championships, July 5, 2002. The Williams sisters won 6-2 6-0.
Serena Williams of the United States returns to her sister [Venus] during the women's final at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, September 7, 2002.
Serena Williams of the United States (L) is greeted at the net by her
sister Venus following the women's final at the U.S. Open in Flushing,
New York, September 7, 2002. Serena won the match 6-4 6-3 to capture
the U.S. Open title. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine
Venus (R) and Serena Williams (L) of the U.S. play third round women's
doubles against Russia's Elena Dementieva and Lina Krasnoroutskaya at
the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 1, 2003.
U.S tennis players Serena (L) and Venus Williams smile during a children's tennis practice session on court at Wimbledon in south west london, June 17, 2004. The Wimbledon championships begin on June 21. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty KD/AA
Serena Williams reacts after a missed point against sister [Venus] in their fourth round match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, New York, September 4, 2005. [Venus] defeated Serena 7-6 6-2.
Venus Williams of the U.S hits a return to sister Serena Williams during their fourth round match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, New York, September 4, 2005. REUTERS/Mike Segar JA/mk
Serena (L) and Venus Williams of the U.S. reach for the ball during their semi-finals doubles match against Nathalie Dechy of France and Casey Dellacqua of Australia at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 4, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN)
Gold medallists Serena (R) and Venus Williams of the U.S. celebrate on the podium after the women's doubles tennis competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville (CHINA)
Serena Williams (L) of the U.S. and her sister Venus talk, after winning their women's doubles final match against Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova and Japan's Ai Sugiyama, at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (AUSTRALIA)
Serena Williams of the U.S. serves the ball to sister and compatriot Venus Williams during their semi-final match at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships February 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Venus Williams of the U.S. serves the ball to sister and compatriot Serena Williams during their semi-final match at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships February 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Venus Williams of the U.S. (L) and Serena Williams of the U.S. pose for a photograph before their Ladies' Singles finals match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 4, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN SPORT TENNIS)
Serena Williams (L) of the U.S. grimaces after being hit by a serve from her sister Venus during their doubles match against Julia Goerges of Germany and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain at the U.S. Open tennis championships in New York September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES SPORT TENNIS)
Sisters Serena Williams (R) and Venus Williams of the U.S. celebrate after defeating Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the women's doubles tennis gold medal match at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 5, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT TENNIS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S tennis players Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams look on during a news conference in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
Venus Williams (top) serves as she and her sister Serena of the U.S. play doubles against compatriots Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears at the U.S. Open tennis championships in New York August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 6/7/15
Women's Singles - USA's Serena Williams and USA's Venus Williams embrace after their fourth round match
Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge
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Serena Williams of the U.S. follows the flight of the ball as she falls on a return shot to her sister and compatriot Venus Williams during their quarterfinals match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 9/7/16 USA's Serena Williams and Venus Williams celebrate winning their womens doubles final against Hungary's Timea Babos and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova with the trophies REUTERS/Tony O'Brien