How few worthy candidates were there for the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award? A horse finished second in the voting, right behind a woman whose defining moment of 2009 was threatening to shove a tennis ball down the throat of a lineswoman.
Serena Williams was the runaway winner of the AP's annual top award for women's sports, receiving 66 of 158 votes cast by U.S. newspaper editors. Seeing as how Serena won two Grand Slams, set a single-season earnings record and finished the year at No. 1 in the rankings, the award isn't completely undeserved.
But Serena's 2009 will be more remembered for that U.S. Open tirade rather than her successes. To reward her for a season which included the ugliest tennis incident of the decade is a distinct blunder by voters. Her tennis year wasn't nearly great enough to outweigh her behavior on the court, particularly when there still doesn't seem to be any attrition on the part of Serena.
Of her win despite the incident, she said:
"People realize that I'm a great player, and one moment doesn't define a person's career. And I was right, for the most part: It wasn't right the way I reacted - I never said it was - but I was right about the call."
She has no remorse for what she did. She still thinks she was right. Serena thinks that because the foot fault call was incorrect (and it was) it somehow justifies her behavior. That'd be like saying it's OK to punch a cop if you get pulled over for going through a red light even though it was clearly yellow. Just because you're right doesn't give you carte blanche to act like that.
This vote wasn't a referendum on Serena's behavior though. It was a vote by default owing to an epically bad slate of 2009 candidates. This award tends to be dominated by tennis players, golfers or Olympic athletes. Since none of the latter two provided any dominant athlete this year, the best tennis player got the nod.
Personally, I'd have voted for Zenyatta, the first female horse to ever win the Breeders' Cup Classic. She finished with 18 votes. Just think how well Zenyatta could have done if she had neighed at a track official.