Magazine awards have been in the headlines recently thanks to Donald Trump public obsession for the Time Person of the Year Award. Like pretty much everything else in modern culture, these awards that get you a magazine cover and some nationwide recognition have become very political.
So this year’s Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year award has taken on some increased significance to see what the magazine would do given the current climate. Already the magazine made a statement by awarding Colin Kaepernick with its Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Naturally, that led people politically opposed to Kaepernick to scream “What about JJ Watt?” for all the money he raised in the wake of the flooding in Houston.
On Monday night, Sports Illustrated had their answer to that question. Watt and fellow Houston pro sports athlete Jose Altuve were named the joint Sportsperson of the Year by the publication.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 5, 2017
The announcement was exclusively made on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which is where you go for all of your sports magazine award announcements.
Watt raised an incredible $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief in the wake of devastating flooding in Houston. It was an act of generosity and inspiration that will long outshine anything Watt does on the gridiron. On the field this fall, Altuve led the Astros to their first ever World Series title to bring some joy to the city of Houston.
Here’s an excerpt from the accompanying article SI published to go along with the announcement. After mentioning a litany of other worthy contenders, this is why the magazine chose to land on Watt and Altuve sharing the award:
Which brings us to the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year honorees, J.J. Watt and José Altuve. By the third week of September, less than a month after Hurricane Harvey had devastated Houston and its surrounding region, Watt had raised more than $37 million in relief aid. The SOTY candidacy of the Texans’ defensive end was unaffected by the gruesome, season-ending leg injury he suffered in Week 5. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year—the best defensive player of his generation, really—could have had the best season of his career, or the worst. His place as a Sportsperson of the Year had already been engraved. “Nothing J.J. Watt has achieved in his career, or might still achieve, will measure up to what he did for Houston,” says MMQB Editor-in-Chief Peter King.
The 5′ 6” Altuve had his own contribution to Houston’s post-storm recovery. The personal journey of the Astros second baseman is an inspirational one, a classic tale of an underestimated athlete overcoming the longest of odds. And this fall, Altuve was the joyous catalyst for one of the most unlikely World Series runs in recent memory. Championships don’t save communities, and we should be careful to assign too much weight to their powers of healing. But what other event can bring a million-plus people together and provide a platform, however ephemeral, to cast aside the differences that drive so many of us to sports in the first place? “The city of Houston has treated me really good,” Altuve tells Tom Verducci. “I felt at that time that I owed them something. So when they were having a hard time, I wanted to give something back to them.”
Houston Strong was such an important movement in sports this year for its impact both on the field and off the field and Watt and Altuve were the personification of it. Both men in their own ways showed what power sports has to bring people together. It’s going to be extremely hard to argue with the choice of Watt and Altuve by the magazine. Of course, someone out there will find a way to argue with it because this is 2017 America.