by Julian Spivey
Don’t overreact to meaningless stuff. Don’t overreact to meaningless stuff. Just breathe. Don’t overreact to meaningless stuff.
Ah, screw it!
The ESPYS are dead to me.
On Wednesday night’s (July 13) ESPY Awards – the biggest annual awards for sports handed out by ESPN via a fan vote – the ceremony unveiled the inaugural Icon Award, which makes sense given the rash of recently retire sport superstars.
The first honorees of this special award – not voted on by fans, but bestowed by the network – were Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant and Abby Wambach, all incredibly worthy choices.
I don’t think there’s anybody out there who could look at these three legendary sports figures and claim they aren’t completely deserving of an Icon Award.
However, in a year filled with iconic sports figures calling it quits the network simply didn’t go far enough and ended up looking disrespectful and shameful in the process.
Manning, Bryant and Wambach should’ve been honored with one more recently retired sports legend by their side – four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.
Some people might believe I’m making too big of a deal about this. After all, the ESPY Awards are kind of meaningless being the majority of them are fan-voted – meaning the show becomes one giant popularity contest rather than an awards show given to the rightful recipients (the fans don’t always get it wrong, but still).
But, the fact that the Icon Award wasn’t fan-voted, but decided upon by somebody or some panel of bodies at the network makes it all the more shameful.
After all, I’d contend that Jeff Gordon is an all-time greater athlete in his sport, as well as more important to his sport than either of the three honorees.
With his four NASCAR Sprint Cup championships and his 93 career wins, third all-time in the sport, Gordon is the fifth greatest NASCAR driver of all-time in my estimation (behind Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson and David Pearson).
Peyton Manning is likely no better than a top five player all-time at his sport with Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Tom Brady all better in my opinion and it’s likely he’s not even No. 5 with guys like Lawrence Taylor, Walter Payton and arguably Johnny Unitas ahead of him.
Kobe Bryant is not generally considered by experts of the NBA to even be a top 10 all-time player, though he’s certainly on the cusp generally coming in around 11th or 12th on most lists.
Abby Wambach is no doubt a top five all-time female soccer player. She might even be the greatest female soccer player of all-time. But, if you were to poll Americans I’m betting more would know the name Jeff Gordon than Abby Wambach. That goes to show the kind of impact on his sport Gordon had.
Again, all three of the players bestowed the Icon Award at the ESPYS on Wednesday night were worthy and should’ve gotten the honor. These all-time rankings in their individual sports aren’t reasoning as to why they aren’t deserving, merely to why Gordon should’ve been honored alongside of them.
I don’t believe it can be argued that Gordon wasn’t a more important figure to his sport than either of the three honorees were to their respective sports. Gordon’s popularity truly helped to grow the sport of NASCAR throughout the ‘90s with the young, good looking driver from the West Coast basically helping to stretch NASCAR out of the “Southern Sport” tag it had going for it for its first 50 years of existence. Without Gordon and the legions of drivers who grew up idolizing him and are now NASCAR superstars in their own right who knows where NASCAR would be today? Whereas with the three honorees their sports haven’t changed overall because of them. Football and basketball were widely popular before Manning and Bryant and will continue to be without them. Women’s soccer may be more popular now than before Wambach, but let’s face it – right or wrong – it’ll continue to only be cared about during World Cup years.
It’s not completely surprising to me that ESPN gave Gordon and in a sense the sport of NASCAR the shaft. Fans of the sport have seen similar things many times in the past. And, there will inevitably be an ignorant response of “NASCAR isn’t a sport.” But, Gordon earned the right to be alongside Manning, Bryant and Wambach on Wednesday night on that ESPYS stage and ESPN looks like a bunch of fools because he wasn’t.
by Julian Spivey
I was watching the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby on Monday night (July 11) and while watching sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Mark Trumbo absolutely crush baseballs into the bleachers at San Diego’s Petco Park I caught something scroll across the ESPN bottomline that instantly irritated me.
The scrolling news read: “Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta leaning toward sitting out All-Star Game.”
This came a few days after it was announced that Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, the first National League pitcher to start a season 12-0 in over 100 years, was going to sit out the game in favor of rest.
When the National League All Star roster was released last week the N.L. squad had to be considered a favorite by the sheer awesomeness of its starting pitchers. Then L.A. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw got hurt (obviously not his fault), Strasburg backed out, San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner pitched on Sunday (and by MLB rule could not pitch in the ASG) and now Arrieta has decided he’s probably not going to toe the rubber in favor of rest. By the way, those four guys are arguably the league’s four best pitchers. All-Star Game advantage gone.
And, in an All-Star Game that actually means something – winner gets home-field advantage in the World Series – that’s an unfortunate thing.
It’s not even the game meaning something that really riles my nerves about Arrieta and Strasburg’s unwillingness to pitch in the Midsummer Classic, but that fact that this is the one game a year where fans get to see all of these stars play together against other stars. Arrieta and Strasburg will seem selfless to many who will see their decisions not to pitch as the best thing for their own ball clubs who will need them to remain strong down the stretch.
But, let’s face it. One inning in an exhibition game where you’re likely to throw no more than 15 pitches tops isn’t going to screw up anybody’s season. If it did the pitcher was about to suffer an injury anyway via fatigue. In a league so over-worried about pitch counts and arm fatigue this doesn’t surprise me. But, to me it’s not selflessness, but selfishness.
It’s selfishness because this is a game for the fans and the pitchers sitting out the game simply to get a few more days of rest is likely the start of a negative trend. It’s a trend that could potentially turn the Major League Baseball All-Star Game into the NFL’s Pro Bowl – an exhibition in which many of the game’s biggest stars skip out on for various reasons, many of which boil down to just not wanting to play.
The MLB All-Star Game is still one of my favorite sporting events of the year. Even though I have access to about a dozen games on a nightly basis throughout the season I simply don’t have the time to watch many games meaning this is still the one time a year I get to see all the game’s best players.
I’d like to see them do more than just show up and tip their cap during introductions.
by Julian Spivey
Dear NBA Fans and especially NBA writers,
Calm the hell down.
Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors as a free agent is not a shock nor is it a travesty. In fact, we all should’ve seen it coming.
I feel like both NBA fans and writers (which is particularly dumbfounding to me) need a refresher course on what free agency means. Free agency is when an athlete’s contract ends and they have the right to sign anywhere they want for whatever a certain team will pay them. As long as a team stays within its salary cap there are no limitations on things like number of all-star players a single team can have. It’s a decision between the players and the teams and the rest of us sit back and watch and wait and if we’re a fan of a particular team we hope “our” team lands the best player it can.
Kevin Durant’s decision was his and his alone and yet everybody seems to have their two cents on it and the majority of that change is going into the coin jar titled “Kevin Durant is a Joke.”
Excuse me … a joke?
Kevin Durant signed with a better team and now that he’s on the Warriors it’s a much better team than the Thunder would’ve been for the same amount of money as he would’ve made if he’d re-upped with OKC. And the Bay Area in California is generally considered to be a better area for a superstar to live than the Midwest, blue collar town of Oklahoma City (no offense meant).
It seems dumbfounding to me how a guy taking the best possible deal on the best possible team can be considered a joke, but nowadays if you can’t lead the team that drafted you to a NBA title people seem to believe that’s exactly what you are. That’s a standard that seems way too tough. NBA fans and especially writers are worried too much these days about “legacy.” And, in their minds if you don’t lead your first team to a title and have to essentially form an all-star team in one city to do so that it harms your legacy. I call B.S. The whole point of basketball, as in any sport, is winning championships and Durant has put himself in a much better spot to win championships in the Bay Area than he would’ve in OKC.
I don’t blame Durant for wanting to get out of OKC as quickly as possible and this is why his decision to do so and head out West is not surprising in the least to me. Durant gave OKC the very best he had for almost a full decade and they didn’t quite return the favor. The Thunder have spent the majority of the last decade being the bridesmaids of the NBA. They could get to the brink of full marital bliss and then fall just short time and time again. This was partially due to general manger Sam Presti building a team that just wasn’t good enough and also the fact that the team had too many cooks in the kitchen with Durant and Russell Westbrook both fighting to be alpha when everyone knows this can’t exist on an NBA team – somebody has to take second fiddle and Westbrook wasn’t willing and Durant didn’t care enough to assert his dominance. And, guess what? He doesn’t have to in Golden State. He can go in there and make his shots and not worry about being “the guy.” Is that cowardly as many writers and fans are claiming? I just think it’s smart.
By the way, Westbrook is a free agent after next season and has already said he has no intention in signing an extension and is likely to bolt even quicker than Durant did. OKC fans might as well already throw his jersey on top of their idiotic Durant jersey bonfire and just keep that thing burning through next summer. For this very reason the Thunder should go ahead and trade Westbrook now while they can get a boatload for him so they don’t get absolutely nothing for both Durant and Westbrook. This team is going to quickly go from bridesmaid to sitting somewhere behind a cylinder at the reception.
Fans are emotional. That’s why fan is a shortened version of fanatic. I don’t take the emotions and biases of fans seriously. Many of them were already starting to dislike the Warriors based on their regular season dominance this past season and Durant’s signing clinches the title of NBA’s villain for that team. I think that feeling will only make them want to win more. The fans know that this signing will likely make the entirety of the regular season and even a bulk of the playoffs boring and are upset by that. That’s fine. You could argue that Durant’s signing with the Warriors is bad for the NBA, but that doesn’t make his decision a bad one.
It’s the writers whining and going on-and-on about Durant’s move to the Bay Area that really irritates me. Writers and sports commentators from networks like ESPN and publications likes Sports Illustrated calling Durant’s move weak as if they’ve never left previous jobs for the better ones they have right now. Doesn’t ESPN’s resident buffoon Stephen A. Smith realize he left the Philadelphia Inquirer for his better, cushy gig at ESPN because it was a better deal and that claiming Durant is “weak” for doing a similar thing makes him a hypocrite? Shouldn’t he have stayed with the Inquirer until he helped lead it to a Pulitzer?
Durant made the best possible decision he could have and is getting universally lambasted for it. How idiotic have we gotten as sports fans and even writers when this is the case? When Durant is polishing his championship ring in a year or two he probably won’t care.