by Julian Spivey
Well, the ESPY Awards, ESPN’s annual fan-voted awards for the “best” in sports, has had a 25-year run. I think it’s time to blow it all up and start over again.
I don’t believe ESPN actually has any desire to blow up the ESPYs and start anew. From the looks of things, the network only wants to let go of the good stuff going on like respected reporters Jayson Stark, Tom Farrey, Ed Werder, John Clayton and others let go as part of a massive layoff a few months back.
But, the ESPYs have lost their meaningfulness, if the awards ever had any to begin with – and that’s because it’s voted upon by the fans. I know, I know it sounds too high and mighty of me to bash the popular vote. It’s just that allowing novices to vote for awards essentially turns them into a popularity contest and popularity contests don’t always lead to deserved winners. In the case of the ESPYs it almost always leads to NBA or NFL players or teams winning the big awards.
The asininity of the ESPYs being fan voted popped up on numerous occasions on Wednesday night during the show’s milestone 25th anniversary. The most egregious of the winners this year was the Golden State Warriors, fresh off their second NBA championship in three years, winning Outstanding Team over baseball’s Chicago Cubs, who snapped their 108-year championship drought by winning the World Series last November. The Warriors are a team that I would’ve agreed with almost any other year, but you can’t make any sense of this team – one that was expected to dominate and win the championship from the start – winning this honor over a Cubs team that did the unthinkable. It’s interesting to note that no baseball team has won this honor since the 2005 Boston Red Sox, and their drought wasn’t nearly as long.
The anti-baseball bias of the ESPY awards, thus the fans doing the voting, showed up earlier in the night when Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons won the ESPY for Best Game over Game 7 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the teams with the two longest title droughts in all of sports, which went to extra innings before being won in dramatic fashion by the Cubs. It was a game that many baseball experts and fans alike called the “greatest baseball game of all-time” (and this sport has been around since 1876), but it was beaten out by a Super Bowl, that while amazing, was in all actuality really only great from the fourth quarter on.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, I understand that Tom Brady is likely the most hated player in the NFL (which doesn’t suit well for a fan-voted award), but him not winning Best Championship Performance for a comeback that we will probably never see the likes of again to win his fifth Super Bowl is unbelievable. Kevin Durant’s performance in the NBA Finals would’ve been worthy most years, but Brady’s performance was potentially the greatest in NFL history, and he did it in just over a quarter.
There were other crazy winners during the night, but these three really explain the stupidity of what the ESPYs have become – and quite possibly may have always been. I have had similar thoughts after the last few years, as well, but none of the past winners have been quite this egregious.
So, what should be done about this?
For any awards to really mean squat there must be a selection process for winners that includes experts in the field. You have academies choose winners of entertainment awards like the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. The medium of sports really needs to find a way to create such a body for the awards to ever really mean anything.
Because the awards are owned by ESPN the best way for such a voting body to be created would be to allow the professionals who work for the network to choose the winners, if they haven’t already fired all the best professionals they have. Otherwise it would just be the ESPY Awards presented by Stephen A. Smith. You might think fans wouldn’t be interested in such awards if their voice is taken out, but they still watch the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, don’t they? I believe sports fans want a credible sports awards show that represents the best in sports – and all sports. The ESPYs aren’t that. It’s time to blow it up.