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.
by Julian Spivey
The milestone 25th annual ESPY Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Wednesday, July 12 at 7 p.m. and will be hosted by NFL legend Peyton Manning, who surprisingly never won the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year despite his popularity (the awards are fan voted) and having won nine other ESPYs.
Despite his legendary career, Manning doesn’t make this list of the 5 Greatest Athletes to not win an ESPY Award for Male Athlete of the Year over the last quarter-century.
It’s somewhat amazing to me that none of these athletes on this list have ever won the award, but let’s face it fan voted awards are basically a popularity contest (thus kind of bogus), making this honor less prestigious than say Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, an honor two of the athletes on this list have won.
5. Miguel Cabrera
You could certainly argue that Miguel Cabrera isn’t the greatest baseball player to never win the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year (Albert Pujols has never won either), but he’s on this list for one specific reason – he became the first baseball player in almost a half century to hit for the Triple Crown (one of the greatest feats in all of sports) and he didn’t win Athlete of the Year (the honor went to LeBron James). That’s the most egregious Male Athlete of the Year ESPY snub I’ve ever seen. Cabrera has won two ESPYs for MLB Player of the Year (2013, 2014) and has been nominated twice for Male Athlete of the Year. Sadly, baseball doesn’t seem popular enough to win this honor anymore with no baseball player winning the award since a steroid-aided Mark McGwire did in 1999.
4. Roger Federer
Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time with a record 18 men’s Grand Slam titles and previously holding the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record 302 weeks. However, surprisingly Federer has never even been nominated for ESPY’s Male Athlete of the Year (his career rival Rafael Nadal was once in 2011), which is truly a sports awards travesty. Federer, however, has won more overall ESPY’s than anyone else appearing on this list with seven in total, most of those coming for Male Tennis Player of the Year. Federer not being from America likely negatively affected his chances. NBA’s Dirk Nowitzki (from Germany) in 2011 is the only non-American to ever win this award. No tennis player has ever won the award. Federer is nominated for three more ESPYs this year: Best Male Tennis Player, Best Comeback Athlete and Best Game.
3. Tim Duncan
Just about every NBA expert ever has Tim Duncan ranked as one of the 10 greatest NBA players of all-time, yet Duncan never took home the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year despite basketball being a sport that has won this award seven different times among five different players (including the last six years consecutively). Duncan likely didn’t have the personality factor to win a fan-voted award, but his stats and championship stature should’ve stood for themselves. The five-time champion, two-time MVP and three-time NBA Finals MVP was nominated for the honor twice and won three overall ESPY awards, two for Best NBA Player and one for Best Male College Athlete.
2. Jimmie Johnson
It’s not too surprising that record seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has never won the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year with auto racing not exactly being one of the most popular or most watched sports in this country, but it may surprise you to know he’s been nominated for the honor on three different occasions, which is more than any of the other athletes on this list. No auto racer has ever won the honor. Johnson has taken home four ESPY Awards for Best Driver throughout his career. Johnson is once again nominated for Best Driver this year.
1. Tom Brady
For many years Tom Brady has likely been the most hated player in the NFL so it’s not wholly surprising that he’s never won a fan-voted award, despite possibly being the greatest quarterback (surely America’s favorite star-making position in sports, though Steve Young and Drew Brees are the only two to ever win) to ever play in the NFL. Brady has been nominated for the honor twice and has won two ESPYs overall, once for Best NFL Player and once for Best Breakthrough Athlete, which is a travesty (but, again these are fan-voted and he’s pretty disliked among NFL fans). Brady is nominated for two awards this year for Best NFL Player and Best Championship Performance (which he should win). Despite the NFL clearly being America’s most-watched and favorite sport only three times has a football player won this honor (Young, Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson).