Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
ESPYs SCHMESPYs, it's clear who the best team really was
Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors were handed ESPN's award for best team. The Colorado Avalanche were clearly better, as was an historic women's softball program and it wasn't even close
There are memories.
Also, there are memories of memories.
Like, I must have watched the ESPYs, the whole thing, once or twice. I just had to have. I was 24 when they began in 1993 and still inhaling sports as I had at 8, 12 and 16 years old.
Plus, when else are you going to see Andre Agassi, Dale Earnhardt, Julie Krone and Bill Murray in the same room?
I remember different ESPYs through the years, different hosts, hilarity ensuing. It’s all there in my head. I just don’t remember sitting down to watch any particular ESPYs broadcast.
On the off chance you’re hearing about the ESPYs for the first time, they’re sort of the sports Oscars, a made for and by ESPN awards show, broadcast the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, aka the only day of the year, apart from the day before the All-Star Game, no NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and MLS games are played.
The slowest sports day of the year, why not invent an awards show celebrating people whose success has already been celebrated?
Not that it’s all pomp and circumstance. Perhaps the greatest speech in sports history was given by Jim Valvano at the original ESPYs in 1993.
Among the presentations are the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, the Pat Tillman Award for Service and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
These are good things.
Bigger than sports.
The rest of it?
I mean, really.
The latest example?
That would be the “Best Team” category, handed out Wednesday night at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre to … drum roll … the Golden State Warriors?
The competition was fierce.
To win it, the Warriors had to knock off the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, who went 12-5 in the regular season; the Atlanta Braves, who were 52-55 on Aug. 1 before catching fire all the way to becoming World Series champions; also the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, who were clearly better than the Warriors, finishing the regular season with 119 points, second in the league, and a 16-4 playoff mark, vastly superior to the Warriors distant tied for third-best regular season mark of 53-29 — 11 wins behind Phoenix — and 16-6 playoff mark.
Yet the crime wasn’t failing to hand the ESPY to the Avalanche, nor the WNBA champion Chicago Sky or even the Georgia Bulldogs, who topped Alabama for the national championship a month and six days after being drowned by the Tide at the SEC championship game.
You know where this is going.
The crime was treating coach Patty Gasso’s Oklahoma softball team like it should be happy to be nominated despite it so clearly being the most dominant team in its sport by miles and miles and miles more than any of those teams were dominant in theirs.
The Sooners won the national championship, their second straight and fourth since 2016. They went 49-2 in the regular season, or 48-1, depending how you count the Big 12 tourney, after which they went 10-1 in NCAA regional, super regional and Women’s College World Series play.
They hit .371 as a team, much better than second—in-the-nation Louisiana’s .351 clip. They slugged .734, more than 130 points higher than any team but Wichita State's .667. They got on base 47.4 percent of the time, far better than second-place Wichita State’s 43.7 percent mark.
At 1.05, the Sooners sported the nation’s best earned un average, almost a half run stingier than second-place Murray State’s 1.46.
It smacks of a couple of things.
Like, “Sure, we gave Jocelyn Alo the award for being college sports’ best female athlete (which they did) but we can’t be giving college softball two of our awards, can we?”
It smacks, too, of simply not caring about the facts, as though all of it’s a play for public approval.
Like, “We’ve got the Jimmy V, Ali, Tillman and Ashe awards to be seen as high-minded, and we’ve got everything else to create weeks of debate for our dumb morning shows and our dumb morning show personalities don’t know softball."
No harm done.
Nobody grows up hoping to win an ESPY. Nobody’s life is changed by winning an ESPY. Though millions may watch, I’d be surprised if even tens of thousands look forward to it.
It’s the slowest sports day of the year, what else is there to watch?
Still, it’s a platform.
A chance to tell stories to the masses they ought to know, but may have missed.
Many years it ought to be a Super Bowl champ, a World Series champ, an NBA champ. But when they’re not even close to the best, what’s the problem, dig deeper and tell a different story.
Maybe it’s a once-every-half-century thing and it’s been 27 years since a women’s college team, Connecticut basketball, was bestowed the honor, so the Sooners just have to wait another 23.
There’s good news, though.
Or, you know, video.
Lots of it.
The Sooners really were the best, the most dominant, even the most historic and it’s not that close.
A ratings grab on the slowest sports day of the year, because when else will you get Tony Danza, Eric Lindros, Steffi Graf and Corey Pavin in the same room?
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