and the award for neediness goes to …

July 12, 2012 — It’s 6 p.m., which means it’s still more than three hours until the Texas Rangers season resumes following the All-Star break. The Rangers start the second half of the season at Seattle, which is either worrisome because of the Rangers’ lack of success at Seattle this season or an opportunity to start the second half by asserting dominance within the American League West.

Either way, at least there’s baseball tonight.

Last night was the one night of the year that is annually completely void of sports in America. That is to say there are no live pro baseball, football, basketball or college sports available for viewing either in person or on television. Though I don’t feel like my life revolves around watching sports, it is glaringly apparent when there’s nothing available. That’s probably because my typical, baseball-season non-eventful-evening schedule involves reading at the coffee shop until I check the Rangers’ baseball score and then head home to watch the late innings.

Last night, as it has for many years now, ESPN offered up the ESPYs in place of live sports. I remember watching the initial ESPY awards and being moved by Jim Valvano’s speech. That ceremony took place in the late winter or early spring of 1993 and I probably wouldn’t have watched it otherwise. In 1993, there were far too many things to capture my attention on a summer evening other than a sports awards show. And that late statement is certainly meant to disparage the idea of a sports award show and, pointedly, the ESPYs.

Simply stated, sports don’t need awards to validate its participants because sports crown champions. Success or failure in sports is definitively graded in almost every instance. Furthermore, we have halls of fame for just about every athletic endeavor in the history of America. So the ESPYs are needless validation.

I’m mostly against the idea of awards and especially award shows in general. I have no interest in the Grammys or any of its bastard children. I’ve taken to watching the Academy Awards show every year, but that’s an eye-opening experience because I learn something about the films and the actors who are nominated for and win the Oscars.

Nevertheless, the silliness of the ESPYs reached me via Twitter today, and this is a separate complaint in this column, which I acknowledge has less of a transcendent-nature-of-sports theme and instead is just a venue to do a bit of complaining.

Apparently, according to Twitter, Baylor won three ESPYs, which is the most ever captured by one school in a single year. I don’t care if this is true because it’s just the latest in a long line of fake stats generated by Baylor. I should disclose here that I live in Waco, Texas, but did not attend Baylor, so I have limited sympathy for the Bears. And my Baylor friends have effectively spent what sympathy I had for them. So I’m out. But I sort of need to kind of fake it for reasons that don’t need to be unpacked here. But the ESPYs are sort of the perfect example of Baylor’s need to continue validating itself for athletic achievements that should be able to stand on their own. For months now, the Baylor folks have been generating these multi-sport winning streak stats that don’t really matter.

Here’s what matters. Late last fall, Baylor defeated Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas and Washington, which led to Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy and the Bears finishing with a 10-3 record. I can state as someone who hasn’t always wished Baylor the best and maybe still doesn’t that this is one of the most impressive feats I’ve ever witnessed. Almost eight months later, I still don’t think it’s sunk in that Baylor produced a Heisman winner. That could take years, though.

Also in the category of things that matter is that Baylor’s women’s basketball team, led by phenom Brittney Griner, captured the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Applause.

But, sorry Baylor friends, the ESPYs are the sports world’s over-the-top version of the guy who wears his high school letter jacket to his college classes even when it’s not really jacket weather.

This is all just another example of ESPN’s misunderstanding of the value of sports and the network’s tendency to value analysis over … No. No, I should just stop before I begin to sound like the grouchy old sportswriter (which I already am anyway).

(Addendum: I was wrong. The baseball season didn’t resume until the next night, leaving me with another slow summer evening. My feelings about the ESPYs haven’t changed, though.)

photo by Phil Ellsworth/ESPN


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