Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

Column: ESPYs are an awards show oasis

July 20, 2006

Every year, you hear about plenty of award shows for movies, music and television, but only hear of one sports award show.

Each spring, the Grammys, Oscars and Emmys are handed out. The television stations love talking about them all before, during and well after. Frankly, they are all pretty boring.

So once a year, sports fans have their awards show that they watch, the ESPYs. The Excellence in Sports Performances Yearly awards are the cure for the sports fan.

The 14th-annual ESPYs aired Sunday night and I must say I loved the show. I enjoyed the show because I am a sports fanatic, but also because of how the show correlates sports to the world and its problems.

There were a few awards given out to recipients for their courage, determination and will to survive that were very touching.

By now, most sports fans have heard of Jason McElwain, the autistic, graduate from Greece-Athena High School near Rochester, N.Y. McElwain was the team manager for his high school basketball team this past season.

On senior night, McElwain got to play the last four minutes of the game. After missing his first shot, he went on to sink six three-pointers and score 20 points.

It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. McElwain was on fire and had the crowd behind him. The student section of his high school was going crazy each time he made a shot.

That performance made McElwain famous and even won him an ESPY for "Best Moment." But, of course, that wasn't even the most touching part of the show.

The second-best moment of the night went to the John Ehret High School (Marrero, La.) boy's basketball team. After Hurricane Katrina ravished through the south, many high schools were destroyed and its students were separated.

The John Ehret coach gathered up his team from all around the state and managed to play an entire season. It took time for the team to bond, but after it did, the team went on to win the state championship over a heavily favored team. The entire team and coach were at the ESPYs and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

It was great to see success for a team after a disaster like Katrina. But, that was only the second-best moment of the night.

The most touching story of the night was told by actress Ashley Judd. She told the story of Afghanistan and how it has changed over the last few decades.

Judd described how the Taliban has basically taken away every woman's right to do practically anything. It was sad, because many women were executed or tortured.

Since the Taliban rule, two Afghan girls, Shamila Kohestani and Roia Noor Ahman, have sparked a women's movement in the sport of soccer. They have been playing the sport they love and are fighting for women's rights halfway around the world.

They were recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage award, which recognizes individuals whose contributions transcend sports. It may have been the most emotional moment of the night. Both girls were at the show and even spoke after accepting their award.

It was great to hear stories like these three, but even greater to honor these people for what they have done. That's what is great about sports, because sometimes they change people's lives or even the world.

Of course, the ESPYs were not all about being serious. There was plenty of laughs and goofiness by many professional athletes and a couple of comedians.

Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, hosted the show. I must say he was quite funny, especially in his opening monologue.

Armstrong was also part of two skits with comedians Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller during the show. Ferrell serenaded Armstrong while Stiller thumb wrestled Armstrong.

Many athletes and teams were honored during the show, which was expected. Those are some of the boring parts of award shows. But it is exciting to watch sports highlights before hearing the winner.

Then the show wrapped up with a musical performance from several artists, but not before talking about cancer research.

In the ESPY's inaugural show, 1993, coach Jim Valvano spoke about the Jimmy V Foundation, which raises money for cancer research. Valvano died soon after the show in 1993, but his foundation still lives on.

Each year, the ESPYs donates money to the Jimmy V Foundation, which is one special thing about the show. Armstrong, a cancer survivor, spoke about the Jimmy V Foundation before the show ended.

It has been a great past 12 months for sports, but keep your eyes open, you might just catch the next great performance, like McElwain's. You might end up watching a future ESPY winner right here in Baldwin City.

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