ESPYs, Vonn, Shiffrin and ‘Game of Thrones’
There are a lot of reasons not to like ESPN.
It’s the East Coast Sports Programming Network. ESPN is far too in love with SEC football, not to mention it produces the SEC Network, an inherent conflict of interest. The ESPYs — Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, or a very clunky acronym — are a commercial exercise, designed to take advantage of the post-All-Star Game lull, and have waded into controversial waters.
I still don’t really know what to make about Caitlyn Jenner winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award back in 2015. Yes, it was a publicity stunt, yet at the same time, transgender people are part of American society and Bruce Jenner remains an iconic sports figure in our country’s history.
Leaving that controversy aside, Wednesday night’s ceremony was theoretically a tribute to the best athletes of the year, and two are conspicuously absent.
Where were Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn?
Neither were nominated for anything. All Shiffrin did was win the World Cup at the age of 22. Vonn was mentioned as part of the buildup to the 25th edition of the awards show as one of sports’ most prominent athletes during the last 25 years — no kidding.
But really neither nominated? Best Female Athlete? No nomination for Mikaela? Yes, of course, swimmer Katie Ledecky is going to win that award. (We’re writing this before the show.) As with the great athletes, Ledecky swims in such a way that it looks like she’s competing in one sport and everyone else in the pool is doing something else.
Yet Shiffrin’s doing the same thing in her sport. A nomination would have been kinda nice.
The ESPYs have awards for “Best Comeback Athlete,” “Best Olympic Female Athlete,” and “Best Female Action Sports Athlete,” to name a few.
No Vonn for the comeback award? If you haven’t noticed she’s been destroying her body the last few years and keeps on coming back. She won her 77th World Cup last winter in her second race back from a broken arm and she is the best American on snow — ever.
Better luck next year
Vonn is good enough to be in the network’s magazine “Body Issue,” because she’s still smoking hot. For the record, Shiffrin, in my humble opinion, is pretty hot too, but I think of the two as great skiers first and hot second, and it would be nice if ESPN would stop objectifying female athletes.
The truth is we’re coming off a Summer Olympics cycle in 2016, so a lot of the attention remains on gymnasts and swimmers and the athletes of Rio. ESPN doesn’t televise skiing, and doesn’t care about snow sports, except for the X Games, which are also a manufactured event, like the ESPYs, for the lull in sports before the Super Bowl.
The flip side of the coin is that, yes, “Winter is coming.” Woo-hoo, “Game of Thrones” premieres on Sunday, and the actual Winter Games are in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I would take Shiffrin in the slalom over a white walker. Vonn vs. Daenerys Targaryen — with one of her dragons — in a downhill is a push. (Lindsey wins easily if she gets her own dragon.)
So coming back to reality, maybe ESPN will give a hoot about two of the best athletes in the world come this time next summer.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
River Radamus is feeling blue, and he’ll tell you all about it at the U.S. Ski Team fundraiser in Vail on Thursday; Yama Sushi will host the event and a suggested donation of $500 or more gets you in the doors.