The 2019 ESPY awards was a bright spot for the United States of America, and for sports in general. The week has been dominated by the US Women’s World Cup Team, and they deserve all of the spotlight. The 2019 ESPY’s turned into a great awards show for some female athletes, as the US Women’s Soccer team won Best Team of the Year, and Katelyn Ohashi won Best Moment of the Year for her Perfect Ten Floor Routine.
While it was great to see these awards won by female athletes, there have been three other times in the previous two awards shows where female athletes have been passed up for less deserving male winners. Let’s take a look back at four female athletes who have come up short at these recent ESPY awards ceremonies, and give them the recognition they deserve.
2019 ESPY Awards: Best Breakthrough Athlete
The 2019 winner for Best Breakthrough Athlete was Saquon Barkley. Barkley had a phenomenal rookie season in the NFL, a season in which he had over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 15 total TD’s. Barkley was second in the NFL in rushing yards last season, and fifth in rushing touchdowns. He had a great season, but it shouldn’t have been enough to win Best Breakthrough Athlete.
Enter Naomi Osaka into the picture. Naomi Osaka is a 21 year-old tennis player that has taken the world by storm. In March 2018, Osaka won the Indian Wells Open, moving her up in the world rankings from 44 to 22. She had a rather quiet middle of the season reaching the third round at the French Open and Wimbledon. From March to August, she improved her ranking from 22 to 19. Then, in late August and early September, the US Open would be the tournament that changed the trajectory of her career.
Osaka shocked the tennis world by working her way to the finals of the US Open. Meeting her in that finals match-up was six time US open champion Serena Williams. Williams was the 17th seed and Osaka was the 20th seed. Osaka was not intimidated by the greatness of Serena Williams, as she was able to defeat her in straight sets, 6-2 and 6-4. This win would vault her to number seven in the world rankings. She ended 2018 as the leading WTA money winner, earning over $6 million dollars throughout the course of the year.
By the end of 2018, Osaka had vaulted herself to the number five ranking in the world. She was the number four seed as she entered the 2019 Australian Open. She worked her way through that field and defeated Petra Kvitova in three sets. This win vaulted her to the number one ranking in the world. She held that number one ranking for 18 consecutive weeks, and is currently ranked number two in the world.
In the time between the 2018 ESPY’s and the 2019 ESPY’s, Osaka won two majors, vaulted all the way to number one in the WTA rankings, and has become one of the best women’s tennis players in the world. Her performance in 2018 and 2019 speaks for itself, and she should have won Breakthrough Athlete of the Year.
2019 ESPY Awards: Best College Athlete
The 2019 ESPY award for Best College Athlete went to Duke basketball player Zion Williamson. Williamson won the Naismith Award in 2019, and later became the number one draft pick in the NBA Draft. He had a great season, but he shouldn’t have been named the Best College Athlete. In fact, he shouldn’t have been in the top two.
Williamson had a great season, but it was definitely not a record setting season. He averaged 22.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. If we look at the last twenty Naismith award winning seasons, Williamson would be tied for seventh in points per game, eighth in rebounds per game, thirteenth in assists per game, tied for fourth in steals per game, and sixth in blocks per game. While Williamson had a great season, his numbers are not record setting. Unfortunately for him, two candidates in this category had record setting years that helped lead their team to final fours and/or championships (Williamson’s Duke Blue Devils lost in the Elite Eight).
The first of those candidates is Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu is a college basketball player for the University of Oregon. She was also one of the nominees for the best record breaking performance, as she became the all time leader in triple doubles. That record is the all time record for both men’s and women’s college basketball history. She broke Kyle Collinsworth’s previous record of 12 triple doubles, a mark that it took him four years to get. Ionescu has now surpassed his total, and she has done it in only three years. Counting tournament games, Ionescu now has 18 triple doubles.
Now some people may say that breaking the NCAA division I record for triple doubles may not warrant an award for this particular season. The thing is, though, Ionescu also set the single season record this season for triple doubles in a season. The previous record was six, and Ionescu secured eight triple doubles last year.
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that Zion Williamson wasn’t even the nation’s best college basketball player. If the ESPY’s were going to pick a basketball player, they should have picked Ionescu. Now, let’s take a look at the other candidate that was more worthy of this award than Williamson.
Enter the 2019 collegiate woman athlete of the year award winner, UCLA Softball pitcher Rachel Garcia. Let’s take a look at her season statistics before we talk about her greatness at the Women’s College World Series. On the season, Garcia was 29-1 with a 1.14 ERA. She also struck out an amazing 286 batters in 202 innings. By the way, she’s not just an amazing pitcher. She also hit .343, had 11 home runs, and drove in 57 runs.
Now, let’s take a look at Garcia’s performance in the NCAA Tournament. During the tournament, she was 9-0 with a 1.49 ERA. She also batted .300, and had three home runs, 16 RBI’s, and eight walks. Garcia led all postseason pitchers in wins, and led all postseason players in RBI’s. In the College World Series part of the tournament, Garcia went 5-0, batted .333, had two home runs and eight RBI’s. This included a three run walk-off home run to send UCLA to the WCWS Championship. In that game, Garcia also pitched 10 innings against Washington and struck out 16 batters.
In summary, both Ionescu and Garcia had better seasons in their respective sports than Zion Williamson. If the ESPY’s are going to put men and women in the same categories for college player of the year, they are going to have to start respecting the female athletes they put in these categories. This may seem like a harsh criticism, but when we couple this year’s winner with last year’s winner, you may agree with me.
2018 ESPY Awards: Best College Athlete
The 2018 ESPY award winner for Best College Athlete was Baker Mayfield. Mayfield put together a great season for the Oklahoma Sooners, throwing for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also ran for 311 yards, had five rushing TD’s, and even had a TD reception. When you compare his season numbers against other quarterbacks in college, we see that his numbers did not set records.
In terms of passing yards, Mayfield’s single season total ranks 32nd in college football history. His 43 passing TD’s ties him for the 23rd best season in that category. To put Mayfield’s season in perspective, though, Mayfield did not lead the NCAA in either passing yards or passing TD’s in 2017. Mason Rudolph led the nation in passing yards, while Drew Lock led the nation in passing TD’s. Mayfield’s season was great, but it was just one of many great college football quarterback seasons that have happened in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, what was happening on the Stanford swimming team was unprecedented. Katie Ledecky was helping lead them to their second straight NCAA Championship. Her sophomore season was not as good as her freshman season, but it was still masterful. During this season, Ledecky won three NCAA titles (500 free, 1,650 free, and 800 free relay). On the season, she was undefeated in the 200 free, 500 free, 1,000 free, and the 1,650 free. In her final win, she won the 1,650 free by 28 seconds.
By the time her two year career had ended at Stanford, Ledecky had posted absolutely amazing records and statistics. She was the American record holder in six different freestyle races. Ledecky broke American records 11 times in those two years, NCAA records 15 times, and NCAA meet records six times. She was a seven time Pac-12 champion, eight time NCAA champion, and a nine time All-American.
This six time Olympic gold medalist has never won the college athlete of the year, even though she had two phenomenal seasons in college. Her international record is absolutely stellar, and she could possibly go down as one of the best female swimmers of all time. But, her accomplishments at Stanford are less than Baker Mayfield’s at Oklahoma according to ESPN, which is a complete joke.
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