There was an audible gasp last night inside the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles when Usher announced the winner of the “Best Play” award at the ESPYs, a distinction given to the individual play that was deemed number one from the last year in sports.
The player that took home that ESPY was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who completed a 61-yard Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation during a regular season NFL game. As he and his Packers teammate Richard Rodgers took to the podium, there was a visible look of disbelief on the faces of many in the crowd.
That’s because everyone — EVERYONE — including Aaron Rodgers himself knew that the deserving winner was Villanova University, who shocked the sports world with its buzzer-beater to win the National Championship off the fingertips of “Big Smooth” Kris Jenkins.
Let’s establish my bias right away. I’m a proud graduate of Villanova, and like every other alum you’ll find, a huge fan of a program that has largely delivered excellent basketball with high moral character for the last decade. But even I can be objective enough to look at the finalists and determine that the fix was in for the Packers — who frequently play on ESPN as part of the NFL’s $15.2 billion (yes, with a “b”) mega-deal with the network — and its Discount Double Check flashy brand boy Rodgers.
And as Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono correctly pointed out, the Wildcats — who play on Fox as part of the Big East — just don’t fit the ESPN mold.
— Ryan Arcidiacono (@RyArch15) July 14, 2016
Lets do a quick rundown of the nominees so you can be the judge about how pathetic the choice from ESPN is to go with Rodgers, which was far and away the least consequential play in consideration.
First up, the joke of the night: the Packers’ win over the Detroit Lions, which came in Week 13 of the NFL season on a Thursday night. Really? Thursday Night Football? That’s the Lincoln Chafee of sports broadcasts. The Packers completed a 20-point comeback — yippie! — until you remember it was against the lowly Lions who finished the season below .500. The Packers made the playoffs before getting dropped by Arizona, and while Rodgers’ scramble out of the pocket was athletic enough by any white guy quarterback standards, Eli Manning did it much, much better.
Next, “LeBron’s Block.” If the fix was going to benefit anyone, I’m surprised the award didn’t go here. LeBron James stuffed Andre Iguodala with less than two minutes to go of a tied game seven, bringing home a championship to the city of Cleveland that had experienced a vicious winning drought in the process. It was a great play, but then again, considering the totally-believable theory that the NBA rigged the series to begin with to maximize on Father’s Day viewership… it loses a bit of its flavor.
The third nominee was one that I must admit brought me tremendous delight this past season: the stunning last second collapse of the Michigan Wolverines at the hands of its Great Lake rival Michigan State. The Jim Harbaugh-led Wolverines botched a punt with mere seconds left, not only failing to kick the ball out of its own territory but also disastrously turning it over to the Spartans who scored with no time remaining. While it was a great play and a wonderful addition to the storied rivalry, it was of little consequence to any championship ambitions.
And finally, the shot that will be replayed again and again throughout human history as one the greatest moments in all of sports, the snippet that will survive in the time capsule when a future civilization stumbles on the remains of Earth in the post-Overlord Trump era. With time expiring in the National Championship against North Carolina, Kris Jenkins of the underdog Villanova Wildcats sunk history’s greatest buzzer-beater:
“Jenkins looked pretty cool taking that shot,” admitted President Barack Obama during his phone call to Villanova head coach Jay Wright. The character of the young Wildcats team was front and center throughout the entire tournament run; as Wright told his squad minutes after the victory:
“You know what you are. Before you won this championship, you were great men. Great, humble men. Not perfect — we’re not perfect. But you guys are great men. Unselfish, and you’ve got great character. OK? Let’s remain that way as champions.”
This is everything that sports should embody.
Are these sour grapes on my part, a devoted alum of the small and scrappy Augustinian University that shocked the sports world in the most incredible of ways? Absolutely. In my opinion, the Jenkins shot should be on the ballot in all 50 states this November.
But at the end of the day, does this matter? No. The veritas of the situation (verbiage my ‘Nova counterparts will recognize) is that the ESPYs are a joke and ESPN is a money-grubbing media powerhouse, willing to do anything to profit off its brand and capitalize on the content it broadcasts. Rodgers can keep his ESPY and the memory of a inconsequential throw down the field. I guess Villanova will simply have to comfort itself with a National Championship-clinching moment that will live on not as the best play of the year, but the greatest shot of all time.
J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) is an editorial producer and columnist at Mediaite and a graduate of national champion and ESPY loser Villanova University.
[image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.