I voted at ESPN.com yesterday for this year's ESPY nominees. What was interesting this year was the categories. The basic ones are still there: Best Male and Best Female Athlete, best team, etc. What I did notice was that there seemed to be some downsizing. Last year you got to vote for best male soccer player and best female soccer player. This year it's just best soccer player. Same with golf.
I can somewhat understand the soccer consolidation--non-World Cup year, no more WUSA, the Olympic Games have largely left the collective memory. But I still think collapsing the category is a bad idea. I don't really want to get into the debate about men versus women in competition, because I don't think it's applicable here. What I think is that there are a lot of good female soccer players out there and in a year when some of the founders of contemporary women's soccer retired (Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett) it's a great time to pay tribute to them and possibly introduce the next generation: Abby Wambach, Heather O'Reilly, Lori Chalupny, and Cat Reddick. The collapse of the WUSA was a huge setback for women's sports and soccer in the USA and I think the move by the ESPY powers that be to consolidate only contributes to the downsizing of soccer rather than the promotion of it. In such a sports-crazed country as this, you cannot convince me that there just isn't enough collective energy to support a sport that is so hugely popular in other areas of the world.
And as for golf--what were they thinking? Women's golf has taken off in recent years, relatively speaking of course. Just because Annika dominates, does not mean that the rest of the women's field is negligible. Last week's US Open showed that with a group of young amateurs taking turns at the top of the leaderboard. Plus there is the strong contingent of Korean golfers putting and driving their way to the top (similar to the "Russian invasion" in women's tennis). This was a bad move for the ESPY organizers who have always had a best female golfer category.
And as a sort of PS: many congrats to Harvard hockey player Nicole Corriero for being nominated best female collegiate athlete. Having met the very pleasant and intelligent Corriero and watched her successfully compete often in the shadows of her more famous Olympic veteran teammates (Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu), I can say she truly deserves this award. And in a year when hockey was not on anyone's mind, kudos to the ESPYs for remembering it.