Third annual ‘Big Time Sports’ awards

Welcome to the Third Annual “Big Time Sports” end-of-year awards! I’m glad you could make it. As always, these awards are completely random, and were voted on by a one-man committee of sports experts. Also, these awards, like the baseball trade deadline, are intangible; so if you’re a winner, please don’t contact me in hopes of picking something up for your trophy case. We don’t have that kind of budget here. So without further ado, on with the show!

Strangest Moment of the Year Award

Terrell Owens doing half-naked sit-ups in his driveway. What was that all about? Owens hosted an impromptu press conference at his house in August, which ended with him doing shirtless crunches on his asphalt driveway for no apparent reason. I wonder if Terrell Owens’ neighbors are going to miss him. I can just picture T.O. walking out of his house in the morning to get the newspaper, wearing only boxers and a camouflage bathrobe, and waving to his neighbors as they peaked through the blinds. He needs a reality show. And don’t act like you wouldn’t watch.

Runner up: Anything that involved R. Kelly.

Worst Year Ever Award

Sidney Ponson. The best part of former Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Sidney Ponson’s year was his ERA, which was 6.21. Ponson began 2005 in jail, because on Christmas Day of 2004, he punched out a judge in his native Aruba. Then he got a DUI. Then he lost 11 games for the woeful Orioles. Then he got another DUI. Then he got released from the woeful Orioles. Two weeks ago he was sentenced to five days in jail for his most recent DUI. All in all, Ponson began and ended 2005 in jail, and in between that, was one of baseball’s worst pitchers. Things can only get better at this point for Ponson. Let’s hope.

Runner up: Colorado football coach Gary Barnett

Most Inevitable Coaching Change That Ended Very Weirdly Award

Pat Riley replaces Stan Van Gundy in Miami. Riley, the president of the Miami Heat, was this close to relieving Van Gundy of his duties before the season even started, but ultimately decided to keep the guy who led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals in the spring. But after an 11-10 start, Van Gundy abruptly “stepped down,” citing “family time” as the reason. Apparently, Van Gundy suddenly realized that he had a family at the same exact time Shaquille O’Neal returned from injury. Also, Riley tried desperately to convince Van Gundy to stay, probably saying things like, “You’re sure about this decision, Stan?” while several armed men wearing black sunglasses formed a circle around Van Gundy’s desk.

Runner up: Mike Martz, embattled coach of the St. Louis Rams, goes on medical leave for a heart condition, tries to call in plays from his hospital bed, but Rams’ management refuses his calls. Meanwhile, some guy named “Vitt” coaches the team, and by “coaches,” I mean, “was on the sideline during the games.”

Third place: Larry Brown leaving Detroit for a Knicks’ job he started interviewing for while his Pistons were still in the playoffs. Gotta love Larry Brown. Or hate him. Either one.

Best Facial Hair Improvement Award

Jake Plummer’s mustache. In 2004, sans mustache: 20 interceptions. In 2005, with mustache (and then beard): six interceptions. Enough said.

Runner up: Pau Gasol’s beard. Instantly transforms Memphis Grizzlies’ player from a soft European weakling, to a blue collar, wood-chopping workhorse.

Quote of the Year Award

“It can be very therapeutic.”
- Alex Rodriguez, on therapy.

Thanks for that nugget of knowledge, A-Rod. He would go on to say that his childhood dream was to become a podiatrist, until he realized how much podiatry was involved.

Runner up: “Jim Haslet should be considered for ‘Coach of the Year,’”
- ESPN’s Joe Thiesman, during a “Sunday Night Football” telecast, referring to the coach of the then 2-8 Saints.

Play of the Year Award

Derek Jeter’s diving catch over Robinson Cano. Sometimes I’m not so sure if everything Jeter does is THAT amazing, or if, as a society in general, we are so enthralled with the entity that is Derek Jeter, that maybe – just maybe – his accolades are sometimes overblown. But then I watch this catch, and I’m reminded that he really is that great.

Runner up: Each time Reggie Bush touched the ball against Fresno State and UCLA.

Game of the Year Award

USC beats Notre Dame. Any game that features a) a million points, b) a huge late fourth-down conversion to keep the game alive, c) Reggie Bush, d) a 32-game winning streak on the line, e) a national title at stake, f) a revitalized, legendary college football program with an excellent coach, g) a game-winning, fourth-down touchdown play that ended with last year’s Heisman trophy winner being literally pushed into the endzone by this year’s Heisman trophy winner, and h) a confused and delirious Pete Carroll running around giving man-hugs, will ALWAYS get my vote for game of the year. Always.

Runner up: Kentucky versus Michigan State, NCAA Tournament.

Third Place: Game Five, NLCS (Albert Pujols’ home run).

Worst SportsCenter Gimmick That Further Serves to Replace Actual Highlights and Drive Me Crazy Award

Fake baseball press conferences. Yes, fake baseball press conferences. In November, ESPN started this thing where baseball commentator (and former Mets’ GM) Steve Phillips pretended like he was the general manager of a baseball team – say, the Houston Astros – and then held an actual fake press conference, where the “members of the press” were simply other ESPN anchors, who would ask him questions about the Astros that he had no business answering. A few things here. First, if you’re flipping through the channels and you come across this, you think it’s breaking news. So if you’re an Astros’ fan, you immediately think that your team just signed Manny Ramirez or something. But in reality, nothing happened, because it’s fake. Secondly, why? What is the point of this? I don’t even like watching real press conferences – why would I watch a fake one? Thirdly, if I wanted fake news, I’d watch CBS (bum-dum, ching!) And fourthly, how ‘bout some freakin’ HIGHLIGHTS?!

Runner up: (Tie) Pedro Gomez’s, season-long, live updates on the progress of Barry Bonds’ knee, and…inexplicably ending “Pardon the Interruption” during “SportsCenter” rather than at the end of “Pardon the Interruption.”

The Most Success With Somebody Else’s Players Award

Roy Williams, North Carolina. Williams’ won his very first NCAA title with the Tar Heels, which finally proved what a great coach he is, except for the fact that he won the title with former NC coach Matt Dougherty’s recruits. And now, with his own players coming into the fold, Williams and the Tar Heels began the 2005-06 season unranked. Whatever. A title is a title, right Roy?

Runner up: Charlie Weiss, Notre Dame.

The “That Doesn’t Sound Right – Are You Sure?” Award

The Rutgers football team goes to a bowl game.

Runner up: The Chicago White Sox win the World Series.

Third Place: The Cincinnati Bengals win the AFC North.

Nickname of the Year Award

A-Vlad. This one is an interchangeable nickname for both Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero that originated out of the fact that both of these guys had absolutely brutal postseasons. It was almost as if they were competing with each other to see who could play worse. I’m not sure who coined this one (possibly my favorite writer, Bill Simmons, or one of his readers), but it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s unique in that it only captures a specific time period, unless of course, these two are able to simultaneously achieve such a degree of ineptitude again. I sure hope not.

Runner up: The Cooler. Amazingly enough, also for Alex Rodriguez. Used by his former Texas Rangers’ teammates to describe how A-Rod tends to cool off any team he goes to. Ouch.

The Best Athlete Who Is Currently in a Venezuelan Jail Facing Attempted Murder Charges, And Also Whose Mother Was Kidnapped, But Then Rescued Award

Ugueth Urbina. This was a tough one, so congrats, Ugueth. Not sure if we have a runner up for this.