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ESPY Awards rock the Nokia Theater in L.A.

The ESPY Awards kicked off on time at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Host Seth Meyers treated the audience to an opening monologue that could have been written for “Saturday Night Live”.

It was edgy, filled with plenty of references to Tiger Woods, who wasn’t there and there were many jokes at the expense of ESPN, the network that produces and broadcasts the show. All of them related to “The Decision”.

Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd appeared in a taped piece that parodied the awkward interview of LeBron James by Jim Gray. Others who were teased by Meyers were Brett Favre, yes he showed up, Olympic snow boarder Shaun White and even race car driver, Danica Patrick.

The first award of the evening was presented to Tennessee Titan’s running back, Chris Johnson. His category was Best Breakthrough Athlete. Johnson is going through a very public contract dispute with his employer but it didn’t keep voters from acknowledging him as one of the few 2000+ yard runners in NFL history.

The award for the Best Record-Breaking Performance was given to John Isner and Nicolas Mahut for the mind boggling first round match at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.  Their match took more than 11 hours to complete, stretched over three days. It ended with the score of 70-68 in the fifth set.

The Best Sports Moment of the Year was given to Landon Donovan for his game winning goal against Algeria. Donovan connected in the 91st minute of the match and sent the U.S. team to the second round of the World Cup tournament. Most of the team went up on stage to accept the award.

The ESPY Awards are fun and meant to award achievements in and around sports. However, there are loftier goals that are noted by the ESPY’s. The Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the Jimmy V Comeback Award are given to people who personify the traits of the men for whom the awards are named.

This year’s Ashe Award recipients are the family of Ed Thomas, the Iowa high school football coach who took a town on his back after an unthinkable tragedy. He ultimately was the victim of another.

Thomas’ town of Pakersburg, Iowa was leveled by an EF-5 tornado in the summer of 2008. He lost his home and the high school at which he taught and coached looked like it wouldn’t host another game, never mind be ready for the first game of the 2008 season.

Slideshow of ESPY Red Carpet attendees

He worked tirelessly to keep the town’s 2000 citizens focused and together. On cue, the football team took the field and didn’t just play the season, they went 11-1. It gave solace and solidarity to the town.

But one year later, he was shot to death by a former student who suffered from a mental illness. Thomas’ sons and wife not only consoled each other but made certain to reach out to the parents of the boy who had taken Ed’s life

They never even considered vilifying the troubled young man or his parents. It’s a small town, you see and the word “neighbors” means something special in Parkersburg.

The Thomas family led the town’s grieving as well as healing process and gave new meaning to “turn the other cheek”.

This year’s Jimmy V Comeback Award was given to Denver Nuggets’ head coach, George Karl. He was stricken with cancer for the second time within a few years and it kicked his butt.

He had to bow out of leading his team through the end of the season as well as the 2010 playoffs. The Nuggets struggled without him and were bounced in the first round.

Karl had already beaten prostate cancer and lived through his son Coby’s two surgeries for thyroid cancer. But the throat and neck cancer he contracted tested him like nothing else.

Forty rounds of radiation burned through his skin, took his voice and he thought the cure would kill him before the disease.

He appeared on stage in the shadow of the Jimmy V banners and talked of the support he has had as well as his hopes for how to find and fund a cure for the dread disease.

It’s clear he’s ready to return to the rat race that is the NBA season but he will forever be changed.

Used with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles. 

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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The ‘Flying Tomato’ Wins Another Gold for U.S. Olympic Team

VANCOUVER, B.C. – During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver yesterday, U.S. snowboarding champion Shaun WhiteShaun White again showed the world he is a pioneer in his sport.

After one run in the halfpipe finals, White had already locked in the gold medal so he decided to entertain the crowd with a final run that included a move called the Double McTwist 1260.

For those new to the sports take out your calculator and divide 1260 by 360 = 3.5 then you will see what the major buzz is about.

To the blaring rock tune ‘Paradise City’ by Guns and Roses, the red-haired snowboarder known as the ‘Flying Tomato’ pulled off a move that included 3 ½ mid-air turns and a board grab; a maneuver he had been practicing in private while preparing for the games.

White nailed the move that could be called the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ for an Olympic record score of 48.4, wowing the crowd and impressing his competition and U.S. Snowboarding Coach Mike Jankowski.

“Shaun’s a living legend with what he’s done already and with what he’s going to continue to do and really push this sport to the next level,” Jankowski said. “It’s the All-American way. It’s being a pioneer and taking those steps into the unknown.”

“It’s impossible to beat Shaun unless he falls,” said runner-up and silver medal winner Peetu Piioroinen of Finland.

Before this final run, White had earned the gold after intentionally running a safer routine and posting a score of 46.8; a score none of his 11 opponents came close to beating.

The Flying Tomato adds this gold to his collection of hardware that includes a halfpipe gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

White was psyched after the run and talked to reporters. “I don’t think I’ve been this nervous at a competition before,” said White. “It’s the Olympics and there’s so much on me to do well. I’m glad I had the goods to deliver. We try to break the boundaries and see what we can do. I think we’re just tapping into what is possible. I wish I could predict the future. We have to go create it. It’s a cool position to be in.

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