The annual 710 AM ESPN Southern California Sports Awards at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim had a nice flavor to it last week - but only if you like USC or hail from one of the surrounding valleys.
The awards were determined by fan voting and considering the event was hosted by USC’s flagship radio station, it was no surprise that Trojan athletes picked up four awards - five if you count Santa Ana Mater Dei’s highly touted junior quarterback Matt Barkley, who committed to USC last month.
There’s always going to be a bias whenever fans vote in sports - i.e. the various All-Star games - but consider this award given to the best High School Team of the Year.
Birmingham’s football team, one of the most dominant City Section teams ever, was not surprisingly passed over, but instead of losing to the predictable Mater Dei boys basketball state champion team of 2006-2007, the award went to the girls cross country team from Saugus High School.
Not to dismiss the girls who won a state title and finished second in the Nike Team Nationals, but someone needs to explain how a track team is better than a football team.
Perhaps this reporter is biased towards seeing Birmingham demolish great teams in the City as well as defeating Long Beach Poly, but a team that got national and statewide respect during a highly competitive football year in Southern California deserve more respect.
As for female high school athlete of the year, Long Beach Poly forward Jasmine Dixon was nominated but lost to former Valencia softball pitcher Jordan Taylor, now at Michigan.
Since the awards were for achievements in 2007, you can’t knock on Taylor winning - an undefeated season (32-0) and State Player of the Year. And for all that Dixon has accomplished, one doesn’t think she’ll lose sleep over losing this award.
There’s no argument, however, with Derek Fisher winning for Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year. A man who put his sick daughter before his team on the playoffs stage should always be praised.
To be honest, all three candidates - Corona Centennial coach Matt Logan and USC football aide Ricky Rosas were the others - were very deserving and if you don’t know their stories, look them up and try not to be touched.
Just like last year, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson served as the event co-host and once again, he proved that he is one of the most gracious and humble athletes in sports today.
Here is a man who cares deeply about his charity work, idolized Hall-of-Famer Walter Payton for how he carried himself off the field and takes the time to sign as many autographs as he can.
If you’re looking for a role model for your kids, you’ll find few better than LT.
The list of presenters also included Sal Masekela, the long-time voice of the X Games. Masekela said before the show that this year could be the long-awaited X Games debut of James Stewart, one of top motocross riders in the world.
For those who don’t know, Stewart is the first African-American to have success in the sport but still, he largely remains unknown due to the lack of mainstream visibility for motocross and supercross.
(Go look that up too, folks. Consider it dirt biking with motorcycles or a more exciting smaller version of auto racing)
Since baseball no longer has a strong hold on Black kids during the summer, there’s plenty of room for Stewart to attract new Black followers if he gets a bigger marketing push during the weekend-long competition.
Between Masekela, the son of jazz musician Hugh Masekela and current ESPN.com NBA analyst J.A. Adande -not to mention the beautiful couple of boxing champion Laila Ali and former USC and NFL star Curtis Conway, the award show presenters had a more diverse flavor than last year.
It’s a shame the awards themselves could not have done the same. But next year, here’s hoping more fans from the City schools go to ESPN 710’s website and help change that.