I’m going through a bit a an American Civil War period in my intellectual life and I was recently struck by a Frederick Douglas quote. On his death bed Douglas was asked by a young activist what advice would he give to the young activist. Douglass’ response was “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.” So what does Frederick Douglas have to do with the ESPYs? A lot. I recently went over to ESPN’s home page to vote for Minda Dentler for Best Female Athlete with a Disability. Minda is an Ironman World Champion and the first official female hand cyclist finisher in Kona (with a finishing time of 14:39:14). Really impressive stuff. While scrolling through the other categories, I notice that while ESPN honors the Best Fighter, Best Jockey and the Best Bowler there is no category for Best Endurance Athlete, let alone Best Runner, Best Cyclist or Best Swimmer. While endurance athletes may not have the star power of LeBron James, Venus Williams or even Sebastian Vettel, they at least have the star power of Jason Belmonte and Wes Malott (nominees for best bowler with 17,300 and 1,646 twitter followers respectively). Heck, Mirinda Carfrae has 42,500 twitter followers and Bernie Eisel has 45,500. My thought is that if ESPN can recognize bowlers with ESPYs, it can and should recognize endurance athletes.
I figured I should first give ESPN a chance, so I sent the following e-mail to the ESPN media contacts:
Jay & Jennifer —
Question for you.
While voting for the ESPYs I noticed that you have categories for Best Fighter, Best Jockey and the Best Bowler but there are no categories that recognize endurance athletes such as runners and triathletes (I understand that from time to time runners and triathletes can fall into other categories such as Best Olympian and Best Athlete with a Disability but there is no specific category to honor these athletes). Running, cycling and trialthon are among the fastest growing sports in the United States, with millions of participants and massive growth rates (compare this to the rapid decline in popularity of traditional fighting sports and horse racing). Moreover professional endurance athletes have increasing popularity just look at the number of twitter followers for Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi or perpetual Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish. Is there a reason for not including these athletes and are there plans to include these types of categories in the future?
I’m hoping to get a satisfactory response but in the meantime who do you think are the 2014 male and female endurance athletes of the year?