If there were an Academy of Sports Arts, and if it handed out annual awards for best performances, these are my picks for the past year.
And so, with no host, no opening montage, no monologue, no speeches, no commercials and no apologies, may I have the envelope please…
Best Picture: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team wins the World Cup
The U.S. Women’s soccer team goes out and dominates perhaps the most balanced field ever to win their fourth World Cup Championship, beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.
With a retiring coach and amid the backdrop of a lawsuit filed against USA Soccer, demanding equal pay to their much less successful male counterparts, all the American team did was win all seven games. Forward Megan Rapinoe won both the coveted Golden Boot for most goals in the tournament and the Golden Ball for tournament MVP.
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Simone Biles
Biles, the best gymnast ever, won her fifth world all-around title while becoming the most decorated gymnast in history, all while holding USA gymnastics’ feet to the fire concerning their gross negligence with longtime team doctor Larry Nassar.
Biles continues to dominate and advance in the sport even as she continues to deal with USA Gymnastics excluding her from the investigation of the disgraced team doctor, who is now serving a life sentence for criminal sexual conduct stemming from the sexual abuse of female gymnasts who came to him for medical treatment over the past two decades.
“Can’t tell you how hard this is to read and process, what’s it going to take for a complete and independent investigation of both the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the USAG?” Biles said.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Patrick Mahomes
Keep in mind that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has only started 36 games in his NFL career. That being said, Mahomes’ 12 passing and one rushing touchdown were the most in a single postseason in NFL history. The youngest player to ever win Super Bowl MVP, Mahomes finished the season 5-0 in games his team trailed by doubled digits, including three games in the Chiefs Super Bowl run.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Maya Moore
Widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best female basketball players ever, Moore didn’t play a single game that I’m aware of this past calendar year. Yet, her impact may never have been greater.
At the apex of her professional career, Moore suddenly walked away from the Minnesota Lynx to push for criminal justice reform and specifically for the release of Jonathan Irons, a man who Moore believes has been imprisoned for assault and robbery crimes that Moore claims he did not commit.
“I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything,” Moore recently told the New York Times.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Tiger Woods
Everybody likes a good comeback story, and in the past year there were none better than Tiger Woods’ win at the Masters.
After a downfall that played out publicly in various stages over the course of a decade, undergoing four back surgeries and missing two complete seasons due to injury, Woods won a fifth green jacket by making several big shots on the back nine against a handful of contenders in the tournament’s final round.
In doing so, Woods was crowned Masters champion 22 years after winning his first tournament title. While Tiger celebrated his first Masters with an extended greenside celebration with his late farther Earl, this time he shared it with a touching moment with his children, Sam and Charlie.
Best Director: Jill Ellis
Ellis may have had the most talented team at her disposal, but no team had more distractions and more to lose than the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in the 2019 World Cup.
Defending champs, suing their soccer federation for equal play, accused of excessive celebrations, of being too arrogant, accused of scouting an opponents’ hotel, having a prominent player called-out by the President of the United States and planning her retirement, Ellis kept the train that is U.S. Women’s soccer on the tracks.
In doing so, Ellis brought the American women through wins against the hosting French team and world powers England and the Netherlands to earn a second consecutive and fourth overall World Cup title.
The 2019 FIFA coach of the year, Ellis stepped down in November.