Dec. 17, 2005
As the holiday season gets into high gear and 2005 draws to a close, it’s time to honor those who have made a difference this year. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the winners of the Second Annual Claxton Awards.
Person of the Year (Male): Richard Blair, who runs a liberal Internet blog called The All Spin Zone (http://allspinzone.com/blog/). Blair, a 51-year old Caucasian who felt that missing African-American women were being ignored by the media, led the fight to bring attention to the Latoiya Figueroa case in Philadelphia earlier this year. Blair’s efforts paid off, as the national media took note of the groundswell of bloggers writing about the case and openly questioning news organizations who devoted large blocks of attention to missing Caucasian women.
Although the Latoiya Figueroa case ended in tragedy, the attention it generated may help generate more timely coverage of missing black women nationwide in the future.
Person of the Year (Female): S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the long-running drama “Law & Order”, adds a Claxton Award to what has already been a breakout year. With the passing of Jerry Orbach in 2004, Merkerson is now the longest-serving cast member on that series. Even more important, she now holds the record for longest-running African-American character in dramatic television. That character has made appearances in “Law & Orders” various spin-offs, as well as two different computer games.
Merkerson is definitely no lightweight when it comes to acting. The native Michigander has won several awards for her work on Broadway, along with a well-deserved Emmy for her role in the HBO movie “Lackawanna Blues” earlier this year.
Sportsperson of the Year (Male): Tony Stewart, who drove the #20 Home Depot Chevy to the 2005 Nextel Cup Championship, is one of only two active drivers, and one of fourteen altogether, who have won multiple championships at NASCAR’s premiere level. This championship, though, is particularly sweet for Stewart fans—including fellow correspondent Kaycee Nilson—who have watched the driver’s transformation from brash, tempestuous hothead to a more mature, thoughtful member of the racing elite.
There were sexier picks for this award—cyclist Lance Armstrong, tennis star Roger Federer, and golfer Tiger Woods, specifically. Even PBA champion Patrick Allen got a long look, because he dominated a sport, bowling, that doesn’t get a lot of press these days. But Stewart drives away with this award this time.
Of the five wins Stewart picked up this season, his victory at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was indeed the sweetest. Stewart is a native of Indiana, and the race is one he had always had his eye on winning. At the year-end awards banquet, Stewart’s fellow drivers joked about his weight. They better hope he doesn’t lose any, because if he does, he has the chance to be truly dominant for a long time.
Sportsperson of the Year (Female): Golfer Annika Sörenstam had a year for the ages in 2005. She won ten tournaments, including her third straight LPGA Championship and her third Kraft Nabisco Championship in the last five years. She also tied a record previously set by fellow Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lopez by winning five consecutive tournaments (the last two tournaments of 2004 and the first three tournaments of 2005).
Sörenstam’s dominance on the links has been compared to that of Tiger Woods, who himself had a monster season with two major wins and more than $10 million in earnings. But on the women’s side of the course, the field will be chasing Sörenstam for many years to come.
Sports Team of the Year (Professional): The Chicago White Sox, baseball’s best team during the 2005 regular season, weathered a late-season swoon to reach the playoffs. Once they got there, they ran roughshod over their competition. The ChiSox lost just one game as they dispatched Boston, Anaheim and Houston en route to their first World Series title since 1917. To beat three very good teams like that is nothing short of phenomenal. And it’s only fitting that the team thrive under one of its most revered and beloved former players, Ozzie Guillén, who became the first manager born outside the United States to win a world title.
The White Sox weren’t the only pro team considered for this honor. The 2004 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXIX, and the 2004-05 San Antonio Spurs, who won their third NBA title, were also given a look for this particular Claxton Award.
Sports Team of the Year (College): The USC Trojans capped off an undisputed and undefeated (13-0) national championship season by winning the Orange Bowl earlier this year. For an encore, they went 12-0 this season and produced their second straight Heisman Trophy winner in Reggie Bush. When the Trojans face the Texas Longhorns at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Week, it will mark the first time that Heisman-winning teammates (Bush and last year’s winner, Matt Leinart) will play at the same time.
Memo to Pete Carroll: The NFL will eat you up and spit you out again. Stay in LA with the Trojans.
News Story of the Year: Hurricane season – especially Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast and Florida. There were twenty-six named storms, fourteen of which became hurricanes, in this record-breaking year, including the late-season storm Epsilon. Some people feel that God’s trying to get our attention with all these storms, while others blame greenhouse gases. Rest easy, folks. Mother Nature is just doing what she does best.
Bill Cosby Lifetime Achievement Award: Ted Koppel recently stepped down from hosting ABC News Nightline, a job he held for 25 of the 42 years he was with the network. What began as a 15-minute nightly update of the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980 eventually became a half-hour show devoted to covering newsworthy issues with various newsmakers. And like many of those same newsmakers, Koppel found himself the target of impersonation and lampoon, most notably by Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx (long before Foxx won his Oscar for “Ray”) on his eponymous WB Network sitcom. But there is one single event that shows just how savvy Koppel was as a newsman.
On October 17, 1989, just before the Battle of the Bay World Series was set to resume in San Francisco, an earthquake rocked the city, bringing life and the game to a shocking halt. Instead of reporting aimlessly on the disaster, Koppel, who was anchoring from Washington, deferred to ABC Sports play-by-play man Al Michaels, who had lived in the Bay Area for a number of years and could convey to viewers around the country the sights they were seeing. Koppel and ABC News won kudos from critics for their coverage of what is now know as the Loma Prieta earthquake. And with this award, Koppel joins Bill Cosby himself as a lifetime Claxton Awards honoree.
Oprah Winfrey Lifetime Achievement Award: This new Claxton Award will honor those women who have compiled a lifetime of outstanding work in the myriad fields of endeavor. And who better to receive the first such award, and have it named in her honor, than Oprah Winfrey?
For twenty years, Oprah has used her landmark talk show to dazzle, educate, entertain and reward viewers from around the world. She has turned little-known authors into best-sellers, she has allowed Hollywood’s hottest stars a forum in which to let down their hair, and she has used her vast wealth and influence to help those less fortunate. There aren’t enough words to describe the kind of impact that she has had. It’s hard to fathom, though, that Oprah’s show and her media empire might not have grown had it not been for a date with film critic Roger Ebert, who encouraged her to take her show into syndication.
Oprah Winfrey is truly a legend in her own time. Those who follow her into my pantheon of lifetime achievement will take with them an award that bears her name.
Crystal Halo Honors: These new awards have been designated for posthumous award to those who had a profound impact on the world during their lifetimes. The first class of honorees consists of 22 people, listed below in no particular order.
Pope John Paul II, well-traveled pontiff whose 26-year reign is among the longest in history.
William H. Rehnquist, who spent 24 years on the US Supreme Court, over 18 of those as Chief Justice.
Rosa Parks, the seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man, in 1955, kick-starting the modern civil rights movement.
John H. Johnson, publisher of the popular African-American magazines Ebony and Jet.
Ralph Edwards, creator and host of the game shows “Truth or Consequences” and “This Is Your Life”, and producer of “The People’s Court”.
Johnny Carson, late-night talk show king who also served as a game show host in his younger days.
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman ever elected to Congress (as a Democrat from New York), and the first serious African-American (and first woman) to make a serious bid to become President.
Arthur Miller, award-winning playwright best known for “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible”.
August Wilson, award-winning playwright best known for “The Piano Lesson” and “Fences”
Philip Johnson, Modernist architect whose best-known buildings include the Chippendale-inspired Sony Building in New York City and the twin-spired 191 Peachtree Tower in Atlanta.
George Mikan, basketball center who dominated the competition during the early days of the NBA, as a Minneapolis Laker.
Gaylord Nelson, former Wisconsin governor, US Senator, and environmentalist who was instrumental in the founding of Earth Day.
Chris Schenkel, sportscaster best known for his coverage of professional bowling for ABC Sports.
Max Schmeling, heavyweight boxing champion who later became a soft-drink magnate in his native Germany.
Hunter S. Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, best known for his seminal novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”.
Luther Vandross, award-winning R & B singer whose hits included “Here And Now”, “Dance With My Father” and “Give Me The Reason”.
Dick Weber, one of the founding members of the Professional Bowlers Association and three-time national bowler of the year.
Constance Baker Motley, lawyer who worked on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case and the first African-American woman ever appointed to a federal judgeship.
Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals.
Nipsey Russell, the first African-American actor to have a regular role on television, but best known as television’s poet laureate on a myriad of game shows.
Robert Wise, the last surviving crew member of the classic movie “Citizen Kane” (he was the editor), who won Best-Director Oscars for “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music”.
That’s all for the Second Annual Claxton Awards. We’ll do it again next year!
About the author: Claxton Graham has written a number of articles for Useless Knowledge. He works as a business systems analyst.
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