The 85th Academy Awards Ceremony is this Sunday night, and while all eyes are on Hollywood’s finest, the sports world is experiencing one of its quieter times of the year.
Not that many people were clamoring for it, but there is an awards show for athletes called the ESPYs, aptly named by ESPN, that has been around for 20 years now. The ESPYs follow a similar awards template recognizing the best male and female individuals and teams, as one might expect.
The majority of sports from 2012 have concluded their seasons, but the ESPYs are not for another five months.
In anticipation of this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, and while we have a lull in the sports world, let’s have some fun comparing the best athletic performances of 2012 with this year’s Oscar nominees. I’ll stick with the major categories for convenience.
As a bonus, I will even make Oscar predictions. Here we go.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that the word "miserable" might have something to do with the translation of Les Miserables.
2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson knows the definition of being miserable as an All-Pro running back for a team that lacks a long-term solution at quarterback.
Peterson may not have suffered for as long as Jean Valjean, but he and his surgically repaired knee succeeded in spite of the wretched talent around him to carry the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs.
No one will ever compare the cultural impact of Lincoln abolishing slavery to James’ departure from Cleveland to Miami, but both decisions were embroiled in controversy.
Abraham Lincoln’s decision changed the course of American history while LeBron James’ decision changed the landscape of the NBA.
Lincoln is one of the most revered U.S. presidents, and James finally has a championship ring to add to his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
A silver lining is a metaphor for optimism in the face of adversity. Cooper's character faces his inner demons and must find a silver lining in life.
The Los Angeles Kings squeaked into the playoffs as an eighth-seed, and no team in that position had ever won the Stanley Cup before. The Kings were given a chance and made the most of their opportunity with Quick leading the way.
He had a 16-4 record throughout their playoff run and was named playoff MVP, posting three shutouts in the Kings’ ascension to NHL champs.
Coincidentally, the writer of the novel Silver Linings Playbook is named Michael Quick. No relation to Jonathan, though.
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants: Denzel Washington (Flight)
What does a baseball player, affectionately nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, have to do with Denzel’s portrayal of a drug and alcohol-abusing pilot, Whip Whitaker?
Not much except for their own personal struggles.
After a few bumps in the road due to being overweight and unproductive earlier in his career, Sandoval’s baseball future is finally “taking flight." He hit three home runs in a World Series game—a feat only accomplished three other times in the sport’s history—on his way to being named the series MVP this past season.
The Giants slugger is only 26 years old, but now the Kung Fu Panda is a two-time All-Star and MLB champion.
Michael Phelps, Team USA Swimmer: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
While we’re talking nicknames, Phelps should just lobby for the nickname “The Master.”
After an incredible 2008 Olympic run that saw Phelps attain an unprecedented and record-breaking eight gold medals, he followed up with a 2012 campaign of four more gold and two silver medals to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
A master indeed.
Phoenix’s character is a Navy veteran, a no-brainer connection with Phelps' affinity to water. Plus Phelps and Phoenix both start with “Ph.” Just saying.
And the Oscar goes to...Daniel Day-Lewis.
Allyson Felix, Team USA Sprinter: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Chastain plays a CIA officer named Maya who is determined to locate Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts by any means necessary, no matter the controversial methods. Ultimately, we know that the mission was successful.
In the London Olympics, Felix became the first American woman to win three gold medals in athletics since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. There was, however, a slight controversy regarding steroids, given Felix's prowess.
Felix was determined to put any steroid involvement to rest by regularly volunteering for additional tests and joining the Project Believe cause, which promotes drug-free competition.
She has not failed once.
Brittney Griner, Baylor Lady Bears: Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Watts stars in the true story of a family separated by a catastrophic tsunami, struggling to survive and find one another.
Griner has been accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks in her collegiate career.
She has the all-time single-season record for blocked shots, which she accomplished as a freshman. She averaged 23.2 points and five blocks per game, leading Baylor to an NCAA record 40 wins in its undefeated 2012 championship season.
The 6’8” Griner is also impossibly large—she wears a men’s size 18 shoe!
Serena Williams, Professional/Team USA Tennis: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Lawrence's character, Tiffany, deals with personal struggles throughout the movie.
Serena Williams was dealing with a foot injury that did not allow her to compete very much in 2011. However, she found a silver lining, healed up and stormed back onto the scene in 2012.
Having not won a Grand Slam title since 2010, Williams won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, in addition to the gold medal in London last year. As of February 18, 2013, she is back to being the No. 1 ranked player in the WTA.
Missy Franklin, Team USA Swimmer: Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Wallis is not a household name yet—nor is Beasts of the Southern Wild a summer blockbuster—but she is only nine years old and the youngest actress ever to be nominated for the prestigious award.
Missy Franklin is basically the female equivalent of Michael Phelps—except that she’s extremely young for her talent. At 17, she won five medals in the 2012 Olympics, four of them gold.
Wallis and Franklin: young, talented and likely to be heard from for years to come.
Alex Morgan, Team USA Soccer: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
This one is going to be a stretch of the imagination.
In Amour, a husband and wife in their 80s struggle with love and family issues as one of them experiences deteriorating health. Not exactly the most uplifting movie.
So how does this relate to Alex Morgan? First, let’s recall our French from earlier with Les Miserables and apply it here. Amour means love.
For the Women’s National Team, Morgan led Team USA in goals (28), multi-goal games (9), assists (21) and points (77) and was named 2012 Female Athlete of the Year.
Morgan’s efforts on the field showed her genuine love—yes, that’s the corniest but best relation I could come up with—for the game, her country and her teammates.
In addition to her team-leading stats, she also scored the latest goal (123rd minute) in women’s Olympic
soccer football history as the U.S. defeated Canada, propelling them to the finals.
And the Oscar goes to...Jennifer Lawrence.
Yeah, that's four BCS titles.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens: Michael Haneke (Amour)
Harbaugh and the Ravens dedicated their season to former owner Art Modell, who passed away September 6, 2012. That’s genuine affection for a man beloved by so many.
Leading up to the Super Bowl, it was brotherly love that was the topic of conversation—other than Ray Lewis’ farewell tour—as John and Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media.
Older brother John came out on top, and now has family bragging rights.
Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
The lead character in Life of Pi struggles to survive while being stranded at sea on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Basically like being in McCovey Cove outside of AT&T Park in San Francisco, sans tiger, as boaters await a home run.
Facing elimination in six games during the 2012 playoffs, Bochy was able to rally his team and navigate them to victory each and every time as the Giants captured their second World Series title in three years.
Kim Mulkey, Baylor Lady Bears: Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Mulkey and the Lady Bears became the first team in college basketball history, men's or women's, to finish 40–0 in securing the 2012 national championship. I’d consider that beast-like. They’re bears after all.
Plus Texas is part of the Southwest—not exactly the "Southern wild," but close enough.
Nick Saban, Alabama: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Saban has four BCS championships.
Spielberg has two Best Director awards (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan). Three of his other films, Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park, were the highest-grossing films of all time upon their release.
Pat Summitt, Tennessee Lady Vols: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
The incomparable Pat Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in August of 2011. She coached through the entire 2011-12 season, making it to the Elite Eight before Tennessee was eliminated.
She is a college basketball icon and even though she has retired from coaching, she will have the most victories (1098) and NCAA titles (eight) for a long, long time.
And the Oscar goes to…Steven Spielberg.
Baltimore Ravens: Amour
John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Art Modell and the entire Raven team and coaching staff have nothing but love for one another.
San Francisco Giants: Lincoln
Los Angeles Kings: Silver Linings Playbook
The Kings achieved NHL immortality in becoming the first eighth-seed to win the Stanley Cup.
Team USA Women’s Soccer: Argo
Team USA won 4-3 against Canada in the longest game in Olympics history on its way to a gold medal. The United States and Canada team up to rescue six fugitive American diplomats in Argo.
Baylor Lady Bears: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Again, bears are beasts. Especially undefeated, record-setting bears.
Kentucky Wildcats: Life of Pi
Calipari and his NCAA champion Wildcats. A young man and a tiger. Need I say more?
Miami Heat: Django Unchained
Django was undeterred in his quest for revenge, much like LeBron was in carrying his team through a grueling playoff run. After losing in the finals in 2011, James answered his critics who chastised his departure from Cleveland by winning an NBA championship.
Team USA Basketball: Zero Dark Thirty
The men's team was on a mission to return to its gold medal-winning ways. The women's team continued its dominance by winning its fifth gold medal in a row.
The U.S.'s pursuit of Osama bin Laden was victorious as well.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Les Miserables
The Crimson Tide is far from miserable as they won their second straight title, and three out of the last four BCS championships. It's the competition from the other conferences that's miserable.
And the Oscar goes to...Lincoln.