x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Laureus awards for a worthwhile cause

Unlike such awards as the Oscars and ESPYs, Abu Dhabi’s showpiece event is a ceremony that benefits greater good.

The Laureus Sports Awards, held in Abu Dhabi last year, use celebrity status to aid various social causes around the world.
The Laureus Sports Awards, held in Abu Dhabi last year, use celebrity status to aid various social causes around the world.

Coaxing 95 per cent of humanity into full agreement on any issue can seem awfully uphill, but here goes one assertion that might just have a shot: the world has too many awards shows.

There, now that we all have agreed so overwhelmingly, we can go about examining the perils of excessive awards shows and deciding which of them would remain in a perfect world, which would bring us to the Laureus Sports Awards set for tomorrow night in Abu Dhabi.

Now, the most glaring hazard of so many awards shows is that soon people will spend so much time receiving awards that they no longer will have time to do much of the toil that merits the awards.

It is mathematically inarguable that if awards shows continue metastasising at the pace of recent decades, pretty soon life will consist only of holding awards shows, attending awards shows, watching awards shows or complaining while family members watch awards shows.

It will be a planet submerged in self-congratulation.

This harrowing prospect seems particularly likely during movie-award season, which forces us to gauge the significance of the apparent thousands of movie-award shows, so many that I happened upon an extreme just this past Friday night, a televised awards show for which editors opted to show certain celebrities standing from their seats and walking toward the stage in slow motion, because clearly they do not get quite enough exposure otherwise.

How many times in one winter can Colin Firth, however deserving as the best, ascend a staircase to a stage and express fresh gratefulness?

You almost start to feel for him, and you wonder which shows you might prune.

With the exposure of shockingly inept human judgement another peril in awards shows, I would start by putting a 10-year moratorium on the Academy Awards, for the simple choice last year of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side over Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia.

You do not have to disparage the generally excellent Ms Bullock to spot in that vote both the jolting misguidedness and the need for one of those special panels like they had for the financial crisis in Washington asking, "How in the world could this possibly happen?"

The whole concept clearly needs rethinking.

What clearly needs excision, though, is the idea of sports-awards shows - well, most of them.

Here is a crazy little secret about high-profile athletes: you know that victory for which you're giving them a statuette? Well, somebody already gave them a trophy for that!

But no, a smitten world must give them more, so in the United States there came to pass an annual award show called the ESPYs, born in the 1990s of the sports network ESPN. This might just be overstatement, but the ESPYs do rank among the foremost reasons for national decline, somewhere just behind banking malfeasance.

A one-night festival of aggrandising horror, the ESPYs have forged unimaginable excruciation until it more than doubles the excruciation in watching the BBC's Sport Personality of the Year to access excruciation levels previously thought unattainable. Even some of the recipients look uncomfortable.

The apparent motto: You Know These People We've Impaired Socially By Giving Them An Exaggerated View Of Their Own Indispensability Ever Since They Were Teenagers? By All Means Let's Give Them An Even More Exaggerated View.

Among the mottoes of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation: "sport as a tool for social change." As if any event featuring Morgan Freeman did not already have enough dignity.

And while I would incorporate even more categories for exemplary gestures versus awards for winning championships - a thoroughly decent bloke such as Rafael Nadal would be the first to say he does not yearn for more recognition - the Laureus Awards do ring with heart.

They take the star shine and aim it toward projects wherein the foundation tries to address aching need in an underprivileged world by using boxing in Brazil, football in Kenya, cricket in indigenous Australia, Special Olympics in China, et al.

So while its nominees include Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Nadal, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Manny Pacquaio, Sebastian Vettel, Kobe Bryant, Martin Kaymer, the Spain football team and the Red Bull Formula One team, Laureus seems to tread alongside what Nelson Mandela said of sport at the awards in 2000: "It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair."

In a sporting era of scandal, confusion and untrustworthy outcomes born of doping, he pinpointed what still rates worthwhile. If that courses through an awards show, then the whole award-weary 95 per cent of us could say that show could stay.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae