Talent supersedes everything.
That’s not some asinine ascertain, either, given that the past year has given us multiple examples of how this notion has become reality.
On Wednesday, Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard was named the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. On the court, Howard was more than deserving as she led the WNBA with 74 total steals, finished second with a career-high 2.18 steals per game, and ranked third in blocked shots (59) and blocks per game (1.74 bpg). This season, the Storm gave up 11.7 fewer points per game when she was on the court.
But for some, Howard’s name is recognizable for another reason. Back in July, she was in headlines after her wife came forward with domestic abuse allegations against her. Howard’s wife also posted videos and screenshots of text conversations with her and some Storm staff members, accusing her of domestic abuse.
“We are aware of the situation involving Natasha Howard and are in the process of gathering additional information,” a WNBA spokesperson told The Shadow League back in July.
Since then, Howard had stayed out of the news until the WNBA honored her as of one the best in their league.
It’s reminiscent of how some felt about Julian Edelman winning Super Bowl MVP back in February, after sitting out the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension.
“The performance-enhancing drug suspension has been largely (but not entirely) absent in the discussion of Edelman’s excellence and, in some corners, his long-shot Hall of Fame candidacy,” wrote the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore about Edelman.
“Try to imagine the difference in tone if theoretically a World Series MVP had been popped for PEDs and missed 40 games. It’s not even possible — MLB players busted during the season can’t play in the postseason. Baseball drug cheats are met with pitchforks. Football drug cheats are met with shrugs. They aren’t even really considered cheats. Or consider the way those busted for drug offenses are treated at the Olympics. Every Russian in PyeongChang last year was booed.”
And despite how worthy Edelman’s performance was on the field, as he hauled in 10 catches for 141 yards, becoming only the seventh wide receiver to win the award. He even acknowledged after the game that he might not have been the best candidate for the award.
“Your job as a receiver is to get open and catch the ball and block in the run game,” said Edelman during the postgame press conference. “My name was called, I was asked to make a couple plays and we were able to do that. There were a lot of plays by other guys. The defense was unreal holding that offense to three points. It is pretty crazy. They should be the MVP, the whole defense.”
As irony would have it, Edelman’s newest teammate is the current poster child when it comes to showcasing how talent is the most important characteristic in sports.
With Antonio Brown being accused of three separate incidents of sexual assault and rape, we are still waiting to see just how the New England Patriots will handle this, as many are wondering if they were aware of the situation before they signed him.
The fallout from Brown’s situation remains to be seen. However, we already know that Brown’s immense talent was the reason why the Steelers, Raiders, and Patriots have all entertained the baggage that comes with him.
It’s the same mindset that led a league that’s fighting against misogyny for viewership, equality, and equity, to put a woman dealing with domestic abuse allegations on a pedestal. And how the best player in this country’s biggest sporting event was anointed after he was caught cheating.
The cliché in sports has always been that the best man/woman should win.
But this last year has taught us that the best man/woman is also often celebrated, no matter the extenuating circumstances.