On Sports

by: COURTESY OF JOHN LARIVIERE - ESPN's Neil Everett (left) and Fox Sports' Joey Harrington have fun with their matching footwear (or lack thereof) during the Oregon Sports Awards Sunday at Nike's Tiger Woods Center.When I first met up with Neil Everett nearly an hour before the start of Sunday’s Oregon Sports Awards, the ESPN SportsCenter anchor was having his photo taken with Special Olympian Dony Knight, the Lou Burge Award winner who presented the night’s master of ceremonies with a jacket and cap.

Everett couldn’t have been more gracious, or unpretentious.

When I next saw Everett, moments after the OSA show had begun, he was walking across the stage of the Tiger Woods Center in suit, tie and ... bare feet.

Talk about irreverent.

It was a different kind of an OSA event than in recent years, with a new host, a heavier emphasis on high school athletes and Nike President Charlie Denson’s pitch to emphasize exercise and sports participation with youths (“The World Has Stopped Moving”).

It came off well, thanks in no small part to Everett, the University of Oregon graduate who kept the program moving with his wise-cracking, chuckle-inducing style and surprisingly strong local knowledge.

“Is he a beauty or what?” observed the inimitable Mouse Davis, proving it takes one to know one. “A little nuts, but a good guy.”

Before and after the show, Everett wasn’t hiding in the Green Room or cavorting with the VIPs upstairs and out of sight. He was with girlfriend Stephanie Krohn — a Madison High and fellow UO grad — mingling with the masses in the foyer. That’s a state-of-Oregon kind of guy.

But then, we knew that when he strode out on stage sans dress shoes, drawing immediate laughs. It was a bit of comic genius that was echoed by Joey Harrington, the former Oregon QB great now a studio analyst for Fox Sports, who came out to present the Hayward awards also in suit and bare tootsies.

When Harrington allowed that Everett was a representative of “the worldwide leader in sports — Fox Sports,” the ESPN anchor had a quick response.

“Who knew Fox did college football?” Everett mused.

Everett cracked on the indecision of ex-Duck coach Chip Kelly — the co-Slats Gill Award winner — at taking the Philadelphia Eagles job.

“Chip called me before the show and said he was coming,” Everett deadpanned. “Then he called and said he couldn’t make it. Then he called again and said he was coming. Then he called again and said he couldn’t make it. ... ”

After introducing two-time Olympic fencing gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, Everett told the audience, “If you’re a guy, and you’re dating the fencer, you’re gonna pretty much toe the line.”

Everett’s ad-libs were funny (“They told me there was a teleprompter, but I’m more of a notes guy — then I can’t find my notes”) and his move into the seats to interview DNA Award winner Danny Miles, the basketball coach at Oregon Tech, connected him even more with his people in the crowd.

Loved it when Knight, making his acceptance speech, handed Everett his notes to help turn the page. “Everybody needs a good wingman,” Everett told the audience.

So what if the emcee referred to Joey Webber, the Portland Timbers’ chainsaw-wielding mascot, as “Lumberjack Joey”? Timber Joey will get over it.

The cast of presenters was first-class, among them Harrington, Zagunis, Davis, Bill Schonely, Jordan Poyer, Jay Locey, Steve Johnson, Matt Centrowitz and Matt Moore. Moore — who played with the Miami Dolphins last season — delayed a return to his home in Southern California three days to be on hand for the show. If anyone deserves status as an honorary Oregonian, it’s the classy ex-OSU QB.

Knight’s heartfelt speech was a highlight. I liked the Game-Changer Award going to Bobbie Steninger, whose 50 years of contribution to sport in her native Lakeview in the southeastern corner of our state deserved such recognition.

The OSA event simply wouldn’t be without the commitment of Nike and Denson, the former Crescent Valley High and Mt. Hood Community College defensive back who champions sports in the state. It wouldn’t be the smoothly run show without Michael Doherty’s Nike production team and the expert direction of Jim Etzel and SportsOne Inc.

Though the show was streamed live on the Internet, it’s too bad there wasn’t live television coverage. Hopefully Comcast or Root or another network will see fit to telecast the event next year.

Time constraints aren’t as rigid without TV, though. Sunday’s show lasted an hour and 45 minutes, and it didn’t seem too long.

I’d like to see Everett given a little more time to develop his “characters,” to ask the winners a few more questions and perhaps have more repartee with the presenters.

There needs to be a spotlight on celebrities in the crowd who are merely on hand for the event, such as OSU football coach Mike Riley, Olympic gold medalist Mac Wilkins, Trail Blazers CEO Chris McGowan and Timbers COO Mike Golub. There should be some representation, too, of hockey’s Winterhawks, one of the city’s viable sports teams.

A short video presentation of the people the state’s sports community has lost over the past year would be a nice addition, as well.

All in all, it was a fine show, even drawing a little breaking news from the emcee.

“I’ve bought a home in Seaside I’m going to retire to with my girl from Madison,” Everett said in his early remarks.

Well, then. No excuse to not have the guy back next year.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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