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Joel Blank: ESPYS will have a distinctive Houston flavor this year

Jose Altuve is up for best male athlete. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you’re a sports fan, one of the most difficult weeks of the year is on the horizon. Baseball is on its annual hiatus due to Tuesday’s All-Star game, there is no basketball to speak of except for the uneventful Summer League tournament, and NFL training camps don't open up for another 10 days.

For golf fans, the current major is the British Open, which means you either have to set your alarm for the middle of the night or rely on late night highlights. About the only prime time viewing option you have aside from the MLB All-Star game is the ESPY's on Wednesday night. Thankfully, Houston has a big presence this year as the Astros and Rockets are up for numerous awards. H-town has a shot to take home some serious hardware.

The Astros will be front and center, picking up nominations both as individuals and as a team, compliments of their storybook season and World Series Championship. George Springer is up for Best Championship Performance after taking home the MVP of the World Series. The team is up for Best Game, for their thrilling 10-inning Game 5 victory over the Dodgers. Jose Altuve is up for Best MLB player and Best Male Athlete and the team is also up for Best Team for all of last season.

Overall, that is quite a laundry list of nominees and you have to admit, they have a pretty good chance to take home several trophies when all is said and done. James Harden is also up for Best NBA Athlete, as well as Male Athlete of the Year. You have to believe that the team would have been up for a whole lot more had they found a way to pull out the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. Damn those hamstrings!

The interesting category for me is the Best Male Athlete Award, as you have two Houstonians in Altuve and Harden, as well as Tom Brady of the Patriots and Alex Ovechkin of the NHL's Washington Capitals. To me this should come down to Altuve and Ovechkin. Both have a great case to be made based on their franchise's title drought and the way they went about their business both individually and as a collective unit. Sure there was drama in the Stanley Cup and the Caps squashed the Cinderella story that was the Las Vegas Knights, but there is no denying Altuve and the Astros. Just looking at him, you have a soft spot for a guy that plays so big and looks so little.

Then you delve a little deeper and see that MVP, the laundry list of individual awards like Silver Slugger and Player of the Year, as well as statistics like another 200 hit season with 204, another batting title htting .346 and leading the American league in hits for the season. He was everything for his team from start to finish he deserves to be the Best Male Athlete of 2017. Don't get me wrong, Ovechkin was great, but Atuve just did more. Tune in to the ESPY's Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as see how all the local nominees fair and if you want to vote for your favorites, go to espn.com/espys and support your local jocks. With the sports world basially taking a Mulligan this week, what else do you have to do?

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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