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Van Horn named ESPY's Player of the Year

Keith Van Horn may not have had the best season of any athlete to compete in Utah last season, but he was the only one to take home one of the (allegedly) coveted ESPY Awards on Monday night.

The former Ute and current New Jersey Net was named Men's College Basketball Player of the Year at the rather goofy ceremonies sponsored by cable sports network ESPN. A rather surprised Van Horn gave a rather brief, rather stilted acceptance speech."It's an honor to be here tonight. This is really truly unexpected," said Van Horn, who accepted his award from film director Spike Lee and guard Ray Allen of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Van Horn, who beat out Tim Duncan of Wake Forest and Ron Mercer of Kentucky, went on to quickly thank his family, his teammates and his fans. (But not Utah coach Rick Majerus.)

Van Horn was not, however, the only Beehive State basketball player to be nominated for an ESPY - awards that are voted on by ESPN viewers. Utah Jazzman Karl Malone was a finalist as Men's Pro Basketball Player of the Year - an honor that, not surprisingly, went to Chicago's Michael Jordan.

(In keeping with the weird nature of the ESPYs, Jordan's award was accepted by Bill Murray.)

Jordan was also nominated for the Performance Under Pressure Award for overcoming the flu to beat the Jazz in the NBA Finals. He did not, however, win - the honor went to Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis.

And while the Bulls may have beaten the Jazz, Chicago coach Phil Jackson lost the Coach/

Manager of the Year ESPY to Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland, and the Bulls lost the Team of the Year ESPY to the Broncos.

There was one other Utahn - at least part-time Utahn - who did nicely at this year's ESPYs. "Touched by an Angel" star Roma Downey got off a great line as the presenter of the Women's Pro Basketball Player of the Year award.

"Please forgive me for being disrespectful, and maybe my knowledge is a bit limited, being from Ireland, but Women's Pro Basketball Player of the Year - shouldn't Dennis Rodman be in this category?" she said.

THE RATING GAME: Last week was a big one in TV sports - particularly locally. In the space of five days we saw a Jazz-Bulls game, a BYU-Utah game, an NBA All-Star game and the opening of the Winter Olympics.

Comparing ratings for these various events isn't exactly fair, given that (for the most part) they didn't air at the same time. But a check of the local overnight ratings does give us an indication of who was watching what:

1. Jazz vs. Bulls (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Ch. 14): A 20.2 rating and a 34 share.

2. Winter Olympics: Sunday prime time (7 p.m., Ch. 2): 24.1/37

3. Winter Olympics: opening ceremonies (Friday, 7 p.m., Ch. 2): 21.1/36

4. NBA All-Star Game (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 5): 20.1/35

5. Winter Olympics: Saturday prime time (7 p.m., Ch. 2): 16.4/29

6. BYU vs. Utah basketball (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 14): 7.5/12

7. Utah vs. Rice basketball (Saturday, 4 p.m., Ch. 14): 5.0/12

8. Utah vs. BYU gymnastics (Friday, 7 p.m., Ch. 14): 3.2/6

Gee, remember when a BYU-Utah football or basketball game used to be the biggest event in local sports? Those days appear to be gone.

As to the local ratings for the Olympics, the numbers in Utah are comparable to the national figures that are in for the same period. We're certainly not overly crazed with the events compared to the rest of the country, despite what you would think would be some degree of heightened interest in the home of the 2002 Winter Games.