Garth Brooks has nothing to apologize for. The Country Music Hall of Famer just won his seventh CMA Entertainer of the Year award, and he deserves it.

That's not to say he was the most deserving nominee (nor is it to say he isn't), but that's a conversation best left for ideologues and social media. Eric Church and Carrie Underwood have better data. In 2019 they played more concerts, notched more hits on country radio and (in the case of Underwood) were more visible on and off stage.

Miranda Lambert summed up Underwood's credentials during a passionate stump speech on Taste of Country Nights, and she's right:

But data doesn't vote. Stats don't vote. Social agendas do not vote. People vote, and with loosely-defined guidelines, they vote with their hearts — a fact hammered home by the last few presidential elections. Few believe the best candidate won in 2008, 2012 and 2016, but while numbers may not lie, they don't tell the emotional truth, either. More people (i.e. voters) like what the "Dive Bar" singer has done for country music than what Underwood has done.

Let's be clear: Brooks and the other four nominees (including Keith Urban and Chris Stapleton) are deserving of being dubbed Entertainer of the Year. They were nominated over other deserving stars (Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Lambert), and they earned the right to be here. Brooks' stadium tour is a wonder, and his ability to frenzy an audience is something special — a fact songwriter Adam Hambrick spoke to eloquently on Twitter:

The 2019 CMA Awards celebrated women in country music, and the show's momentum seemed to be building toward the first female CMA Entertainer of the Year winner since 21-year-old Taylor Swift won in 2011. It's what so many people wanted, just not the largest slice of voters. Brooks may be getting skewered on social media for not mentioning Underwood or his fellow nominees (or for not handing the award to her), but the truth is he handled the situation about as professionally as he possible could.

It means something to him. Brooks wanted to win, not just for himself, but for his entire crew. Last month Taste of Country talked to the 57-year-old and wife Trisha Yearwood about the potential of winning another CMA Entertainer of the Year award, and they shared a story that explains why he needs another trophy for his barn.

“There is nothing like pulling up at the next gig and taking that Entertainer of the Year award out of the truck and just handing it to everybody there,” Brooks said, referring to his band and crew. “It’s like a Stanley Cup … because it’s theirs."

Yearwood then urged him to share a story of his 2017 CMA Awards win, when Brooks tried to take the trophy they presented him with back home with him. “They were like, ‘It doesn’t have your name on it. We’re gonna have your put name on it and be sent,'" she shares, laughing. "He’s like ‘I’m gonna take this one.'"

And he did.

"You don’t do this for the awards, but every time you can give an award for that band and crew who’s giving you everything, you got to see it through.”

All five nominees are just as deserving of that, as well, and one hopes each will get a chance. For now, Brooks has a few special intangibles that continue to put him out front with CMA voters (and he has a long, long legacy). Those who think legacy shouldn't matter and that it should be all about what was accomplished during the CMA voting year need to ask themselves this question:

If Underwood or Church or Stapleton or your favorite artist took a year off, but won the 2020 CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy, would you demand they give it back?

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