Keith won that trophy in 2003 and 2004, thanks to a vote of his peers and members of the industry. But if he wins the coveted trophy Sunday night, it will be because of the fans, and Keith couldn't be happier, calling it a "beautiful thing."
"Why can't the awards be up to the fans, too, since they're the only reason that any of us get to go to work every day?" Keith said, applauding the switch in voting rules, which took effect in 2008.
"Politics should have no place in awards show. . . . So if you don't get nominated or don't win, you can't complain. Work harder."
Odds are those fans will choose a first-time winner today at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, from where the ACMs will be broadcast live on CBS. Keith is the only previous winner in the field of six, and with Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood, winners of the last six trophies, not nominated this year, it's especially hard to predict a winner.
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW