So, the Emmys are irrelevant, eh? Try telling that to Michael Chiklis.

A Sunday Los Angeles Times exposé — timed to coincide with the 54th annual Emmy ceremony — described TV's biggest night as "the Rodney Dangerfield" of award shows because, well, they don't get no respect. Clearly, this particular Times writer hasn't clocked many hours backstage during the annual kudocast. Because if he had, he'd realize that the Emmys are much more than Oscar's annoying little stepsister.

Take this year's celebration, for example. TV Guide Online witnessed first-hand countless examples of Emmy's importance — beginning with the aforementioned Chiklis, a lead actor winner for The Shield. The chrome-domed thesp learned a powerful lesson following his surprise triumph: never stop dreaming. "This has been the most extraordinary year of my life," he told us mere moments after his win. "You have no idea. Honestly, for everything to have happened the way it has happened... it's nothing short of storybook." Alright, just please don't start crying again.

Here's more reasons why Emmy should be revered:

Emmy has a strong political record. For the third year in a row, NBC's The West Wing took home top drama honors. But for the third year in a row, leading man Martin Sheen got snubbed. "Martin certainly deserves to be recognized," exec producer John Wells told us. "We're going to make the show for a few more years, and I'm sure he'll get a chance." Added co-star Dule Hill: "He's a phenomenal actor and he knows that. I hope that eventually he gets it. Maybe next year." For his part, Sheen found comfort at the press room buffet table, where he was seen devouring everything in sight (except for those yummy chocolate chip cookies, which reporters ate up in just seconds). Regarding his loss, he shrugged: "We didn't win the Most Valuable Player, but we won the game." Okay, so Emmy doesn't promote modesty.

Emmy helps put things in perspective. Brad Garrett, a supporting actor winner for Everybody Loves Raymond, was asked by reporters what it felt like last year to be the only member of the show's cast not up for a gold statue. "You feel sorry for yourself for about four minutes and then you feel like a jerk because you're on a hit TV show and you've got a good life," he said. "So, I got over it." Clutching his golden girl, he added: "And this helps too." That was a sentiment shared by West Wing supporting actor winner John Spencer, a former alcoholic who has been sober for more than a decade. "This just goes on to show me what a fortunate human being I am and how much I have to be grateful for."

Emmy makes being old cool. The second-consecutive supporting actress in a comedy win scored by Garrett's Raymond co-star Doris Roberts proves that America's older generation is, in fact, its best asset. "I'm 71 and kicking," an exuberant Roberts exclaimed. "I spoke at a senate committee in Washington on ageism a couple of weeks ago and [argued] that older people should not be denigrated. Why should I be denied the fulfillment of my life because I'm over the age of 40." You go sister friend!

Emmy still likes Sex. Of course, we're referring to HBO's Sex and the City. Okay, so Sarah Jessica Parker and co. didn't claim the evening's big prize — best comedy series — but exec producer Michael Patrick King did win for direction. Later, TV Guide Online pulled the auteur aside and asked him whether we'll be getting our full helping of Sex next year. (Due to Parker's pregnancy, viewers only got eight episodes this season — down from 13.) "It'll be so full you'll be stuffed with it," King joked. "You'll have to take a break and come back for dessert."

Emmy can be used as a weapon. Sure, when it comes to industry cred, nothing beats an Oscar. But can it be used to deter stalkers? Hmm... let's ask Academy Award winning American Beauty scribe Alan Ball, who last night added an Emmy to his award collection for directing the Six Feet Under pilot. Petting Emmy's pointy wings, he determined that "this one looks a little more dangerous." Later, he expanded on the differences between his Oscar and Emmy experiences. "I wasn't quite so blindsided this time because I had been there before," he said, "but it's equally as nerve-wracking and I did leave my body. I have no idea what I said up there." Laura Linney — a 2001 Oscar nominee for You Can Count on Me — also weighed in on the Oscar vs. Emmy debate. Bear in mind, she just won an Emmy for the Showtime movie Wild Iris, so she may have been a tad bit biased. "The Emmys are more relaxed [than the Oscars]," she admitted. "And there's a freeness to it. It's a lot of fun."

Emmy sheds light on issues of diversity. When Saturday Night Live's army of scribes converged backstage after winning the Emmy for best variety show writing, our suspicions were confirmed: the show is being run by a bunch of white folks. The lack of color was so embarrassingly obvious that one writer quipped, "You have to be white to work on this show." TV Guide Online later posed the race card to SNL headwriter and "Weekend Update" host Tina Fey, who seemed hard-pressed to offer a reason for the poor minority report card. "What can I tell you... we have had African-American writers over the years. We're always looking to diversify, [but] we don't have that much turnover, so it's not a change that's going to happen that quickly." Paging the NAACP...

Emmy inspires Oprah. After accepting the first-ever Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey confessed to reporters that she suddenly realized she could be doing even more to save the planet. "I'm going to have to do better," she conceded. "I feel like what I've done [doesn't even compare] to what I could do in the world." Of course, there's nothing like a heartfelt dedication from Tom Cruise to re-awaken the civil servant in you. Even Winfrey admitted that hearing Hollywood's A-list gush endlessly about her in those taped messages pushed her over the edge. "This is a high point [of my life], because most people never get to hear anybody say those kinds of things about them until they're lying in a casket. I thought, 'What an honor to still be alive and fit into this dress and get to hear all that.'"

Emmy values Friendship: After eight seasons, the TV Academy finally was there for our Friends, naming it TV's best comedy series. "It's amazing," co-star Matthew Perry told TV Guide Online. "We never won before, and here we are. It's surreal... We're happy the exec producers are getting some recognition." Might all the Emmy excitement entice the gang to come back for a 10th season? "I don't know about that," Perry told us. "We're not thinking about that tonight."

Emmy values Jennifer Aniston: Yes, that's right — Aniston gets her very own category. Why? Because for eight years she has been the small screen's most underrated comedic force, and her Emmy for best lead actress was long overdue. Even while answering reporters' questions she was at her witty best. Asked if winning the Emmy was bittersweet since this is most likely the final year of Friends, she replied, "[Exec producer] David Crane said it best: It's the icing on the top of a very... cake, er, big... It's cake and it's a good cake. It's a delicious cake, and now we're going to eat it. And now there's icing on top." Of course, the real icing may come next February when Oscar nominations are announced. Aniston has been talked about as a possible contender for her role in this summer's dark indie The Good Girl. But in what could be the strongest vote of confidence Emmy received all night, Aniston scoffed at the Oscar buzz — suggesting to TV Guide Online that Emmy is as good as it gets. Said Aniston: "Let's quit while we're ahead."