It’s that time of year again – a time when the biggest names in sports and entertainment gather together to honor and remember the greatest accomplishments in the athletic world. That’s right – it’s the ESPYS.
With a team I still refuse to acknowledge most of the time having won the Super Bowl this year, I was considering skipping on watching the ESPY Awards. Rapper Drake hosting this year wasn’t necessarily making me flock to the nearest TV to watch.
However, I gave the telecast a shot – and what I witnessed was a night of memorable, emotional moments, and an honest-to-God brilliant comedic turn for a guy who kind of nailed a stint as host of SNL earlier this year.
So, in case you missed it, here are some of the things that stood out on a night Richard Deitsch called “Bloated. Poignant. Self-absorbed. Aspirational. Depressing. Uplifting. Celebrity. Money.”
Drake surprised me with his stint as host of the ESPY Awards. From his monologue to the various sketches peppered throughout the telecast, the former “Degrassi High” star kind of nailed it, in the comedy department. Sure, some of his jokes fell flat, and some bombed to high heaven (#SterlingNeverLovedUs kind of made me cringe over how un-funny it, or any other Sterling joke, actually was). But I laughed out loud to quite a few of his antics.
The “Lance Cam” bit was surprisingly funny – especially when he inadvertently took a humorously uncomfortable turn when he got Stephenson himself (who was traded to the Charlotte Hornets earlier in the day) to blow in now-former teammate Paul George’s ear.
I have to give Drake props for his impressions, too – while his Blake Griffin in the “Blake and Drake/Drake and Blake” sketch was okay, he totally nailed one of my favorite athletes, and favorite son of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao. His Filipino accent was actually quite impressive:
Honorable mention goes to his rendition of “Honorable Mention” and “Side Pieces” – while he took the opportunity to take shots at guys like Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Macklemore in the former, the latter had athletes everywhere simultaneously rolling with laughter and cringing over its sad accuracy – even with R&B legend Brian McKnight in tow. And additional props to him for getting a kiss (albeit on the forehead) from the drop-dead gorgeous WNBA star Skylar Diggins – after embarrassing himself with his performance of “Can I Dig In?”:
Funny thing about awards shows like this, is that sometimes the awards, themselves, take a backseat to everything else that happened. I can honestly say that this was one of those times.
At the end of the day, the Seattle Seahawks (grumble grumble grumble) walked away with two televised awards – Richard Sherman for Breakthrough Athlete and the Seahawks for Best Team – while, unsurprisingly, the Best Moment award went to the USMNT’s upset win over rival Ghana in the World Cup, and Best Game went to the 2014 Iron Bowl. You remember – when this happened:
Kevin Durant and Ronda Rousey won Best Male and Female Athletes, respectively. And, in a category that apparently didn’t have any other nominees, Peyton Manning won Best Record-Breaking Performance for all of the passing records he blew away last regular season, including 51 TD passes.
But, again, it plays second fiddle to what everyone considers the best moments of the night.
Two men stood out in the gamut of the ESPN-driven sports world this past year, and were announced as the recipients of their respective awards – ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, and former Missouri DE Michael Sam for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award – months ago.
That doesn’t mean that their speeches – moments now frozen in time – were not emotional, inspiring and utterly tear-inducing. Not by a longshot.
Take Sam, who recently became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL. It was blatantly obvious of the weight that was lifted from his shoulders when he was drafted with the 249th overall selection overall. You take into consideration the stigma of a gay athlete in the realm of a sport with such machismo as American Football, and the former SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year had to show tremendous bravery to live his truth in the eyes of not only the NFL, but the American public.
His speech reflected all of the values he learned through all of the trials and tribulations, from Arthur Ashe himself, and his awareness of the responsibility he now has, as an openly gay NFL player, moving forward. I have to say this – if you somehow make it through this speech without tearing up, you might be made of stone:
Then there was Stuart Scott, the stalwart SportsCenter anchor afflicted with a rare form of cancer in 2007. Through all of the uncertainty of a life possibly cut too short, he goes through all of the treatments and tests, and comes to work every day, to the point where you don’t even realize there’s anything wrong.
In Scott’s speech, he admitted that, despite his constant efforts to fight, there were times where he would be too tired. He preached that it was okay – let others fight for you. But, no matter what, keep fighting. Because, when it comes down to it, your life is defined by how you live it. They were true words to live by. It was a consummate highlight in a night full of highlights, and another moment that made everyone in the room – maybe everyone in the country watching – well up with tears: