KUSA—As Peyton Manning was making a big deal about the 25th anniversary of the ESPY awards, it occurred to me I had never watched more than a few minutes of the previous 24 shows.
Peyton was why I watched the full ESPY show for the first time Wednesday night.
The former Denver Broncos’ quarterback should be proud of his performance. Perhaps, we should grade him on a curve. As a former professional athlete trying to be a comedian, Manning would get an A. Compared to other comedic hosts – Alec Baldwin at the NFL Honors show in 2013, say – Manning would still get a B.
He does have a natural sense of humor. He is not an egomaniac in real life, but he does a great job playing one for laughs.
I was squirming for him early, though.
His monologue did not get off to an uproarious start. But he hung in there and rallied, although it could have been better without the seemingly pre-staged, stone-faced reaction by Keven Durant to a Manning diss. (It was staged, correct? Either way, it’s funnier when the roasted subject laughs along with the joke.)
And 2 ½ of Manning’s three pre-recorded skits were hilarious. Here are my observations on how the 3-hour show (including commercials) went Wednesday night:
*I had never been previously interested in the ESPYs because the competitive awards are silly. The only individual awards that matter in sports are the top honors – MVP in all leagues, CY Young in baseball, Vezina Trophy in hockey, Defensive Player of the Year in basketball and football – in a player’s respective sports.
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers so he can win an ESPY for Play of the Year.
But the show’s three serious, heart-tugging award presentations – the Arthur Ashe, Jimmy V and Pat Tillman – are riveting. I was wrong to not pay closer attention to earlier shows.
The silly awards, I have concluded, are necessary fillers to these must-watch stories of inspiration.
*Best moment: The video clips of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s work in starting the Special Olympics in honor of her sister Rosemary. The occasion was enhanced by former First Lady Michelle Obama presenting the Arthur Ashe Award to the late Kennedy Shriver.
Timothy Shriver accepted the award on behalf of his mom. He is a powerful orator, although he went on way too long.
*Worst moment: The Chicago Cubs receiving the Best Moment award. And I’m a Cub fan, which emphasizes how uncomfortably unfunny this bit was.
Comedic actor Nick Offerman, a long-time Cubs fan, had a nice, subtle line or two, but Bill Murray bombed and I didn’t get the David Ross shtick.
Mercifully, the routine just ended, apparently for no other reason than it was getting too painful to watch.
*Second-worst moment: Kevin Durant mooning his underwear to the TV cameras because his sweat pants fell halfway down his bottom as he got up to accept the oh-so-prestigious Best Championship Performance award.
*Best Manning moment: His jingle-coach skit with country music star Brad Paisley.
“It’s what I do,’’ Manning said to a dumfounded Paisley. “The jingle is … me. I am the jingle.’’
I about lost it.
*Second-best Manning moment: The skit where he hosted the Super Bowl LI party. The show’s writers played up his career-long rivalry with the New England Patriots.
Manning perfectly reflected what 95 percent of the viewing audience was feeling on Feb. 5 – loving every second of the Atlanta Falcons taking a 28-3 lead, and anguishing bitterly as the Patriots rallied to win in overtime.
In his skit, Manning threatened to literally pull the plug, or change the channel, during the Pats’ comeback. As James White is about to cross the goal line in overtime to complete the historic comeback, Manning fires a football that pummels his TV.
“Beat it, no autographs,’’ he tells his friends who want nothing to do with him as they leave his home.
*Third-best Manning moment: At first, his skit with the retirement home was a rip-off of his famous United Way routine on Saturday Night Live. Only instead of chewing out young kids, Manning was tough-coaching senior citizens.
But the routine turned amusing halfway through when Manning developed a personal dislike for an elderly lady named Ruth, who later was outed as Tom Brady’s grandma (“Gam Gam” as only sweet Tom Brady can say it.)
“Shut up, Ruth,’’ Manning told her after she asked if he won five Super Bowls, too.
*Best Zinger with Worst Response: During his monologue, Manning said the U.S. women’s gymnastics team “was so dominant that Kevin Durant wants to play for them next year.’’
This was a humorous reference to the superstar Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the already star-stacked Golden State Warriors last year.
Durant didn’t laugh, and neither did his former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook when Manning asked for his response. Almost every review on the Internet reported Durant and Westbrook didn’t think Manning’s crack was funny, but there were signs of a pre-arranged set-up.
Both Durant and Westbrook put their right hand over their mouths, as if to make sure they didn’t laugh. And at show’s end, Durant was on stage accepting some other silly award (Best Team, the Golden State Warriors) and exchanged a man hug with Manning.
Best Manning rally: I could see Broncos staffers laughing in acknowledgement as Manning’s monologue shifted to spoofing his OCD-like perfectionism by ordering the cameras popped back, lights colored blue and red, and directing star shines and rimshots. Bronco people lived it for four years with the obsessive Manning.
*Von Miller is becoming the Taylor Swift of sports awards shows.
Networks seemingly host awards shows – Grammy, Academy, Emmy, Golden Globe, MTV, Country, whatever – so they can cutaway to Swift, the megastar singer, a couple times an hour as she sits in the audience.
Miller was given a front-row seat at the ESPYs event though he didn’t present, or receive an award. Manning did use him as a sidekick to bust the selection of Super Bowl LI winning the silly, “Best Game” award.
“I didn’t even watch it,” Miller said to Manning, who took the seat next to him. “Did you?”
Otherwise, Miller was there simply because, like Swift, he is remarkably telegenic.
*The night’s greatest hero with Colorado ties was not Manning or Miller, but Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, who has called Colorado Springs home.
Horrifically injured with burns from a roadside bombing in Afghanistan in 2005, Del Toro in February made his 131st parachute jump – and first in 12 years – at the Air Force Academy. The first airman with a 100 percent disability rating allowed to re-enlist in the Air Force, the inspiring Del Toro received the Pat Tillman Award.
*After the story of young Jarrius “JJ” Robertson was told during the presentation of the Jimmy V Award, I checked my driver’s license to make sure I was an organ donor. A “Y” in the middle of a heart is there in the lower right corner.
*The Best Game award should have gone to Game 7 of the World Series, not Super Bowl LI. And Morgan William’s buzzer beater shot to beat the mighty UConn women’s basketball team in the Final Four should have won Best Play, not Rodgers pass to Jared Cook.
If you’re going to insist on having silly awards, get ‘em right.
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