Photo courtesy of The Denver Post
Peyton Manning was funny, some awards were handed out to undeserving candidates, the audience was inspired, and Zaza Pachulia rightfully helped accept the award for Best Team — as he carried the Warriors on his back. The 2017 ESPYS truly had everything at their 25th special.
The former Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback hosted the awards ceremony as the first “real” athlete to do so, taking a comedic dig at John Cena who emceed the show last year.
Despite the show dragging on a bit with not-so-funny skits like the old retirement home (so much so that the Falcons stopped paying attention after three quarters of the way in!), Manning’s opening monologue was brilliant. His delivery was spot on throughout the night. He was jokingly being forced to mock the athletes by the show’s producers, creating louder laughter with his innocent style, as his digs at himself helped too.
Here were his top three most memorable jokes:
3. New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl at Peyton’s expense: Whether it was Tom Brady rubbing his five rings off on FaceTime at the retirement home, the Super Bowl watch party skit, or the other few timely jealous jokes here and there, Peyton made sure these recurring jokes would be remembered.
2. Broncos’ defense carried Peyton’s Super Bowl win: Manning’s farewell to football came with him on top, although he did realize that it was mostly Von Miller and company that really won the game in yet another well-timed joke
1. The Kevin Durant joke: Kevin Durant joining forces with a dominant team jokes are always funny, but the reactions really made this one. Peyton joked that the Olympic “Final Five” women’s gymnastics team was so dominant that Kevin Durant now wants to join them next year. Durant’s disdain for the joke and salty attitude the rest of the show while receiving two awards was hilarious. The follow-up question to Russell Westbrook asking if Durant would be able to start on that team saw a priceless reaction with Brodie’s shades coming down his nose.
What Should’ve Been
With all those laughs, not all of the award show was about being funny, but instead was about the awards. Here are the three most questionable wins:
3. Best Record-Breaking Performance: Michael Phelps’ career is more amazing than words can describe, but did anyone else want to see a Bill Belichick speech?
2. Best Male College Athlete: Deshaun Watson seemed like a lock to most, being the winner of such a thrilling game on the last play. But it’s Maryland Lacrosse’s Matt Rambo that deserved the award for all he did: all-time leading scorer in school history, champion, and leading his team to the National Championship three times during his four years. What he did with his extra year at college makes him more deserving of the award
1. Best NFL Player: After that historic Super Bowl comeback, it’s hard to argue that Tom Brady is not the best NFL player. However, Aaron Rodgers came away with the award. Although a lot more mobile, Rodgers is not as nearly as productive and consistent as Brady.
What It’s All About
The inspiring stories of Jarrius Robertson battling sickness, Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s work with Special Olympics and especially Israel Del Toro’s story of service is what makes covering sports so great, and what brings everyone together to love the game for what it can do for one another.