The ESPY Awards are, by definition, a weird thing. Why hand athletes trophies that commemorate Excellence in Sports Performance? Don’t those athletes already get trophies for their excellent sports performances by… winning games?
That said, even those who don’t understand the show’s existence may find their interest piqued by this year’s host: Jon Hamm, modern-day renaissance man extraordinaire. His SNL appearances have made us laugh; his Mad Men performance has made us think; his car commercial voiceovers have made us listen in spite of ourselves; his pants have made us widen our eyes in amazement. We love him so much that we’d watch him read the phone book, provided phone books still existed.
But is all that enough to get legions of people who don’t care about sports — who take pride, in fact, in how little they care about sports — to pay attention tonight?
It’s tough to say. I really like Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Nick Offerman, and Craig Robinson; I like them enough to have watched their videos about baseball rivalries, even though the only sports narrative that’s ever really gripped me was A League of Their Own. The thing is, those videos were each about 60 seconds long. The prospect of sitting through 150 minutes of references I don’t understand just so that I can get my regular serving of Hamm is… less appealing.
Then again, the ESPYs also have a history of producing the sort of clips that get labeled as “surprisingly funny” on YouTube — Jamie Foxx serenading Serena Williams in 2003, Will Ferrell accepting 2008’s Best Male Athlete award in Tiger Woods’s stead, Justin Timberlake’s opening monologue from that same year (wait, he hosted this show?). Perhaps because the stakes are so low — this ain’t the Super Bowl, or even the Kentucky Derby — those involved feel free to just let loose and go with whatever goofy ideas come to mind. (Sort of like the Golden Globes, but with an infield fly rule!) And the prospect of seeing Jon Hamm dressing up in a baseball uniform and, say, re-creating Carly Rae Jepsen’s horrific first pitch does sound pretty entertaining.
So weigh in, anti-sports fans: Is Hamm enough to get you to watch the ESPYs tonight? And if you actually do care about bats and balls and whatnot, are you planning to tune in as well?