The pressure was on for Drake when he hosted the ESPYs, ESPN’s annual awards show honoring athletic performances, on Wednesday night: Throughout his 10-minute long opening monologue, the camera zoomed in on audience reactions, which frequently featured zoned-out, stone-cold faces.
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When ESPN announced the nominees for its 2014 ESPY awards today, up-and-coming athletes as well as seasoned professionals received some good news: St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam will get the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, while Peyton Manning is nominated both for Best Male Athlete and Best NFL Player.
Best Male Athlete nominees include Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, and boxer Floyd Mayweather. Best Female Athlete nominees include Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and Breanna Stewart of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. All of the Best Athlete nominees were nominated in other categories, most for their specific sport; Stewart for Best Female College Athlete and Shiffrin for Best U.S. Olympic Athlete were the exceptions.
Additionally, game five of the recent New York Rangers-Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Finals is up for best game of the year, as well as Alabama vs. Auburn in the Iron Bowl and the Kansas City Chiefs-Indianapolis Colts matchup in the AFC Wild Card Playoff.
Welcome to the ESPYs! You know, that awards show that happens on a Wednesday on ESPN? Yeah, they give out awards to athletes who are like “Thanks, but I totally have an actual championship ring back at home.”
I’ve personally never felt the need to watch the awards show, or as host Jon Hamm calls it “the world’s largest gathering of people wearing sunglasses indoors,” but the idea of missing the Mad Men star hosting was too risky to pass up. Those of you who’ve seen Hamm guest on 30 Rock or make a cameo in Bridesmaids knows that the man with immeasurable beauty can crack a joke or two, and tonight’s awards were no different. Showing no mercy, Hamm poked fun at Dwight Howard, the city of Detroit, and swimmer Ryan Lochte. Some examples of his killer lines: “Honestly, I’ve always been a little wary of the BCS system. I just feel like you can’t completely trust something just because a computer says it.” and “Manti Te’o — fake internet girlfriend or a real girlfriend who goes to Notre Dame? Pretty much the same amount of sex.” Boom. (Check out Hamm’s full monologue.)
We were off to a good start, and thankfully, the show very rarely lost its steam, thanks to some on-point sketches shown in between the awards. Here are the top 10 things that I took away from it:
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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?
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