LOS ANGELES―Espn’s annual Espy Awards took place on Wednesday, July 15, in Los Angeles. Hosted by Joel McHale and featuring a plethora of athletes and celebrities, the event was full of laughs and tear-jerking moments.
The first bit of Espy news to catch the attention of social media came during the pre-show and on the red carpet when Ronda Rousey was presented with the Espy for Best Fighter. While accepting her award, she made sure to get a quick jab in on fellow nominee and fighter Floyd Mayweather. “I wonder how Floyd feels being beat by a woman for once,” she said. She quickly followed up saying, “I’d like to see you pretend to not know who I am now,” a reference to Mayweather’s claim earlier in the year that he didn’t have any idea who Rousey was.
The laughs and groans continued inside the Microsoft Theater during Joel McHale’s opening monologue. Nothing appeared to be off limits for McHale, who joked about NFL Players losing fingers in Fourth of July accidents and Triple Crown Jockey Victor Espinoza being deported by Donald Trump. Perhaps the joke that garnered the most groans from the audience came from McHale’s jab at Bill Cosby. After briefly talking about the abundance of powerful female athletes this year, McHale congratulated Ronda Rousey for being possibly sports most dominant athlete, saying “Ronda has knocked out more women than Bill Cosby,” earning McHale groans and laughs in equal amounts.
The awards got underway with Best Record-Breaking Performance going to the Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning for most Career Touchdown Passes. Celebrities and athletes shared the honor of presenting awards to the winners, but many of the awards and presentations were overshadowed by the many skits and gags throughout the show.
One of the more odd moments of the show came when actor Ken Jeong came onstage with the Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez to help him apologize presumably for the steroid use that caused A-Rod to be suspended from baseball last season. However, Jeong instead apologized for other things like “The Hangover” and the drought in California. After Jeong had finished talking and there was no mention of steroids, McHale asked A-Rod if there was anything else he wanted to apologize for, to which he responded, “Nah I’m good.” The skit garnered some laughs from the crowd and had a couple funny moments, but it was more awkward and seemed oddly placed in the show.
After Jeong and A-Rod’s skit, the award for Best Championship Performance was handed out. Lebron James beat out Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for the honor.
Lauren Hill, the young college basketball player who was diagnosed with brain cancer soon before she was scheduled to start college was honored with an Espy. Hill’s parents accepted the award in honor of their late daughter. Directly after Hill’s parents were presented with the award, a moment was taken to honor legendary sportscaster Stuart Scott, who died earlier this year after a lengthy bout with cancer.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the entire night came during the presentation of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. The Award was given to the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive tackle Devon Still. Leah Still captured the hearts of millions as her battle with cancer took over center stage in the NFL last year. She gained the support of millions of fans and she honored all of them by fighting cancer day in and day out.
The montage that preceded her father’s acceptance speech on her behalf was emotional, showing the special bond that Leah and her father have. It was clear that he needed her just as much as she needed him. The acceptance speech that followed, though, was the source of most of the water works for the night. It was a long speech in which Devon Still sincerely thanked many and fought back tears of his own. Each time the camera panned to members of the audience, you could see tears welling up in the eyes of celebrities and athletes alike.
After the Best Play Espy was awarded to Odell Beckham Jr., Retired Yankee Derek Jeter was given the Espy Icon award by Boston native Ben Affleck.
Leading up to the Espys, the most talked about award was the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. The recipient of this reward is always announced prior to the Espys and this year was no different. Shortly after Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Barbara Walters, it was announced that she would be receiving the Arthur Ashe Award. The announcement came with mixed reactions with many believing others were more deserving of the award and many believing she was perfect for the award.
At the Espys on Wednesday night, there were no mixed reactions. The crowd cheered loudly as Jenner took the stage and the audience was full of smiles, including encouraging smiles from the Kardashians.
The night was capped off with the presentation of the Best Team Award which was won by the World Cup Champion U.S. Woman’s National Team. Abby Wambach delivered a perfectly short acceptance speech on behalf of the whole team and smiles were abundant across the stage.