Like other loyal ESPY viewers, I thought this year’s award show would be filled with laughter conjured from sketches of the host, actor and comedian Joel McHale. Instead ESPY producers had something else in mind.
This year’s award show reminded us that there’s more to life than the athletes we cheer for on the court, ice and field. It’s about the life journeys that make these athletes who they are and the stories that inspire us to be better and do better. Even hardened sports fans walked away from their TV set last night moved, after hearing acceptance speech after acceptance speech that often silenced the crowd of 7,000 people.
But if you missed the ESPYS, the one award show that unites sports icons, old and new, with Hollywood, we compiled a list of the tearjerkers, robbed nominee(s) and questionable moments.
Fashion Police Shoutout/Shutout
It wouldn't be an awards show review without some mention of the looks that graced the red carpet. We would like to nominate Mone Davis for keeping it classy. The ace pitcher who won for Best Breakthrough Athlete made it a point to first congratulate the other nominees she beat out. She also rocked a classy white ruffled dress and wedges.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner made headlines this year with her emotional, forthcoming sit down interview Diane Sawyer. Caitlyn, then Bruce, announced that she would transition into a woman, undergoing a sex reassignment surgery. Unlike other trans women, Jenner is a part of one of the most recognized families on earth and has been living her life in front of cameras for years, which could make this process more difficult. Although everyday detractors from paparazzi to social media users can be cruel, Jenner is relishing in the fact that she now gets to live her truth, something she’s wanted to do for 65 years. And last night, she was honored for making that courageous step forward. So, with her mother and sister by her at her side, her kids in the audience and in her beautiful, custom white Atelier Versace gown, she took the stage.
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award recipient Devon and Leah Still
Last year, a 4-year-old little girl by the name of Leah Still stole our hearts. The daughter of Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancer that forms in your nerve tissue and spreads to the lymph nodes. In August, Still was released from the Bengals, but after the team discovered Leah’s disease and the high cost of her medical bills, they re-signed him.
The NFL and the Bengals embraced the two and the entire nation became their cheerleader, professing they too are “Leah Strong.” Still, who regularly gives his Instagram followers updates on Leah’s condition, finally posted some good news regarding her health in March. Doctors removed her tumor and her cancer was in remission.
Unfortunately, that good news didn’t last and in May, doctors diagnosed her with Hepatic veno-occlusive disease, a disorder that affects the liver. This prevented Leah, now 5 years old, from attending Wednesday’s show, but it didn’t stop Still from delivering a heartfelt speech that made every dry eye, teary. As LeBron James said in his introduction, “I dare you not to be inspired.”
The Pat Tillman Award Award for Service recipient Danielle Green
If you didn’t know Danielle Green’s name at the beginning of the night, you most certainly wanted to by the end of the night. In the late 90s, Green was a standout basketball player for the Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. Upon graduating, she enlisted in the army and during her first tour in Iraq a rocket-propelled grenade hit her while she was guarding a police station. As a result, her left arm was amputated right under the elbow.
Feeling a little guilty that she couldn’t complete her duties and responsibilities as a solider, she realized there are other ways to serve her country. She went back to school, earned her masters and is now counseling veterans. But when she accepted her award, this is not the story she alluded to. She told us another story. It’s one about her comrades risking their lives to return two of her prized possessions.
The Robbed Nominee(s)
Honestly, there was only one nominee who was robbed last night that we cared about. You would think since Serena Williams, a woman who has won 21 Grand Slams and the last four consecutively—essentially the most dominating force on a tennis court—would win Best Female Athlete, right? I’ll let you guess what happened. But it’s okay Serena. Continue slaying. See you at the U.S. Open!
The Questionable Moments
Was anyone else baffled about why the ESPYs chose Joel McHale to host if they weren’t going to use him?
Because there were a series of touching tributes, I understand that making jokes throughout the night could be a bad move. But he came out delivering a “Soup-like” monologue, throwing low blows and jabs at the world’s finest athletes, leading us to believe there would be more moments to laugh at.
In the beginning, there was a pre-taped skit parodying ESPN’s documentary series “30 for 30” and a live skit with McHale, actor Ken Jeong and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. It was funny, but it was unnecessary. As the evening continued you forgot there was even a host. McHale went MIA. If the ESPYs were going to make the entire night specifically about the honorees, next time don’t hire a comedian.
McHale hits from last night: