Wednesday late afternoon was the live taping of the ESPY (just found out it stands for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) awards 2009 at the Nokia Theatre in LA. 75% of the crowd was 'invitees' so needless to mention, I was far far behind. If you were one of the presenters on the stage, I would appear as a faceless dot to you. But thanks to my telephoto lens that I sneaked past several bald eagle visioned security peeps, I was at least able to get some just-about-average shots for my collection. Oh and Derek Fisher bumped into me (literally) on my way in but me no fan.
From the minute it started, it was a Samuel Jackson show. Seriously, it was more his show than the award show. He came on the stage, began to introduce the awards and himself and the prompter broke! So it went from "hello and welcome to the" to "how the hell are ya people". It was hilarious. The prompter bailed out on him quite a few times and he emerged funnier each time, displaying the true skills of an entertainer. As he went through the first row where the stars of that night were seated, he cracked several fake twitter jokes. Like Phelps supposedly tweeting "Can't believe I lost the Arthur Ashe Award to Nelson Mandela. I can swim circles around that guy.", like Samuel Jackson himself tweeting "I am bored at the ESPYs" and some big time athlete whose name I can't recall right now tweeting "outside Nokia and can't freaking get in". Twitter was present in spirit all throughout the show and it ain't making money. Yeah right.
The mercury was soaring inside Nokia with the likes of Demi Moore, Miranda Kerr (the Victoria Secret cutie), Natalie Gulbis, Olivia Wilde and Marisa Miller presenting awards in elegant designer pieces. And I have two words for the gown Kobe's wife wore. Actually I got no words for it.
They had a cute video skit on Justin Timberlake and Samuel Jackson fighting about who deserves to host the show this year, since JT hosted it last year. JT challenged SJ to a game of golf and they did some crazy things like "my ball can go to the garbage can 2 miles away", "my ball can reach the 18th hole after touching that satellite in space" and finally SJ instructing the ball to go in the hole and the ball obeying him!
Michael Phelps was undoubtedly the winner of the evening. I think he won everything that wasn't listed in the 'female' category. LA of course won two awards, one for Phil Jackson as the Lakers coach (woo woo) and Lakers as the best team (woo woo again). I am going to conveniently omit the fact that LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was named the NBA’s Best Player. Pittsburgh Steelers, very deservedly won two trophies for best game and best play. One of the surprising events in sports this year for US has been the United States soccer team beating Spain in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. And the very excited US soccer team proudly went home with the “Best Upset” award. Gymnast Nastia Liukin was named the Best Female Athlete and I can't remember the rest of the awards, nominees or winners to save my life.
The ceremony was very politically heavy. Obama send a video message, Neilson Mandela's daughter and grandson gave a nice lill speech and Condoleezza (is that how you spell her name?) Rice gave away the award for the best female athlete. Does anyone else think she walks like a duck in heels? Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg were representing the funny world and cracked people up.
Stuart Scott did an interactive segment with the audiences where he'd instruct us to "laugh slightly", "laugh your heart out", "scream like gas has gone down to a dollar", "scream like you saw a bear next to you", etc. all as a part of a TV segment they would air for audiences reaction to Stuart as Samuel Jackson. I'm curious to see how that turns out.
Overall, it turned out to be was quite a fun experience for a Wednesday evening. I've heard people say that the ESPYs are contrived and that no sports fan or athlete really puts much stock into them. But at least it’s some level of entertainment on an otherwise dead day.
Catch it on ESPN Sunday night at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST.