Wednesday night the 25th edition of the ESPYs took place in Los Angeles, as the annual gathering of the intersection of sports and entertainment.
However, this year’s show had more of a subdued tone in which the non-athletes shined the brightest.
While Peyton Manning did surprisingly well in his comedic opening monologue, it was the stories of Israel Del Toro, Jarrius Robertson and Eunice Kennedy Shriver that won the night.
Air Force Sgt. Del Toro was up first, as the winner of the Pat Tillman Award for service. The former parachute jumper suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body, but still serves in the Air Force, and competes in adaptive sports, all while being a loving husband and father.
The 15-year-old Robertson took home the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his fighting spirit, and for being an inspiration to anyone who hears his story. Robertson battled chronic liver disease until he recently received a liver transplant. After dealing with complications from his liver since the age of one, Robertson has been an example of Jimmy V’s phrase, “Never give up.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage, receiving a warm round of applause, as she posthumously presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the created of the Special Olympics.
“Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a passionate champion for those with developmental challenges, empowering them to fulfill their highest potential,” she said. “Her work to promote inclusion and acceptance transformed the lives of countless young athletes and inspired us all. I am incredibly honored to present this award to her son to celebrate her life’s work.”
Kennedy Shriver was the sister of John F. Kennedy and passed away in 2009. She founded the Special Olympics in 1968.
While the ESPYs highlighted the best and brightest in sports from the past year, this year’s ceremony was one without any standout political moments like we’d seen in recent year’s past.
There were no mentions of Colin Kaepernick, although he could have been a candidate for the Arthur Ashe Award, and there were no opening statements about activism and police brutality from the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James.
Polarizing figures like Michael Sam and Caitlyn Jenner were nowhere to be found, as they were recent winners of the Courage Award.
The ESPYs are one of the crowning jewels of ESPN, and while some feel that the network has become too political of late, they do deserve credit for showing balance by pushing the envelope when needed on their network’s biggest night, and for taking a more subdued approach like they did on Wednesday.
The night went off rather smoothly, expected for the rather painful seven-minute skit that Bill Murray and Nick Offerman put on to celebrate the Chicago Cubs for winning Best Moment.
It wasn’t funny. It was too long. It was weird.
But when your team has endured a 108-year World Series Champion drought, an error can be excused.
However, there is one that cannot be overlooked.
After 25 years, the ESPYs still have not had a female host.
And that’s something that can’t be forgiven.