Let me start with a round of applause for host Peyton Manning... Honestly he crushed these ESPYs, and I'm one of those people who takes to Twitter to hate on a host's awkward attempt at humor during award shows, but this time, Peyton Manning hit the nail on the head. His witty remark about KD and the Final Five gave us a 'meme-able' Durant face for weeks to come. His accurate depiction of what we're all thinking whenever his face pops up in our living room-"Another Peyton commercial? Really?"- and then adding that us haters can't make him sweat *insert Gatorade sponsorship*. Manning cracked jokes at everyone, including himself, noting that Serena Williams winning the Australian Open while carrying a child was more impressive than the '16 Broncos defense winning a Superbowl while carrying him--he's not ignorant folks! Manning slipped in his humor by telling the audience about how much he hated all the jokes the people of the ESPYs wanted him to say. A jab about how terrible the LA Rams are, how the Knicks are, well, the Knicks, and how he believes the Falcons are talented(a point he had to make early on in the night, knowing Atlanta's history with losing interest 3 quarters in...). Manning did take his time to recognize the champions this past year of sports has given us, the Cubs curse being broken, the Penguins going back-to-back, and begrudgingly, he congratulated the New England Patriots. Although, Manning admitted in his retirement, he's no longer rivals with the Falcons or Patriots, but his insurance nemeses Flo from Progressive, Discount Double Check Aaron Rodgers, and "that damn Aflac Duck". Manning had perfectly timed jokes that encompassed this past year of sports, and started the 25th ESPYs off with a laugh.
If you watched the ESPYs, you already know who was the star of the night- in my eyes anyway. 15-year-old Jarrius Jamoz Robertson. Jarrius was this years recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. When Jarrius was just weeks old, he was diagnosed with a rare disease, Biliary Atresia, a life-threatening disease of the liver and bile ducts. When just 1-year-old, Jarrius got his first liver transplant, although the complications that followed were every parent's worst nightmare. Jarrius had fallen ill with pneumonia, his lung collapsed, and the Children's Hospital of New Orleans was forced to induce him into a coma. He was in that coma for close to a year. After several discussions with doctors, who all claimed JJ wouldn't make it, his parents decided their son had suffered enough, and made the gut wrenching decision to take him off respiration, to let him go. The ventilator was off, but JJ wasn't done fighting. He began to breathe on his own. "That was a sign of life.. a sign that this kids gonna fight, and he's been fighting ever since," JJ's dad said. Doctors were flabbergasted, having no explanation for his sudden strength, but JJ's mom had one, "It was a miracle - nothing but God." She said. Jarrius's infectious personality made his story spread worldwide. He's known around New Orleans as a "Saints Super-fan", has spent countless games on the sidelines with them, and even signed an honorary contract to officially join the organization. Also, he was invited to participate in the NBA All-Star game when hosted in New Orleans, and interviewed the game's biggest stars. Although a young star, JJ suffered. He was admitted into the hospital countless times, suffering from liver failure and side effects. He would face such significant pain, "like somebody was kicking me in my belly. All night." said the 15-year old(I know, I teared up too). His father was determined to save his son, not waiting on a list for an organ that might never come. He and his family became promoters for donating organs. After 13 long years of waiting, Jarrius received another liver and is currently recovering, accepting ESPYs in his spare time. "It takes lives to save lives" Jarrius' father said, his son is living proof.
All of the athletes lucky enough to call themselves champions this year, whether it be super bowl, world series, NBA championship, or stanley cup, were honored in one way or another. Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant took home the ESPY for Best Championship Performance, helping the Warriors to win another one in the Curry era, but the first of Durant's career. Also, the Warriors won a team award for Best Championship Team, deservedly so. The Cubs were honored with the ESPY for Best Moment, after ending that dreadful 108-year World Series drought, and bringing a parade to Chicago. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was awarded Best NHL Player after leading his team to back-to-back stanley cups, himself to back-to-back NHL Playoff MVP trophies(Conn Smythe Awards), scoring the most regular season goals(44), and ending 2nd in regular season points(89). And Finally, the super bowl campion Patriots won the ESPY for Best Game, coming back from a 28-3 deficit. WR Julian Edelman took the acceptance speech as an opportunity to dig back a little at our host. "Never thought I’d actually say this," Edelman said, "but Peyton Manning is kind of killing it… We are indoors though.” I'll admit, I chuckled.