ESPY Awards 2018: Funniest Highlights and Bizarre Results from Wednesday's Show

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2018

While some of Danica Patrick's jokes fell flat, she did not hesitate to put herself on the line with her ESPY hosting performance.
While some of Danica Patrick's jokes fell flat, she did not hesitate to put herself on the line with her ESPY hosting performance.Associated Press

The ESPY Awards have grown in stature and maturity throughout the 25 years that the honors have been handed out in the sports world.

The actual broadcast has taken on the patina of major awards shows such as the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys, and they are even broadcast on ABC, as opposed to ESPN, which was its home for many years.

However, the combination of hard-hitting and high-level sports with high-fashion and high-profile awards shows leads to several moments that are both funny and bizarre.

Start off with Danica Patrick, the host of the show and the first woman to take on the role. While she looked relaxed and poised throughout, the recently retired race-car driver fell flat with a number of her jokes, and the audience reaction to her efforts was quite muted.

While nobody expected Patrick to reel off punchlines as Billy Crystal or Jimmy Kimmel would, her opening height joke about the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve didn't bring the house down in Los Angeles. It set the tone for many of the low-brow jokes that followed, including one concerning new Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and his diminishing hairline.

Some of her topics included the city of Cleveland, the United States' inability to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The cameras found Odell Beckham Jr. and his strange outfit.
The cameras found Odell Beckham Jr. and his strange outfit.Phil McCarten/Associated Press

Producers of the show must have realized ODB was worthy of quite a bit of camera time. His hair was dyed a somewhat shocking shade of blond, and he was wearing a suit that included shorts, dress shoes and no socks.

While many of the male athletes had some flair to their appearance, the New York Giants star's look was quite bizarre. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown also had the suit-shorts combination, and it looked nearly as strange on him as it did on Beckham. The sight of the bizarre outfit will live on in the memory for quite a while.

While Patrick was largely panned on Twitter by viewers who seemed happy to get off several criticisms at her expense, she was not afraid to put herself front and center. She was the star of a skit called "Me, Danica," in which she portrayed a character based on I, Tonya, the movie that was released last year about figure skater Tonya Harding.

Patrick played both herself and her mother in the spoof, and she deserves high marks for her guts if not her acting ability. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Patrick's boyfriend, played Harding's oafish husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he handled the assignment with relative ease.

Patrick with her Game of Thrones look.
Patrick with her Game of Thrones look.Phil McCarten/Associated Press/Associated Press

Patrick also dressed up as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, and she joked that the bit was cut because it was getting late in the show. At that moment, Hall of Fame basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got up in protest, because he was outfitted in a full Game of Thrones costume.

Patrick also showed off her rapping skills in another segment that had a truly bizarre edge to it.

As the awards were presented, nearly all the winners were on hand to accept them personally, including the U.S. Women's Olympic hockey team, winners of the Best Game of the Year. Other key winners included the World Series champion Houston Astros as the team of the year, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the best championship game performance and Chloe Kim for the best female athlete.

In a fairly big surprise, NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin of the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals won the best male athlete, but he was not on hand to pick up the award. That honor was handed out by Kate Beckinsale, and the English actress awkwardly accepted the prize on his behalf. She explained that Ovechkin was in Russia with his wife, "who is eight and one-half months pregnant."