Arash Markazi
Friday July 18th, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- It's easy to knock the ESPYs. Just the self-serving name deserves to be mocked like a "McLovin" fake ID. Factor in the slew of corporate sponsorships, the parading of on-air personalities on stage as if they were celebrities and the four-day tape delay and you're talking about a target as easy as Paris Hilton trying to sing.

Even so, there's something about the show that has always been somewhat endearing. Maybe it's the replays of Jim Valvano's speech at the inaugural show, which is one of the greatest speeches at any awards show ever. Maybe it's the fact that it makes no bones about how irreverent it is. No show that has been hosted by the likes of Tony Danza, Jeff Foxworthy, John Goodman and Jimmy Smits is taking itself too seriously. Or maybe it's the looks on the faces of little known, small town athletes like Mallory Holtman, Liz Wallace and Sara Tucholsky, the three college softball players who were honored for the "best moment" during the show and received a standing ovation from the likes of David Beckham, Venus Williams and Kevin Garnett that they might not have even gotten in their dreams.

Either way, ESPY week wrapped up in L.A. Thursday with Matt Leinart's party, and while you won't be able to see the show until Sunday night (if they took any more time editing it they'd have to put it on ESPN Classic) here are some highlights. (This is where a spoiler alert warning would normally go, although some would argue it's hard to spoil something that's already gone bad.)

When I asked Mike Myers what he thought of his friend and Love Guru co-star Justin Timberlake hosting the ESPYs a few weeks ago a big smile came over his face. "He's going to be amazing," he said. "That guy is 99 percent talent and 1 percent water." While Myers might have been off on how good The Love Guru would be, he was dead on about Timberlake. He was easily the best host the show has had in five years back when Jamie Foxx hosted for the first time. While the producers will likely add in some laughter to usually rigid crowd Timberlake showed he's as comfortable as comedian on stage telling jokes as he is singing. Some of his better lines:

"Ladies, David Beckham is here. I repeat Becks is in the house. He single handedly made soccer this much (raising his index finger and thumb about an inch apart) more popular in the U.S."

"Eli Manning won a Super Bowl and finally got to see a woman naked. (Looking at Eli and his wife Abby) Pretty cool isn't it? I think so."

"I want to thank Bill Belichick for all the cameras here tonight."

Timberlake, a Memphis native, also took some shots at his Tigers after they lost in the NCAA championship game to Kansas, going into the crowd and putting a hand in front of Mario Chalmers' face as if he were defending him. "Everyone in Memphis pay close attention to this," he said. "How's that?" He went on to show a clip of himself making free throws from all direction before shaking his head and saying, "Now how hard was that Memphis?"

One of the best and most awkward moments of the show is when Timberlake looked at Brett Favre at the beginning of his opening monologue and said, "Oh my god, it's the real life Brett Favre. Dude, what is going on. What's up with you? What have you been up to lately? I haven't seen you anywhere recently. Just chilling. Yeah, me too." Later, he stopped his monologue, looked a few rows behind Favre, ran up to Aaron Rodgers, told him to stand up and gave him a big hug. "Dude, it's cool." He then put his arm around a smiling Rodgers and hugged him again. "It's cool."

Moments later after Favre won the award for "Best Record-Breaking Performance," and spoke about his career in the past tense before saying, "we'll see what happens," Timberlake said, "If you're leaving the building Brett, get your hand stamped because they will not let you back in."

The timeliness of the Favre jokes brings up easily the most absurd aspect of the ESPYs, besides the name of course, which just beats out the WWF's Slammys in that department, is that the show is on a four-day tape delay. That's right, 96 hours. Who's editing this thing? Martin Scorsese? I doubt even Marty would need that much time to touch up an awards show that's basically recorded live-to-tape. ESPN spokesperson Keri Potts says the four days "allows for better production in terms of additional content elements to enhance the telecast. For example, capturing backstage reactions of winners and their interactions with other winners and presenters and gives viewers a "behind the scenes" view." That's all well and good, but a network that prides itself on live game coverage, which includes instant reactions and interactions between players, coaches and fans, should be able to turn around an awards show quicker. The ESPYs took place on the slowest day in sports (no accident as they scheduled it accordingly to get as many athletes to attend as possible) and could have really been must-see television for sports hungry fans looking for anything to watch. Instead, most fans were relegated to red carpet pictures and wire stories about an awards show that won't be aired for another four days. Will people still care at that point? Apparently they have in the past as Potts says the tape delayed broadcast "has worked well for us. We've twice posted our highest viewership numbers ever."

Will Ferrell, who always steals the show, did so again with a pair of hilarious skits with John C. Reilly explaining why they wouldn't host the show ("It's probably not even going to air") before coming out to accept the award for best male athlete on behalf of Tiger Woods. "People always ask me, Tiger, how do you do it? And my answer is, shut up. I ask the questions around here," said Ferrell. "I realize this isn't about being the best golfer but being the best athlete alive which apparently I am. What can I say?"

• No one knows how good a pro Greg Oden will be, but he's easily the most entertaining big man we've seen since Shaq, and he may even be more personable than the Diesel. Not only did he dress up like Elton John to play the piano behind Timberlake on stage, but he made his case to host the awards next year by putting his mom on speaker phone. "I believe my boy should host the ESPYs, he's such a great boy and he never pees in his bed," she said as Oden smiled and gave a thumbs up.

• The line of the night, along with the team of the year award, went to the Celtics and Ray Allen, who upon holding the trophy and getting in front of the microphone smiled and said, "Another win in L.A.," as the fans at the top of the Nokia Theatre across the street from the Staples Center showered him with boos.

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