It’s not entirely Jamie Foxx’ fault but his presence a few years ago didn’t help. It wasn’t that he serenaded Serena. It was that he didn’t seem to know how to stop serenading her. His song seemed to go on and on, and then he draped his body over hers and expressed his lust in a manner that I personally would have found disrespectful.
To be fair, it did not seem to bother Serena who laughed along gamely and spanked his butt when asked to do so. But I did note that she did not use the side of the fan with her face on it, as expected. So maybe, deep within, she had her own reservations as well. Who knows. I did not then (nor do I now) think that the celebration of her tremendous accomplishments in tennis needed the obscene Jamie Foxx touch.
But I can’t entirely blame Mr. Foxx for my lack of regard for the ESPYs. Even the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as host this year does little to redeem the insipidity of this show.
I get that the goal of this pointless award show is to create in the world of sports what the Grammy has done for music and the Oscar for the world of blockbuster movies. But in the same way that my music choices have never been guided by who won a Grammy (Adele???), nor do I base my movie choices on who won an Oscar (Hilary Swank anyone?), the ESPYs have come to have nothing to do with my appreciation of sporting talent.
The underlying commonality to these award shows seems really to be the celebration of stardom. The venue allows for a co-mingling of celebrities and other wannabes. And that in itself would be all well and good if this silly celebration did not seem to take itself so damn seriously.
I can’t criticize the ESPY nominees in other categories but I certainly have over the years had a lot of reactions to the tennis selections. But I must admit that this year, they played it safely and well. Only two men were nominated for Best Tennis Player -- you guessed it, Federer and Nadal. Federer won. No surprise there. The 2008 men’s Wimbledon finals was also nominated in the category of Best Game. It did not win.
Among the women, there were three nominees for tennis: Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Serena won. Very justifiable choice as she has both the Australian Open and Wimbledon trophies. But Serena was also nominated in the category of Best Female Athlete. She did not win. She lost to a gymnast.
I am always surprised by the category of Best International Athlete. Does this mean that all other categories are reserved for Americans? And what do we make of the fact that the Swiss Federer is voted best in tennis, yet was not nominated along with Rafa in the category of Best Male International Athlete? Isn’t Switzerland foreign enough? And how to explain the omission of sports men like the Spanish cyclist Valverde or the Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir? Mind you, I am thrilled to pieces that Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won in this category, but the award is meaningless when the criteria for inclusion remain so amorphous.
But the category that upset me the most was Best Female Athlete With A Disability. The nominees were Erin Popovich (Swimming), Jessica Long (also Swimming), Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Sailing) and Asya Miller (Goalball). No offence to any of these most awarding nominees, but where is tennis’ Esther Vergeer? Why was she not included?
I get that it is impossible to please everyone when it comes to handing out awards. There are always going to disgruntled folks like me who will argue that you should have included so-and-so. (Although few will argue with Nelson Mandela receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award). But in the same way that Hilary Swank has no business having more Oscars than Meryl Streep (yet she does, believe it), there has to be ways to improve the validity of some of these decisions. Failing that, we can just accept that the ESPYs are completely irrelevant but harmless enough so that we can just sit back and enjoy the show. Assuming of course that Jamie Foxx was not invited.