Tennis loomed not large but peripheral at the annual ESPY Awards, held in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Perhaps the timing of the event arrives as just flatly off for tennis stars to be able to attend, as it's smack dab in the midst of Wimbledon.
From where he started, Peyton Manning is the most improved athlete/actor-spokesman of all time.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 13, 2017
This year's host Peyton Manning addressed Serena Williams' pregnancy among all the wordage in his opening monologue, showcasing his comic timing and some others' rather good writing.
"I love that that Serena Williams won the Australian Open while carrying a child," Manning said. "That’s even more impressive than when, two years ago, the Denver Broncos’ defense won the Super Bowl while carrying me. I’m not an idiot. I’m aware of these things. Von Miller, thanks again pal."
Kudos to Manning and the ESPYs team on acknowledging Williams' incredible achievement, winning the Australian Open in January while a few weeks pregnant, unbeknownst at the time to all but a handful of other humans.
Serena winning while carrying child more impressive than Broncos defense carrying Manning is best joke so far. ???? #ESPYS— Jen Lada (@JenLada) July 13, 2017
That notice was a far cry from the overwrought, absurdly long love-song Jamie Foxx dedicated to Williams as host of the ESPYs in 2003 and again in 2004:
The first televised award of this 2017 show featuring tennis players as nominees involved Rafael Nadal and victor Roger Federer, up for Best Game for their 2017 Australian Open championship performance. A likely rolled-out Snoop Dogg doled out that recognition, but Federer, busy with his winning ways at Wimbledon, went down swinging here. That nominated match went to the Super Bowl game played out between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, won by the Pats in a colossal comeback.
Williams, absent though nominated for Best Female Athlete, took an off-court loss late in the evening when decorated gymnast Simone Biles claimed that particular prize. Also losing out on the night among fan voting: for Best Upset, the Novak Djokovic–Denis Istomin second-round match at this year's Australian Open, as well as Federer again, nominated in the Best Comeback category.
Federer, however, won for Best Male Tennis Player and Williams picked up the Best Female Tennis Player nod. It's the Swiss' seventh ESPY in the category, having won it six years in a row from 2005-2010. It's Williams' third ESPY in a row and 11th overall (she was also Best Female Athlete in 2003 and 2013).
None other than former first lady Michelle Obama presented the annual Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, obviously named for a tennis legend, to Tim Shriver, son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who pioneered the Special Olympics.
In perhaps the ceremony's most poetically poignant delivery, longtime Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, now 89 and retired as of October 2016, said, "God gave us memories so that we could have roses in December. In the December of my years, I've collected so many roses."
And so Scully spoke for most all of us: The lone match none of us will ever win finds Father Time across the net.
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.