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Drake Hosts The ESPYs: Badness That Will Echo Through the Ages

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It wasn’t just bad—it was indescribably bad. But I’ll try my best…and probably fail.

Just like Drake!

Reactions were mixed when singer/actor/fanboy Drake was announced as this year’s ESPYs host. Although the overall sentiment seemed to skew towards the negative, his surprisingly impressive performance on Saturday Night Live in January offered a small glimmer of hope.

That hope was obliterated Wednesday night about 30 seconds into the show.

Awards shows are pretty formulaic, with a 10-15 minute monologue by the host generally kicking things off. Reading jokes off a teleprompter may not sound like an incredibly difficult task—and it’s really not, as long as nobody cares whether or not the end result is funny.

Seriously, there’s a reason why comedians are always tapped to captain these sinking ships. The final product isn’t always pretty, but at least they have enough experience to steer the Titanic around most of the iceberg. It may not save the ship, but it’ll buy some time for the rescue effort.

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Anne Hathaway and James Franco proved why straying from formula is a terrible idea at the Oscars in 2011 and Drake proved it again at the ESPYs in 2014. Award shows are already self-serving and mundane, screwing with the formula only makes them worse.

The monologue was nothing short of a disaster. From the moment Drake bee-bopped out on stage and politely requested the crowd “make some noise,” till the final joke landed with a thud, mercifully putting both Drake and the audience out of our collective misery.

It was hard to tell if the jokes were that bad or if Drake was just brutally murdering them—probably a little bit of both. Some were funny enough to get a bigger laugh with a solid delivery, but there were a few that would’ve induced a groan no matter who they had up there.

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The monologue kicked off with Drake gushing about all the people in the audience he admired, then he added the caveat, “until you started losing, then you’re dead to me.” It was supposed to be a lighthearted joke addressing the elephant in the room (his reputation as a championship-chasing fanboy), but it failed because it just rang too true.

Instead of laughing at the joke with Drake, it felt more like an awkward statement of fact that made us laugh at him—that’s in addition to making us wonder what went wrong in his upbringing. What’s funny about having no loyalty and constantly shifting allegiances based on wins and losses? That’s almost as soulless as Drake’s joke delivery.

While discussing LeBron James—Drake’s self-described brother…his friend—leaving Miami they cut to a clip of what was set up to be devastated Heat fans, but instead was just some ridiculous video of people—who looked more likely to be celebrating Carnival in Rio than anything in Miami—dancing and partying.

How he managed to screw up a “Heat fans are the worst” joke is a mystery—it’s always a crowd pleaser because there are no actual Heat fans to take offense.

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The rest of the way it was basically just Drake congratulating everyone who won something in sports in the last year and then saying something that was supposed to be funny. Except that none of it was funny and all of it was cheap and hacky.

On the Spurs NBA Championship: “The Spurs all stayed up past 10:00 p.m. and shared a beer. Just one.” Get it! The Spurs are old.

On the noise at Seahawks home games: “If CenturyLink Field was any louder, Russell Westbrook would be wearing it.” Get it! Russell Westbrook dresses weird. And seriously, we got it! There was no need for Drake to personally explain to Westbrook that he dresses like a clown.

On Richard Sherman: “Tonight a man told me that Richard Sherman is the best defensive player he had ever seen. And that man was Richard Sherman.” Get it! Richard Sherman loves him some Richard Sherman.

“Richey! You’re a cocky son of a B, Richey, I’ll tell you that much. Naw man, I love Richard Sherman, Sherman’s my guy like…he’s so entertaining…you know Richard Sherman pissed off more white people this year than a crowded parking lot at Whole Foods. You know they hate when they can’t get their almond milk, ya know what I’m saying?” Yeah, we know what you’re saying. White people are really into overpriced groceries.

On Richie Incognito and Riley Cooper saying terrible things: “There’s no room for racism in the NFL, unless you own a team in Washington, D.C.” That one actually landed with a surprising thud, which Drake didn’t handle well. He might as well have tugged at his collar and mic and said, “Is this thing on?”

Then Drake dished it on thick and heavy for his beloved Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, before being forced to concede that UConn won both the men’s and women’s championships this year.

And some how he managed to bungle two NCAA dis jokes (the NCAA owns the memories—at least you got the meal plan!), which would’ve gotten a bigger laugh (or any laugh at all) under different circumstances.

This is where desperation really began to set in.

Drake was definitely caught off guard by the Redskins and NCAA jokes bombing so badly and he resorted to a crutch he would lean on throughout the show: “There’s a lot of great looking people here! Make some noise for yourself!”

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Translation: “You won’t laugh at or make some noise for my jokes, so please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do me a solid and at least cheer for your damn selves!” It was cheap and painful to watch and Drake went back to the well way  too many times.

Although nothing was cheaper than the fat jokes made at Prince Fielder’s expense. Fielder recently appeared nude in ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue. The way he was called out (“I hear that you’re vegan, did you just start yesterday?” insert maniacal laugh) made Drake seem like the school bully laughing at the fat kid.

It was awful.

The pre-show’s awkward interviews and commentary was awful.

The monologue was awful.

The scripted “comedy” bits were awful.

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The fact that Chris Brown and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were featured so prominently in the show was awful.

The interactions on stage were awful—especially the bit between Drake and poor Skylar Diggins. She didn’t deserve that.

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The musical interlude was awful.

The white linen capris pants were awful.

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The spoken word poetry bit was awful.

The selection of Chris Berman to introduce the In Memoriam segment was awful.

The awkward transition of the In Memoriam segment into a Samuel L. Jackson Capital One commercial was awful.

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Even the bit about Donald Sterling being an awful racist was awful because Drake found a way to make it awful. 

That was the story of the 2014 ESPYs—everything was awful. Even the parts that weren’t awful (Michael Sam and Stuart Scott both spoke from the heart, even if Scott’s ode to his ESPN bosses felt a little forced) were dragged down by everything else.

In the end it proved to be nothing more than the manifestation of the circle-jerk mentality ESPN is infamous for.

Award shows like the Emmys and the Oscars celebrate television and movies and the actors that bring them to life, much like the ESPYs are intended to celebrate sports and the athletes that bring them to life. But in reality the only thing they celebrate is ESPN.

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So as bad as he was, maybe Drake was the perfect host. He has no personality. No edge. No point of view. No sense of humor about himself. And absolutely no sense of self-awareness.

The only love and loyalty Drake has in sports is for the people and teams currently generating headlines.

That makes him and ESPN a match made in mediocrity. Maybe it’s time they made an ESPY award for that.

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