Sports
Column

At the ESPYs red carpet, it's a mix of bling, sweat and cheers

ColumnSportsElton JohnESPNJermaine Jones60 Minutes (tv program)Lady Gaga
It's divine excess as athletes show off their personal style, as Chris Erskine tries not to melt, at the ESPYs

So much of life is plain ugly (cell towers made to look like trees) or vaporous (Masahiro Tanaka's elbow, or that little Italian village I just purchased on eBay).

But then you run across something genuine and serene. Yes, it's the ESPYs I'm talking about.

I'd rather pass a gallstone than wear a full suit in 90-degree heat, yet here I am on the red carpet at ESPN's annual awards show Wednesday night at the Nokia Theatre.

Look, there goes Russell Westbrook in baby blue pajama tops.

Over there, Marcedes Lewis is wearing a kilt/skirt/pantaloon combo (no, you can't get these at Target).

And here comes Kevin Durant in a shade of green usually found only in Jell-O or chem labs. Hey Kev, were they out of cheetah?

The 49ers' Stevie Johnson is wearing glitter shoes and so many necklaces it looks like chain mail.

At the ESPYs, bling is the new black.

When did athletes start dressing like Elton John and Lady Gaga? And what would Ted Williams say?

Oh. there's Russell Wilson in a tie and conservative dark suit. What does he think he is, an adult?

Pay attention, Joan Rivers, and I'll show you how to handle a real red carpet.

Me: "Who are you wearing?"

Jermaine Jones: "John Ford."

Me, I'm wearing Chevy.

First impressions? This red carpet is moving slower than an Idina Menzel national anthem.

If you've never been, what happens on these red carpets is this: The participants step directly off their MTA bus -- or whatever they drive -- and enter a tent, where security wands them. The ones who don't pass get to go down the red carpet.

Soon, they pipeline into a crush of stars and publicists and are wearing a sheen seen only in Turtle Wax commercials. Along the way, they stop at various booths, where TV types (who strangely never sweat) ask them about their clothes, careers and upcoming movies.

Then they stop for more photos and interviews. The ones who don't pass out in a puddle of their own gravy are allowed into the Nokia for the show.

A red carpet in July is much like the two-a-days you used to have in high school. Not everybody makes it. Women have given birth in the time it takes to walk this gauntlet.

An hour in, I look like the night manager at an iHop in Short Pump, Va. Maria Sharapova either sneaked by me or melted directly into the ESPYs red carpet.

My own winners Wednesday night:

-- Most legendary: Jim Brown

-- Best reception: Members of the U.S. soccer team.

-- Sexiest: Pro surfer Hannah Cornett.

-- Blingiest: Stevie Johnson.

-- Weirdest: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

-- Coolest doctor: Julius Erving.

-- Best moment: When Jim Brown hugged Michael Sam.

-- Best line by TV host Drake: "If CenturyLink Field got any louder, Westbrook would be wearing it."

Yeah, sure it can be unsettling how much we deify these athletes, but they always seem willing to make a mockery of themselves, don't they?

And I don't mean that in a mean-spirited way, only that they take themselves less seriously than the fans often do. Maybe that's a relief.

Really, what these awards salute is ESPN's trademark irreverence. Last thing I'd want is a 24-7 sports network that treated everything as if it were "60 Minutes."

What's left to say about all this? It's a divine excess, really, this giving of awards to people who already are among the most-rewarded people on the planet. The new royalty. We used to have war heroes, and now we have sports stars.

If it all seems specious and vainglorious, so be it. In the end, they're just ballers. If they're overcompensated and a little too worshiped, that's our fault more than theirs.

So give them their night. The ESPYs – now in their 22nd year – have become sports' Tower of Babel.

Twitter: @erskinetimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
ColumnSportsElton JohnESPNJermaine Jones60 Minutes (tv program)Lady Gaga
Comments
Loading