These were ESPN classics

Pucin is a Times staff writer.

There have been about 325 ESPN “SportsCenter” commercials made. They have featured hundreds of star athletes -- from Gordie Howe to Andy Roddick, from Kobe Bryant to Drew Brees. Some have been kind of funny, some laugh-out-loud funny. And after going through all 325, there wasn’t one that wasn’t at least a little funny. Here are my top five (actually, six) favorites:

1. Made in 2006, it features the Manning family. Dad Archie, mom Olivia, non-football-playing brother Cooper, New York Giants quarterback Eli and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton are getting a tour of ESPN headquarters from “SportsCenter” anchor John Anderson. As Anderson earnestly points right and left to computers and desks and such, and while Archie continually turns his head and glares, Peyton and Eli exchange wet willies in the ear, shoulder punches and, in the best ending ever, Peyton swings his leg around his back and kicks Eli in the butt. When Archie turns around again, Peyton shrugs and points at Eli. Brotherly love at its naturally normal.

2. Called “Fringe Sports,” this one also was done in 2006 and again featured Anderson as well as the late Steve Irwin, renowned at the time for his adventure television show “The Crocodile Hunter.” Irwin is seen complaining to Anderson that his show isn’t being replayed on the in-house sets. Anderson is waiting for an elevator and when the doors open, out walks the Florida Gator mascot. Irwin takes the Gator down as Anderson steps into the elevator and shuts the door. Best use of a mascot in a supporting role.

3. The Angels’ own Rally Monkey got fired in 2003 by Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president for news. In a scene all too familiar five years later, Doria gives upbeat compliments first, telling the monkey how much energy he has brought to the show. But, Doria says, the budget is down, times are tough, the Rally Monkey has to go. The brave monkey makes his monkey sounds and holds up his “Rally Time” sign. Doria just shakes his head and says, “I’m sorry. That’s not gonna work. Sorry.” It seems taken straight out of a Human Resources manual. Best use of a mascot in a starring role.


4. Done in 1997, this spot featured the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers mascot, which is called Big Red and is simply a big red blob. Big Red is standing in between the men’s room and ladies’ room looking confused. Someone heading into the men’s room gives Big Red a disdainful stare and tells Big Red to go outside. Big Red is devastated. Mascot discrimination at its best.

5. (tie) Called “Idle Hands,” this 2004 commercial features tennis star Andy Roddick sitting on a bench bouncing a tennis ball up and down on his racket. The constant thud, thud, thud finally drives the New England Patriots mascot sitting next to Roddick to angrily snatch the tennis ball out of the air. Roddick sheepishly says, “I’m sorry.” It perfectly captures Roddick’s intense and often unstoppable energy.

5. (tie) Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz tries on New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada’s brand new Yankees cap as Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster walks by and becomes horrified, believing Ortiz has been traded to the Yankees. Mocking Yankees and Red Sox? It’s all good.

You can go online and view these videos and others in the series.