WHAT: 1996 ESPY Awards
WHEN: February 12, 1996
WHERE: Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
WHO: The Worldwide leader in sports
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I don’t recall this specific ESPY’s (hosted by Tony Danza!) but feel like I would usually make an attempt to watch growing up. I do know John Caponera’s Harry Caray impression at the first rendition of the awards sparked a Caray obsession that culminated in me focusing my 6th grade wax museum project on the rambunctious lifestyle of Mr. Caray. And with an autobiography book cover like this, how could you go wrong?
The ESPY Awards are pretty much a running joke. This isn’t a revelation. I feel safe in saying no professional athlete has ever YEARNED for an ESPY. Yet they’ll have their 25th iteration of the awards this year. And My Brother and Me only gets one season, damn. Running joke aside, the ESPY’s have actually had their fair share of memorable moments, from the inspirational
to complete dismantling:
You know it was a performance when it elicits these kinds of reactions:
As timeless and classic as Jim Valvano’s speech is, MacDonald’s monologue is more in line as to what the ESPY’s would become; awkwardness galore. Which brings us to today’s clip, Michael Jordan’s acceptance of the 1996 Comeback Player of the Year Award. Let’s go to the tape:
Bill Murray and Dan Patrick are here to present the award, and walk out holding hands because why not?
Bill Hader once said Bill Murray is famous for photobombing life, where life is a party, the world an improv stage and we are all in his show. Murray coming out in a bolo tie, cowboy hat and going on the following rant would not seem to go against this thought:
“You know, *clears throat* country loves a comeback.Cause it’s tough to come back, cause in country when you come back, you come back on the road, and we all know the road kills. So a great comeback is really appreciated, cause it means that when you come back it means you had to have been there and then you weren’t there, and then you’ve been there again. And that’s why our history loves a comeback. Tonight’s comeback, Dickie Friedman, is a man who is good people. He is one of the chosen people. And with this fine and unusual mind he could have been if he set his mind to it one of the Village People, I think.”
Besides the awkwardness galore, the other thing the ESPY’s should be all about; random appearances by people that have nothing to do with sports like GOULET! Hey, any guy that is the focus of some of the top SNL and Simpsons moments can show up to any awards show he damn well pleases. (Sidenote: Red Ships of Spain is the best of the SNL Goulet spots and I will argue that with all who want to step into the Thunderdome)
The Hanson Brothers from Slapshot are used as a lead-in to the nominees because it’s the ESPY’s. I have never seen Slapshot so I have no comments one way or the other.
First up is Monica Seles, which the voiceover describes as “out for more than a year”. What they fail to mention is that she was out for more than a year because of a STABBING by a crazed fan.So she definitely wins, right?
A solid case for Ron Gant, going from out for the season to a solid ’95 season but still not matching up to someone who got stabbed, right? Although never get on the wrong side of someone willing to get in a bar fight with a member of Congress.
Oh nevermind, they’re not just going to nominate Jordan and not give him the award. Even if the Bulls didn’t make it out of the 2nd round that year and his retirement is still speculated upon to this day. (I’m not really one for conspiracy theories but this one does at least give me pause for a quick second)
Sure enough, Jordan wins, he’s not there and the crowd erupts in boos when Patrick says he’s holding a charity event at his restaurant in Chicago. I mean come on, he just beat out Monica Seles but the boo is an interesting choice.
Luckily Jordan has joined the proceedings live via satellite. And he is uh, dressed for the proceedings. Now, this was 1996 so Jordan’s suit is par for the course in being a tad too big with a tad many buttons. But just Google “Michael Jordan fashion” and you get some interesting results like uhhhh:
You get the picture (literally) and that’s just from the first half dozen choices. I can’t say I blame him, if I had his level of money and success I would probably just go with the Rick Rubin on a couch look.
Jordan goes into his prepared remarks with all the excitement of a college freshman conducting their first public speaking class assignment. Ending with ranking this award up there with all the other awards he’s won. I’m sure his ESPY Comeback Player of the Year Award is displayed just as prominently as his MVP’s to this day.
Jordan does offer a pretty solid comeback with “Some of us gotta work” when Dan Patrick calls him out for not being there. You might even argue a better comeback than that which just earned him the award.
We’ll hand it over to Bill Murray again:
“Mike, you’ve won 2 gold medals, you’ve won a national championship, you’ve won 3 national professional championships, this award’s gotta be a Carolina kick in the butt for ya isn’t it?”
Followed by the obligatory fake laugh from Jordan, a quality one at that:
By this point Patrick and Murray smell blood in the water and just go in for the kill on the Jordan ribbing.
Patrick points out the only way for Jordan to win this award again would be to come back to baseball. The fake laugh is getting a little less fake and a little more on the irritation side as Jordan says he’s happy in basketball and ends his reply with “thank you very much, sir”.
Murray takes over the reigns and asks what appears to be some innocuous question about the All-Star game from the night before . Seems harmless but remember we are all just players in Murray’s game of life.
“Well let me keep the ball rollin here on this theme, Mike. Here you are you got the Comeback Player of the Year Award, here the comeback athlete. You were in the minor leagues last year in Birmingham, which is a tough gig. But this Monica Seles girl was in the hospital, Mike.”
I mean, we were all thinking it, were we not?
Patrick thanks Jordan for appearing and wishes he’ll be there next year. While you would think Jordan would never attend an ESPY’s after this one there is photographic proof he attended the 2000 ceremony, let’s see what he was wea….dammit Michael.
Jordan closes with telling Murray “Don’t ask me for no more tickets” but worry not, friends. Later that year in November Murray and Jordan would put aside their differences to team up and save planet Earth with a group of underdogs, the true comeback of the year.