Last night, July 12, former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hosted the 25th anniversary of the ESPYs, the signature awards program of sports-network powerhouse ESPN. Over the course of the broadcast, he made multiple comic references to his stint in Denver, even comparing himself to tennis great Serena Williams's unborn child when talking about his 2015 Super Bowl victory.
"I love that Serena Williams won the Australian Open while carrying a child," Manning said during his consistently hilarious opening monologue. "I mean, that's even more impressive than two years ago, when the Denver Broncos' defense won the Super Bowl while carrying me."
Like much of the best humor, this line was funny because it was true.
The biggest attention-getter in Manning's introductory comments involved Golden State Warriors champ Kevin Durant, who directed an obviously well-rehearsed glare at the retired QB after one joke. At that point, Peyton turned to Russell Westbrook, Durant's ex-Oklahoma City Thunder frenemy, to create a purposefully awkward juxtaposition.
For Denver fans, though, his nods to the Broncos were the highlights — including his followup to the Serena Williams bit. As the crowd exploded with laughter, Manning said, "That's right. I'm not an idiot. I'm aware of these things." Then, as the camera cut to a certain Super Bowl 50 MVP, he added, "Okay, Von Miller, thanks again, pal. I owe you."
Miller returned later in the broadcast. Manning was seated beside him after the New England Patriots, helmed by Peyton rival Tom Brady, were awarded with the Best Game prize for their stunning comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the most recent Super Bowl. "I didn't even watch," Miller said to him. "Did you?"
This question spurred an eye roll and a cut to a skit about Manning's supposed Super Bowl party this past February. Peyton, seen wearing a Falcons T-shirt, is clearly enjoying himself early on, when Atlanta seemed to be running away with the contest. But he gets more and more steamed as the Pats turn things around, even setting off a fire alarm at one point — and when New England's win becomes final, he destroys his television with a well-aimed football.
His throw seemed to have plenty of zip — more than he displayed toward the end of his Denver run. Broncos fans frustrated after months of hearing the seemingly endless debate over whether the team should start Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch under center can be forgiven for wishing that ol' number 18 had at least one more season left in him. Then again, after nodding to past ESPYs hosts such as Tony Danza, Manning stressed that he knew when to retire.
Here's a look at his monologue.
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