A Reporter Warms to Award Shows at the ESPYs

For the record, I dread most awards shows. The parade of celebrities encased in designer gowns, boasting about their movie making millions more than the next guy's just doesn't do it for me.

But lo and behold, I have finally found the exception: ESPN's ESPY Awards. All of the biggest names in sports, stage and screen come together to celebrate athletic achievements both on the field and off. The event is in its 14th year, and it's bigger and better than ever, with Lance Armstrong serving as this year's master of ceremonies.

The awards were actually given out on Wednesday at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood where I spent the afternoon talking to celebs about what else? Sports.

World Figure Skating Champion Kimmie Meisner was the first star to strut her stuff down the red carpet.

"I'm really excited to be here," giggled the 16-year old, pint-sized pro, who attended the event with her father. "I really want to meet Lance Armstrong."

Actress Carmen Electra also weighed in on the evening's event: "Everyone in Hollywood comes out for this, it's a big deal," she said.

Not far behind these lovely ladies was NBA forward Lebron James, looking dapper in a three piece navy ensemble that probably cost more than my college education. The superstar echoed similar sentiments of excitement.

"It doesn't get any better than this," he said. "All of these athletes in one room is pretty special."

When asked if there was any other sport besides basketball that he had dreams of turning pro in, he quickly replied, "Football, no doubt about it. It was always my first love."

Note to Lebron: Don't quit your day job. Having just inked a $60 million, three-year contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, it looks as though you're doing quite well these days.

Indy car driver Danica Patrick, who looked ravishing in a red Dolce and Gabanna gown, said she set her sights on the hard court at a young age, until she encountered a roadblock.

"I was always mean, so the high school coachers wanted me to play something," she said.

"I was tough enough to be a basketball player -- but the only problem was I was really short," said the 5'2, 100-pound racer. "So I was a cheerleader," she proclaimed, looking slightly mortified at the memory of pom-poms.

NFL rookie Reggie Bush and his fellow footballers from the University of Southern California were nominated for "Best Game." A rising star in his own right, Bush was actually star struck when he arrived at the Kodak Theater.

"I'm a huge sports fan," he said, "and there are guys that are here that I've looked up to for years and years -- like Jerome Bettis. The ESPYs are kind of like the Academy Awards of sports. It's great for us to come out here and have our own event."

Some celebrities admitted they had dreams of becoming sports legends. Songstress/actress Brandy claims she could have cleaned up on the court.

"I play a lot of tennis in my spare time," she said. "I feel like I should have started the sport earlier because I could have had a shot."

Others, though, like Matthew McConaughey, prefer to stick to the silver screen.

"I'm a huge sports fan," he said. "I love competition, but I'd rather just go out and play [a professional athlete] for three months."

Of the many questions that were asked on the red carpet, there was one that stumped everyone: What does "ESPY" stand for?

"My dad and I were just talking about this," said Meisner. "Entertainment … sports …people?" she asked.

Retired NFL great Doug Flutie flat out admitted, "I really don't know specifically. I just assume it's the ESPN award and they wanted a catchy phrase."

Many more guesses follow, but no one was even close. The answer is: Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly.

Who were the winners of an ESPY award? Who were the losers? You'll have to stay tuned tonight, when the ESPYs air at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

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