Newly retired racecar driver Danica Patrick was the first woman to host the annual show honoring the past year’s best athletes and moments on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
To her dismay, Patrick’s opening monologue at the ESPY’s was noted as a below-average, unsatisfactory display of hosting.
According to critics, her first joke about Cleveland fell flat. A crack about vertically challenged Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was not well received, although he managed a slight smile in the audience.
Patrick soldiered on, telling the audience, “We have to mention the elephant in the room. It’s time to talk about the national anthem controversy.”
At that point, a photo of NBA All-Star Game anthem singer Fergie came on screen and Patrick said, “I don’t know what Fergie was thinking either.”
While numerous athletes in the crowd sat stone-faced, others looked uncomfortable or winced.
Social media took to multiple platforms, expressing disapproval of Patrick’s hosting skills. A woman tweeted, “Am I the only one who thinks Danica Patrick is super awkward as host?” Another person posted a GIF of comic Steve Carell grimacing with the caption: “These Danica Patrick jokes not hitting … at all.”
Contrariwise, Patrick scored approval with a few comedic attributes at the ESPYs. As a photo of a grinning Alex Ovechkin holding the Stanley Cup flashed behind her, Patrick said, “I haven’t seen a Russian this pleased with Washington since two days ago.” Ovechkin’s photo was replaced with one of Russian president Vladimir Putin, drawing laughs.
Patrick proved a good sport by taking aim at herself. “Tiger Woods is back, sort of, I guess,” she said. “Why do people keep talking about this guy when he isn’t winning? Who does he think he is? Me?”