Thursday, June 04, 2015

Courage vs Ratings

The ESPYs are awards handed out by ESPN to athletes or teams for a variety of accomplishments.  They give awards for things like Best Comeback of the Year, Best Upset of the Year, Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year, etc.

One award, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is "presented to the sports-related person(s) or team, irrespective of gender or sport contested, adjudged to have made the most significant or compelling humanitarian contribution in transcendence of sports in a given year."

This year, they are presenting that award to Caitlin Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, for her courage in transitioning from a man to a woman.

Okay.  That takes a lot of courage.  But I think there were more deserving candidates.  For my money, Lauren Hill should receive this award.  For those who don't know Lauren's story, she was a freshman college basketball player who died of brain cancer. But instead of allowing the cancer to deny her dream of playing college basketball, she fought it, and in the process, helped raise over a million dollars for cancer research.

Here is an excerpt from her Wikipedia biography:

"Born in Greendale, Indiana, Hill's battle with cancer became public when the NCAA agreed to allow Mount St. Joseph to play Hiram College two weeks prior to the original game date so Hill could play. The location of the game was also originally moved from Hiram's Price Gymnasium to Mount St. Joseph's Harrington Center so that Hill would not have to travel the over 300 miles from Cincinnati to Hiram. However due to public interest in the game, it was later moved from the 2,000 seat Harrington Center to the 10,250 seat Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University.  She raised US$1 million for pediatric cancer research with a Cincinnati telethon for The Cure Starts Now Foundation. The Foundation has raised US$1.1 million thus far."

I watched Lauren be interviewed multiple times.  I watched her live her dream of playing college basketball.  She was humble, she was honest and sincere, and she knew she was going to die.  It would have been easy to walk away and do nothing, to wallow in self pity, but Lauren chose to make what time she had left matter. She was one of the strongest, most courageous people I have seen.  Her bravery deserves to be recognized.

So why did ESPN choose Caitlyn Jenner instead?  

I suspect it has everything to do with ratings.  Jenner's transformation is big news, the Vanity Fair cover photo damn near broke the Internet. But here's the thing, while I agree that Jenner's coming out was brave, it was a choice. Jenner is an adult who made a choice to go public about his gender identity.  Lauren was a young woman who had no choice in her fate and she faced her coming death by devoting her remaining time to helping others. That is the ultimate courage. 

That is why I won't be watching the ESPYs this year. I want them to know that while ratings may be the blood that sustains television, in this case, recognition of true courage is more important.