Every year, the Entertainment Sports Network, better known as E.S.P.N., holds its annual ESPY Awards in the Summer. The program features an array of awards given to athletes as voted on by sportswriters, broadcasters, sports executives, and sports experts/personalities.
The event also features the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which is given to individuals who “transcend sports.”
Past recipients include a list of legendary names like Jim Valvano, Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt, and Pat Tillman.
The award has also been given to those being champions for social change. That list includes tennis legend Billie Jean King and University of Missouri football player Michael Sam.
Following the choice to give the Mizzou player the award last year who made headlines coming out as a homosexual entering the N.F.L., ESPN has already announced it will give the award this year to Bruce Jenner (a.k.a. Caitlyn Jenner).
Jenner has brought national attention to the transgender community, whether one might call it positive or negative.
But while past recipients, even Sam, can have their accomplishment connected very closely with sports, Jenner’s “courage” only has a connection to sports with him being a former Olympic athlete.
Some argue that his lifestyle is actually a disorder. Is this something that truly should be labeled as courageous?
Former Psychiatrist in Chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Paul R. McHugh, recently said the disorder is in the person’s assumption “that they are different than the physical reality of their body, their maleness or femaleness, as assigned by nature. It is a disorder similar to a ‘dangerously thin’ person suffering anorexia who looks in the mirror and thinks they are ‘overweight,” he said.
Even if you think the selection is a good one, ESPN should be cautious of bestowing the honor on Jenner, who is still under investigation for involvement in an automobile accident where a woman was killed. Reports show he swerved to avoid a crash and struck a woman’s Lexus that caused her to veer into oncoming traffic for a head-on collision where she died at the scene. Family members are currently suing Jenner.
While the debate will go on whether Jenner is truly being “courageous” with his recent lifestyle change, I believe ESPN had several other candidates it could have chosen instead. Perhaps none more deserving in this past year than freshman college basketball player Lauren Hill.
Hill had committed in 2013 to play NCAA Division III basketball for Mount St. Joseph College.
The high school senior was ready for the next level but then she was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and was told she would only live until December 2014.
She then developed a dream to try to still play a college basketball game in spite of her condition as a way to encourage other kids fighting cancer.
Her health went downhill fast as doctors said they could only give her steroids to help with the “death process.”
Typically the season starts in late November, but school officials and the conference worked hard to start the season in the first week of November to help Hill achieve her dream.
The small Division III school had this game moved to a 10,000 seat arena in Cincinnati, Ohio that sold out in less than an hour.
ESPN cut into its own telecast with a live feed of Hill’s first shot, a layup with her left hand. The players celebrated and the large crowd erupted in cheers, chanting “Lauren.”
Before her death, Hill raised around $1.5 million for the fight against cancer.
When she passed in April 2015, her death was felt throughout the sports world.
NBA Superstar LeBron James said it best on Twitter. “Dear Lauren Hill, You are the true definition of strength, courage, power, leadership, etc. etc! Your time spent on earth will never be forgotten. I (hate) that I never got the chance to meet you in person but know you inspired me the whole time! For every life you touched you made the biggest impact of them by just seeing you! You’re in a far better place now and please don’t have too much fun up there without all of your family and friends. Can you please tell my Grandma I said hello. Don’t be afraid, she knows you cause we spoke about you plenty of times. Until we officially meet again, take care and continue to be that leader we all love!”
At the end of the day, life goes on and nobody next year will likely remember who received this prestigious award in 2015. I just wish Hill’s truly courageous story could have been heard once again on national TV with her family properly receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on her behalf. Other possible recipients could also have been Buffalo Bills legendary quarterback Jim Kelly, who is now a cancer survivor; Baltimore Ravens executive O.J. Brigance, who is fighting ALS; or Leah Still, daughter of Cincinnati Bengals lineman Devon Still. Unfortunately, the award appears to be given more for ratings and website hits than for courage.