Just Don’t Call Me Bruce!

It was a perfect diversion during this, another pre-election campaign season. While ISIS continues to dominate the Middle East, Christians continue to be beheaded, Iran develops its nuclear bomb, and secret trade agreements are being pushed through Congress, all media attention is directed elsewhere.

At the 1976 Summer Olympics, Bruce Jenner won a gold medal and broke an Olympic world record, scoring 8,634 points in the decathlon. He was more famous than Mohammed Ali. A good looking guy–he did it all. Twice married, once with the mother of the famous Kardashian sisters, although they were sired prior to his arrival.  That blissful union lasted more than 20 years and was broadcast into every home in the nation as one of the most popular reality shows ever produced.

But unless you have been spending time on Mars, or somewhere, you know the story. Bruce, and his inherited appurtenances, are no more. Brucie is now Caitlyn, with a revealing glamour shot on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, and has now been awarded the 2015 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

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So who was Arthur Ashe, and what did he do to have such an award for courage created in his name? Mr. Ashe, a native of Richmond, VA, was a top ranked tennis player in the 1960s and 70s, and the first African-American male tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament.

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In his honor, a statue of his likeness was erected on Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue, where he joined the bronze equestrian castings of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury. Obviously for a statue of a young black kid of that era to be included among such a distinguished group took real courage, although he never really lived long enough to enjoy it. He died of AIDS in 1993.

Nonetheless, the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was created in his honor, and has been presented annually to individuals whose contributions “transcend sports.”

The subsequent recipients of this award, and the reasons for their being selected, may appear a bit curious. Those so honored include Stephen Michael Palermo, a former Major League Baseball umpire whose field career ended when he was shot in the back during an altercation outside a Dallas restaurant; Billie Jean King, a lesbian tennis player who routinely overpowered her “straight” female opponents, and was known for her loud “grunting” whenever she served the ball; Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa; Ed Thomas, a high school football coach who was shot and killed in the football team’s weight room by one of his former players; Dewey Bozella, who was nine when he witnessed his father beating his pregnant mother so badly that she later died. One of his brothers was stabbed to death, another was shot and killed, and a third died of AIDS. In 1983, Bozella was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, a sentence later overturned for a lack of DNA evidence; and Michael Sam, the first publicly homosexual player to be drafted in the NFL. The Rams cut him at the end of training camp.

In spite of receiving congratulatory tweets from President Obama, there do seem to be those with differences of opinion over his/her being qualified to receive such a prestigious award. The Legendary sportscaster Bob Costas said, “I wish Caitlyn all the happiness in the world…however, it strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play… I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone…who would’ve been more deserving of what that award represents.”

Perhaps. But from a look at the previous recipients, he/she seems about as well qualified as most.

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