Bob Costas, the reliably smug sportscaster who offers his progressive opinions on gun control and other non-sports matters, is making sense.
He points out that giving Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYS in July is ridiculous. On Dan Patrick’s radio show this week, he offered his sober and completely reasonable and compassionate thoughts:
“Bruce Jenner, who I did not know well, I always had a cordial and pleasant relationship with,” he began. “I wish Caitlyn Jenner well, and anyone — even if most of us do not fully understand it — anyone seeking to find the identity they’re comfortable with and to live the happiest possible life without intentionally hurting anyone else…I think we’re moving toward a more tolerant society, and that’s all for the good, and I wish Caitlyn all the happiness in the world and all the peace of mind in the world.”
That said, he believes awarding Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is “just a crass exploitation play” on ESPN’s part. “It’s a tabloid play,” he told Patrick. “In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found — and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner — I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone who is much closer to [being] actively involved in sports who would’ve been deserving of what that award represents.”
He continued: “That’s not to say that it doesn’t take some measure of personal courage to do what Caitlyn Jenner has done, but I think every year we look across the landscape of sports and we find prominent people and kids in high school and amateur athletes who I think more closely fit the description of what they’re looking for — or should be looking for there.”
Costas further argued that Jenner’s selection was a ploy for ratings. “I think this is just a play to pump up audience, the way lots of things are put on television, to attract eyeballs,” he said, “not because of the validity but because of whatever the kind of gawker factor is.”
You can watch the portion of the interview beginning around eight minutes here:
This is obviously true. It’s a crass exploitation play on ESPN’s part to take advantage of someone experiencing major personal imbalance. The fact that Jenner is showing signs of autogynephilia makes such exploitation by ESPN particularly troublesome, in the way giving an 8-ball of cocaine to an addict is not tolerant so much as codependent.
But as if acting out a scene from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the rest of the groupthinking sports media is pretty sure that Costas is saying something crazy by pointing out the obvious thing no one else quite has the courage to admit. Here are the geniuses at Deadspin:
Which, fine! Maybe they are! People can hate the Kardashians and reality TV all they want. It’s still more than a little strange that Costas and Patrick seem to think that their mere existence and association with Jenner means there is something crass and exploitative about giving a retired athlete an ESPY award for doing a very brave thing in public. Costas’s complaint says a lot more about the narrow scope through which he insists on grumpily viewing the world than it does about The Media or ESPN or These Modern Times. One of the most famous athletes of the 20th century publicly transitioning is a big and important sports story, full stop.
Here’s the deal. The Caitlyn Jenner rollout is easily one of the most effective propaganda campaigns ever run by a public relations agency. You can read a bit about that in the Los Angeles Times piece “Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover marks a ‘masterfully’ handled moment.”
What’s most interesting about it, perhaps, is the willful way in which the mainstream media participated in this propaganda campaign. At least the Kardashians and their producers get paid directly for such content. That Deadspin would speak cowardice to broadcasters such as Costas who point out that ESPN has no clothes is a sad comment on the quality of the unreflective political and cultural journalism they’re attempting to offer in the place of sports journalism.