Be honest. When you first heard that Caitlyn Jenner was going to win an ESPY Award, you said, “What the hell is an ESPY Award?” An ESPY is an annual award presented by ESPN for “Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly.” In other words, it’s an award someone at ESPN tried way too hard to fit into the existing station ID.
Since it’s about, you know, sports, you may be confused as to why Bob Costas is in hot water for castigating ESPN for choosing to give Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage ESPY. Well, that’s because you’re a thought criminal. Look at this awfulness that Costas had the temerity to say: “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.”
“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.”
Man, so many problematics in so few words. Why should a sports award go to someone whose career was more recent? Especially since the Arthur Asche award doesn’t even have to go to someone who was an athlete. David Sanders, killed during the Columbine Massacre, won in 2000; Nelson Mandela in 2009. High-school kids and amateur athletes? Who’s going to tune in to watch that? This is about TV. I mean, who had ever heard of last year’s recipient (Michael Sam) before ESPN honored him?
Wait, Sam was a media juggernaut before he competed on “Dancing with the Stars”? Unpossible. And now Jenner, fresh off the cover of Vanity Fair, is getting the star treatment. It’s almost like Costas nailed exactly what ESPN is doing here. Maybe this is all a ploy for ratings, “a play to pump up audience, the way lots of things are put on television, to attract eyeballs,…not because of the validity but because of whatever the kind of gawker factor is.”
Deadspin disagrees, zeroing in on comments Costas made with regard to “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” and disregards everything else he said.
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.
Actually, his complaint doesn’t say more about the narrow scope through which he views the world. It does say something about Deadspin, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Bob Costas, normally reliably progressive on any number of fronts, offered a very mild criticism of ESPN’s choice of Jenner for the Arthur Ashe Award. Given the media fervor surrounding Jenner, his hypothesis that this is about ratings isn’t without merit.
But we live in a time in which intolerance will not be tolerated and thoughtcrimes are the worstest crimes. Costas, in criticizing ESPN, went with a thoughtcrime instead of an approved Progressive critique of everything that’s wrong with ESPN and sports in general. He could’ve pointed out that the Arthur Ashe Award is a travesty in the first place because a majority of recipients have been men and ESPN isn’t fooling anyone with its selection of Jenner. But he didn’t. He reminded us all that, Michael Sam aside, we’d forgotten what the hell an ESPY was and it was time for our annual reminder.
More than that, it was also an opportunity for ESPN to stand up and let us know they’re not just a bunch of sports guys reading scores and stats. They’re brave, courageous, progressives who only commit goodthink in their quest to make society a better place. Because if we don’t get betterment from a sports network, from whence will it come?