The ESPYs are tonight. In the realm of made up awards shows ESPN's effort is especially unnecessary because sports is one of the few areas in life where you actually have scoreboards and standings to determine who is a winner and who is a loser. I tend to doubt that winning "Men's Basketball Player of the Year" tonight will assuage LeBron James' bitter disappointment in losing the NBA Finals last month.
One honor that was of note at the ESPYs over the years has been the Arthur Ashe Courage Award--named for the American tennis great who broke barriers as a black man playing a predominantly white sport--and who died from AIDS acquired during a blood transfusion--spending the rest of his life raising awareness of the disease and funds for a cure. For most of the year it was assumed that Lauren Hill would be this year's Arthur Ashe Award winner.
Hill was a college basketball player at Mount Saint Joseph's University in Ohio who contracted Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma--a rare form of brain cancer that usually affects children in their first ten years of life. Despite her diagnosis, Hill still worked with the team in hopes of making it into one game this past season. In a rare class move for them, the NCAA even allowed MSJU to move up its season opener to before the mandatory start date for women's basketball to ensure that Hill might still be able to play. The game was moved to a bigger gym and still sold out--with all proceeds going to cancer research. To date, the Lauren Hill Fund has brought in over one-million dollars.
It was ESPN themselves that introduced Lauren Hill to the world, chronicling her story during a number of emotional features on SportsCenter and other long-form programs on the network. Her appearance on the floor for that first game led that night's show--as did news of her death in April. Winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award would just add to her legacy and further her cause of awareness. Well that is until Bruce Jenner had a sex change.
As has been promoted endlessly on ABC--which is airing the ESPYs for the first time ever this year--it will be Caitlyn Jenner that receives the Arthur Ashe Award--and not Lauren Hill. The inspiring story of a small college basketball player dying from a rare disease is nice and all--but did you see the ratings for Jenner's "coming out" interview with Dianne Sawyer (also on ABC)? Obviously that is the what "inspires" America! And did we mention the ESPY's are on ABC this year?
It was announced this week that there would be a "special honor" for Lauren Hill's family during tonight's telecast--think of it as the "Participation Ribbon" of the ESPYs this year. Hopefully it comes before CAITLYN JENNER'S FIRST LIVE NETWORK TELEVISION APPEARANCE--ONLY ON ABC!! so that America get can some inspiration before their heaping helping of exploitation leaves them with a sour taste in their mouths.