“In 2016, it had been 31 years since our last national championship for basketball, and now, just two years later, Villanova is once again the national champion! What a remarkable accomplishment for the players and for Coach (Jay) Wright and his staff, and what a wonderful time to be a Villanovan!”
It was around this time, two years ago, I was waiting for WTXF-Fox 29 to officially hire me. Of course, when you’re dealing with corporations, everything gets in the way.
I got this email from the news director, the day after the game.
Of course, the first line didn’t end with a question mark or exclamation point. Different people are held to different standards.
Of course, he didn’t let me know “either way by Friday,” as he said. Villanova won on Monday, April 4, 2016. You can see he emailed this the next day, April 5. That Friday would’ve been April 8. Instead, I did not find out until Tuesday, April 12.
That same Tuesday, I gave my two weeks at WCYB, leaving there after April 26, and starting at Fox less than a week later, on May 2. I had been given the option of starting May 9 but knew there was a ratings period and wanted to be as much help as possible, as soon as possible. So I quickly got mover and cleaner estimates, and my friend Scott found a temporary place for me to stay. The good folks at WCYB made sure to honor me with a cake. Lots of people involved with my departure and arrival!
I’m sure Fox management appreciated that move I rushed – just like I appreciated the imaginary transportation, hotel and lunch they provided during my interview! (What’s the best emoji for sarcasm that covers everything about them in that last, long sentence?)
My time at Fox was not pleasant because they seemed to care more about nonsense social media that would pull at people’s heartstrings, rather than real, relevant news. They also did not take the 11-page critique they had asked me for into consideration. (Click here to see it.)
They did take my advice to use Facebook more often, but never thanked or acknowledged me in any way. I remember being told during my one face-to-face interview (Feb. 29, 2016) that one Facebook post an hour may be too much! In other words, exactly the opposite. Some people can never be satisfied. Maybe they’re too insecure.
Note: I think I’ve kept every emailed promise, accusation, etc. Some people won’t look very good if-when it all comes out. That’ll be up to our representatives. Same thing when all the witnesses start talking about their experiences. I left that place in the middle of nothing short of an exodus.
I must make public I hope I’m not infringing on the NCAA’s trademark nastiness by using words like Villanova and phrases like national championship.
I also don’t think certain lawyers would agree there are “informal” uses, either!
The Main Line’s Villanova University was named after Saint Thomas of Villanova. It was founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine. The other school
“traces its roots to the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva (Saint Thomas of Villanova), founded in 1946 in Havana, Cuba, by American Augustinians with assistance from European Augustinians. When the Castro government expelled the Augustinians from Cuba in 1961, several of the American Augustinians came to Miami where they founded Biscayne College. … When University status was attained (in 1984), the name of the institution was changed to St. Thomas University to reflect its Cuban heritage.”
Another thing, friends, is you know I have a long memory.
That last line I quoted isn’t exactly true. Biscayne College didn’t become St. Thomas University; it became St. Thomas of Villanova University, but folks on the Main Line didn’t like that competition, so the name – How did they put it? – was shortened. I found it didn’t take more than a few months, and the second change wasn’t even mentioned in The Voice, Miami’s Catholic newspaper. I checked the 1984 issues. Seems they went through a lot of trouble for nothing.
The shortened name used for such a short time even has an unofficial Facebook page, but not much is on it, as you probably would’ve expected!
As for me, I’ve never been a college basketball fan. Growing up in Miami, the University of Miami didn’t even have a team from around the time I was born until I was in 9th grade (you look the dates up!), so I didn’t grow up with it. Also, if you blink, the players are gone – either graduating, dropping out, or a few going professional. There’s no chance to remember more than a few individual players, unless you’re a die-hard fan or journalist (or live in Connecticut, where any high school stars are remembered forever).
But I loved when somebody I consider a mentor – Miami news legend Eliott Rodriguez – put his live shot from Vilanova’s 1985 championship up on Facebook, this morning. It happened while he worked for WPVI’s Channel 6 Action News, during a break from the Miami market.
You’ll have to watch. I commented jokingly, “Full of information! But other things never change.”
He responded, “The pictures tell the story,” but couldn’t remember whether he or his photographer suggested doing the live shot from the top of the van. Turns out, maybe they should’ve! And Jim Gardner always had the perfect response.
Jim is still there today and still in first place, even against the Super Bowl and Olympics on NBC in February. Says something about stability and being true to yourself, and what you stand for.
See who was referred to as a “distant fourth” twice in the above article! Let’s just agree it was well-deserved. Heck, they changed their Facebook policy between the time of my interview and the time I started. That wasn’t much more than two months!
And to leave you on a much more pleasant note, here’s a much more recent picture Eliott posted: Two former Philadelphia folks, including one who worked at KYW-TV3. It was taken in March. Glad to see Eliott and Marc Howard looking happy! Goes to show there is life after TV news!
Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish.
“It’s been a wonderful run, but I just felt now was the right time to step away and I’m grateful that NBC left that decision to me.”
It’s a huge job, day after day, with so many events and athletes to know all about. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he went on the air after catching an eye infection.
Now, NBC took Mike Tirico from ABC and ESPN to do the chore, which may have doubled because the network brilliantly decided to carry everything live on the west coast (starting at 5pm) and go until 2am in the east, when west coast prime time ends at 11. Of course, the South Korea time zone helped get everything live, but it’s still six long hours on the air.
It’s kind of fitting, in a way. Costas had hosted every Olympic Games since 1992. Tirico was the first student to receive the Bob Costas Scholarship at Costas’ alma mater, Syracuse University, back in 1987.
Costas is at the point in his career and life that he can say what he wants, and I love that. I hope I come across just as honestly these days, as well. It’s almost a waste to keep your mouth shut, if you know what you’re talking about.
As for the Super Bowl, it’s one game and just over three hours of time that most of America and much of the world would be watching. And he’d only have to be an expert on two teams. Sounds much, much easier — something he can handle with his eyes closed.
But in November, he said, “This game (football) destroys people’s brains,” referring to players’ concussions and other head injuries.
He’s absolutely right! Don’t think so? Look at all the damage done. Look at the behavior of some former players who got hit too hard too many times. Keep reading for the names of some players who died too young because of the damage, and a description of how the damage happens.
Parents, is it worth a four-year scholarship to college? Do the students getting the scholarships actually study for a job in the real world, or is football an extra responsibility that’s much more important than regular studies and credits?
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching football, especially when I know the team and the players. But I’m no die-hard who would watch some college football game between two west coast teams I know nothing about.
I like watching the players give it all to catch a pass, the defense trying to block and then tackle the runner if necessary. And the runner doing whatever it takes to get an extra few feet or make it out of bounds while keeping control of the ball. But first, the defensive line trying to blitz the quarterback, with his offensive counterparts protecting him.
“an estimated 130-plus plays, hundreds of hits, tackles, spears, and lay outs. For a young and healthy athlete, that can lead to serious brain trauma.”
“According to the NFL, there were 271 documented game-related concussions this past season — the most recorded by the league since 2011. Roughly one-third of those were caused by helmet-to-helmet contact.”
The magazine describes “one of the season’s dirtiest” games. It happened in January 2016.
“How dirty? With 22 seconds left in the game, the Steelers’ star wide receiver, Antonio Brown, was midair, ready to catch a ball that he hoped would put the Steelers within range of a game-winning field goal. Instead, Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict launched himself at Brown as he came down, slamming his helmet (which in the NFL can weigh four to six pounds) into the side of Brown’s head, whipping it sideways on his brain stem. The hit, at an estimated 707 miles per hour, carried about 1600 pounds of tackling force. It flattened Brown on his back, seemingly knocking him unconscious. Jim Nantz, the NFL’s normally unflappable play-by-play guy, was apoplectic, calling the assault ‘disgraceful.’
“The Steelers, who ended up winning the game 18 – 16, later said Brown had suffered ‘concussion like symptoms.’
“In the NFL, that’s code for ‘has a concussion.’”
A co-director at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center told the magazine “what mostly likely went on inside Brown’s head that day.”
“As Burfict slammed into the left side of Brown’s head, he twisted it up and to the right. The slo-mo is painful just to watch. According to (Dr. Robert) Cantu, a hit like that would lead to a textbook rotational concussion, among the worst a player can suffer. There are several things happening inside Brown’s skull, the moment of impact. Brown’s brain begins to twist and spin. It does this in the opposite direction of the hit and inside his skull’s cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that cushions the brain. In that same moment, his brain’s nerve fibers stretch and rotate.”
Also, according to the magazine,
“A large percentage of NFL concussions are the results of T-bone hits (at the ear hole) or right between the eyes. These hits rattle the brain’s center of gravity. What they do is make the brain to rock dangerously backwards and forward, repeatedly hitting the skull. In young athletes (think teenagers), the brain is flush with the bone. So this effect is not as pronounced as in older players, who have a one-eighth to a quarter-inch space, more room for the brain to ricochet off the skull, and thus to cause more harm.
“Blows to the side of the head, like the that laid out Brown, are far more dangerous. The spinning a brain undergoes during a rotational concussion can cause significant structural issues.
“As Brown’s body recoils, his brain continues swirling back and forth before finally oscillating to a stop. That’s where things fade to black, both in Brown’s consciousness and in our scientific understanding.”
Stanford bio-engineer David Camarillo recently told PBS KQED’s Quest blog, “One of the serious issues is the wobbling of the brain.”
“The exertion caused by a rotational hit puts a much greater degree of stretch and strain on the nerve tissue than a linear hit,” Dr. Cantu explained. “It isn’t just going in one direction. It is going side to side, front and back.”
The magazine describes the injury.
“As soon as Brown’s head is hit, his brain violently accelerates. Neurotransmitters — chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with each other — are released, but since the trauma is so great, these neurotransmitters are chaotic and rendered effectively useless. At the same time, the new membranes surrounding the brain’s neuronal cells stretch so thin that ions like potassium and sodium flow out of the neurons and into the fluid-packed extracellular space. These ions are quickly replaced by calcium, which flows into the cell and basically paralyzes the neuron.”
“The cell is unable to transmit nerve impulses. So what you have is a cell that is alive, but is greatly impaired and nonfunctioning. Cantu calls it ‘an energy crisis in the brain.’ And it can last not just minutes, but for months. That means whatever responsibility that cell controls, whether it be memory, speech or rage control, it can’t do its job. ‘So if the cell affects vision, you won’t see properly,’ says Cantu.”
But that’s not all.
“Microseconds after the ion chemical reaction, Brown’s nerve cells and fibers start to stretch. Once the blood vessels in those parts break, microscopic hemorrhages occur. Doctors using specialty MRI scans have seen these ruptures in injured NFL players as tiny holes where vessels have bled out. If the vessels bleed into the brain’s tissue, the fluid could kill neurons, which can already be in bad shape from a hit as severe as Brown’s.
“Scientists do not know how to measure the number of cells injured in a concussion. They just don’t know. But for athletes who suffer from CTE, a degenerative condition that can only be diagnosed through autopsy (90 out 94 former NFL players who authorized the examination over the past eight years have had it), the cell death is crippling. It leads to massive atrophy in the medial surface of the brain’s temporal lobe. That’s the region and area of the brain that is associated, in part, with memory and language. If the cells don’t have enough rehab time (say, a player takes the field too soon), they ‘tip over,’ says Cantu, and die, causing brown stains to develop throughout that region (a phenomenon noted by medical examiners during autopsies on NFL players).”
Players like Dave Duerson and Terry Long wasted away due to the ravages of CTE and then ultimately committed suicide.
No football fan could forget Junior Seau. A team of scientists who analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker after his 2012 suicide concluded he suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head, researchers and his family told ABC News.
That January 2013 article reported,
“More than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with CTE, a condition once known as ‘punch drunk’ because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head. Last year, some 4,000 retired players filed lawsuits against the league over its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries.
“The NFL has said it did not intentionally hide the dangers of concussions from players and is doing everything it can now to protect them.”
Ken Stabler suffered from CTE, died of colon cancer in 2015 and donated his roughly three-pound brain to Cantu’s CTE Center for analysis. Shortly before his death, he established the XOXO Stabler Foundation to take
“up a cause that directly affected the foundation’s chairman: sports-related brain trauma.
“The foundation’s new initiative XOXO Game Plan for Change is focused on changing the course and culture of contact sports to increase sports safety and reduce brain trauma in athletes. To facilitate change, the XOXO Stabler Foundation funds research on related brain diseases, methods of treatment and prevention, and educational outreach.”
Antwaan Randle El, 36, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he suffered severe memory loss and couldn’t even walk down the stairs.
Calvin Johnson announced he’d retire at age 30 likely because of fears relating to his post-retirement health.
“The very severity of the disease, at least that we’re seeing in American football players, seems to correlate with the duration of play. The longer they play, the more severe we see it,” Dr. Ann McKee told The New York Times.
“Not only do I not have a problem with it, I am actually happy about it. I have long had ambivalent feelings about football, so at this point, it’s better to leave the hosting to those who are more enthusiastic about it.”
Again, Costas not part of the Olympics nor the Super Bowl seemed like a surprise. And again, it’s great to be able to do what you want and not do what you don’t want.
But Costas says we should not be surprised. His Olympics decision was made way back. And as for the Super Bowl,
“I have been making the same points for several years, often on NBC. In halftime commentaries, interviews with (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell and other prominent NFL figures, appearances on CNN and elsewhere, I have addressed the issue of football and its undeniable connection to brain trauma many times.
“Because the evidence is overwhelming and the effects are often devastating. It’s the elephant in the stadium at every game whether others choose to acknowledge it or not. And it’s not going away. So the idea that I am only now finding my voice on this, or that NBC was taken aback by what I said at Maryland is just wrong. It’s all simple and straightforward.”
I love people who speak freely!
Yes, there are benefits to being a popular, rich athlete. A lot of good needs to be done in the world. It costs money. People need food and clean water. Children here need examples, especially the ones without fathers.
But would you go out on the field, even with a ton of protection, and do something that has destroyed so many people’s lives?
ESPN reported last April, owners were not happy with the weeks-long “intermissions” every four years and wanted “conciliatory offers from the International Olympic Committee and/or the NHL Players’ Association.”
“Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.”
A deal didn’t happen, the players can’t compete and be Olympians this year, so Costas could call hockey. I don’t think he ever has, but he’s probably too smart to compete against the Olympics!
P.P.S. I couldn’t resist! Please forgive me.
Like reading the CohenConnect blog? Subscribe and get an email everytime I post!
I also thank the 21 Facebook friends from all over the country, with different backgrounds and different political views, who shared the link — which I’m sure Facebook’s algorithm, whatever it may be these days, used to help me come across it. I really don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, outside of work. I may click and see the first few personal posts, and check for birthdays. So please don’t feel bad if I don’t comment or “like” something you put on there.
Besides, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get some deep thoughts out, once and for all, since everything stays on the internet forever. And I’m about to pay for another year of having this site.
(I should add, I spent most of Thursday writing this. Then I slept on it. Now, Friday, I’m adding two brand new items that occurred after the author published her original article.)
Since I figured out how to post again, I won’t say I agree with the article 100 percent, nor would I expect to, but I’ve studied, read, traveled, worked in several newsrooms in different cities with different managers with different companies, and noticed over two decades:
First, what everyone wants answered.
We are definitely aware of and have access to the latest ratings, so we know what you choose to see, when you change the channel, and when you turn your TV off. Online, we know what you click on and what you don’t. Plus, what you comment about and react to. The numbers we get cannot be perfect but they are the best available and the only thing the industry plus advertisers have to go by. They are certainly not the Bible, but we and our bosses certainly look at what works, what doesn’t, and try to please you. Honestly.
At the same time, while we have the responsibility to report the issues, the public has the civic duty to pay attention to what’s going on. If the people choose fluff, nonsense and BS, then it’s their fault and the industry will ultimately provide more. It’ll end up being society’s loss. So please stay away from that. Besides, I don’t feel fulfilled writing it.
Nobody is perfect. Experience as an employee taught me when to ask questions, when to bother people, and when to know when something is going wrong, or could be about to go wrong.
Even if you’re perfect, you can’t please everyone. People will always complain, way too many thrive on it, and often the people who bitch and moan have different opinions for opposite reasons. (One: “You’re too liberal.” The other: “You’re too conservative.” My reaction: We were probably fair.)
Sometimes the people who complain are right and we learn from whatever we did wrong, or could’ve done better, or what to think about the next time the situation arises. (And it will.) Sometimes it’s an accident and sometimes it’s technical. We apologize and correct. And every industry has a few bad apples. Hopefully they don’t last long.
We do the best we can to provide the best content, often under difficult situations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a big city or small town. Recognize that. Say something nice and encourage, rather than complain. This article just came out TODAY.
Computers are slow or break down. Programs have bugs that providers have to fix. Not every day is everyone’s best. And I can’t even begin to talk for my colleagues who have to travel far out in the field, despite weather conditions, and gather information, get a signal out, be completely accurate while getting both sides across, and perform calmly while making their slot in the newscast.
These days, it’s a shame there are so many cowards who hide behind their keyboards and tell us we are wrong. They should grow up and make themselves known, provide evidence of the error and a suggestion to make it better. Then, they would earn people’s respect and be the real influence they supposedly want to be.
In the newsroom, I frequently take opportunities to walk up to higher-ups, knock on doors, and email others at home when necessary to ask questions or get clarifications. And never has anyone taken sincerity badly in any way. I actually like it when people ask me to explain myself, because there is always a reason for what I do. Everything should be done professionally, not randomly.
At least in America, when you make yourself famous by running for office, or powerful for running a company that does big business, or rich for having a contract with the government, or even by receiving a paycheck from taxpayers, you are putting yourself out there and the public has the right to reasonably scrutinize you for answers. Those people don’t always like it and have tried lots of ways to avoid publicity. Public relations people know that getting ahead of a situation honestly is often the best course. People respect others coming clean, asking for forgiveness and showing improvement over time, because they tend to like underdogs and are usually willing to give second chances.
In this case I just learned about, did the commentator ask a follow-up to an untruth? Or tell her he’d never heard of what she was talking about on his broadcast? Or become adversarial, play devil’s advocate because it never happened? Or was he just happy one of his producers booked her and she showed up, so she got to say whatever she wanted?
That’s a media error by not challenging the person on the media’s air, and that goes for public call-in shows and comments on social media sites, as well. It this case, it’s ironic because it started with a prominent member of a team that has been criticizing the media.
So besides knowing our stuff and being well-rounded, we in the media have to be good, honest people, and above the board on everything. No appearances of any dishonesty, ulterior motives, etc. Always open with the highest standards.
We are often a diverse group in every sense of the word, and I don’t mean the automatic liberal, bean-counting way many would first assume. Consider so many different backgrounds, hometowns, families, experiences, friends, connections, etc. But we all tend to be curious, ask questions and tell stories. And everywhere, I’ve quickly learned who to defer to for background information on a subject. We should all listen more to each others’ stories.
I agree with the part of the article about news happening too fast. With technology these days, and the 24-hour cable world, decisions have to be made faster. That means there’s less time for thinking, planning, asking other opinions, and other important tasks. We’re not just TV or radio or newspaper people. There are also the websites and the social media that goes along with it. Like it or not, it’s social media that gets people to the web. Don’t automatically believe something if you don’t know the source.
Unfortunately, it costs money to run a newsroom and I wish that was out of the equation. News directors would love to have the best coverage and most crews on every story, especially the most important, yet they also have budgets and bosses to answer to. Unlike the past, we’re on most of the time from morning to night, and always on call for emergencies. There is never enough of something, but the results are usually darn good.
We have journalistic ethics and responsibilities. Journalists should be trained and reminded about these regularly, like politicians should reread the Constitution now and again, but that takes time and money. There are also specific procedures, which vary by station. But, as a former boss put it, there should be guidelines rather than rules, since every situation, story, and circumstance is different.
Like the public, journalists should know who to trust, in and out of the newsroom. People and organizations earn their reputations over time and often generations. Of course, things change. Organizations that were once good are sold, or there is other turnover. And newer organizations can bring in the right people. Look at everything and be skeptical.
The FCC loosening regulations over the decades led to most TV stations being owned by out-of-town corporations. There used to be a limit of five stations per company, and only one in a market, and not in the next city, because people living in between can watch you in both places (a grade B overlap). But the government loosed the rules, companies slowly started to own or run stations in 100 places, and local decisions about public airwaves are made and enforced by layers of strangers, who lack of knowledge of certain communities, and require paperwork be sent (electronically), profits rise every quarter despite local conditions, etc. Whose fault is that and what would any business do?
Still, we are responsible for the public airwaves in the areas our stations are licensed to cover. Deregulation and relaxing the rules created a lot more sharing between stations, and blindly relying on others, rather each station doing its own independent work. Not to mention vertical integration and controlling both the means of getting the signal (cable, satellite, internet), plus providing the original content and perhaps denying the competition a fair shot.
Budgets mean sacrificing the best, the experienced, and the most connected. This past year, one of the biggest media companies offered the bulk of theirs golden parachutes and nearly everyone accepted, knowing their contracts will eventually end and likely not be renewed, so they’d work longer and leave with much less. Instead, cheaper, inexperienced replacements are doing their jobs. Hopefully, they have potential and are getting great mentoring.
It would be nice if hard workers could grow old in the industry. I learned early on to respect my elders and their staying power. These are the folks who have been there and done it many times before, learned from long-ago mistakes and earned their respect. Yes, the technology always changes but gathering the facts to put on the news has not. Media corporations seemed to get rich with last year’s election, even if Donald Trump didn’t spend as much money as they would’ve liked during the primaries. NBC stations did especially well with the Olympics. Playing poor in 2017 doesn’t cut it and the public should know and be angry about it.
On the other hand, all other industries play the same game. Shareholders invest to make money, and that’s not helping the product. Times have changed and there are so few sole-proprietors or family-owned businesses. Another bad thing about that is not knowing where the buck stops. Huge corporations have layers upon layers of managers, in-house, regional and at headquarters. We need another Harry Truman.
It’s always good to check out the competition, but just out of curiosity. There are good folks on every team. Some of what another station does may be better and some not. Everyone has good and not-so-good days. We can learn from each other and each other’s mistakes. But every organization has to be true to itself, its values and its audience. It’s another reason why more independence for stations would be a good thing.
The author’s views on breaking news are correct. It seems to take too much time to get to the truth. We want facts and video as soon as possible, before anyone else, and we’re doing it faster than ever before. Almost anyone can send pictures with their smartphones. We can describe what we see. We can discuss the area around it because we should be familiar with all parts of our region. We can call neighbors around the situation to ask what they see and hear from their homes, because we should have contacts around the region we are responsible to cover. However, there are time, coordination, and safety issues to consider before arriving at a breaking news story. Sometimes we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and sometimes the competition is. That’s life.
I’m blessed to be working on the web and not going out, meeting new people in person and having to remember their names. I stink at that and also did as a teacher. (“Is that kid one of mine?”) I’ve come to dislike being in the spotlight, and love learning new stuff every day.
I usually like what I do and want to keep doing it indefinitely, but I also regret I can’t do more. I’m pretty fast, but there are only a certain number of hours in a day and too many stories to do correctly, at least where I live. Nobody can be everything to everyone and trying is impossible and detrimental. Right now, I’m doing what I like best and learning other skills that support it, my organization, and also others should the need ever arise. In this business, you never know, and that’s also unfortunate.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t blogged in months. Actually, it’s getting close to a year. Between moving and working, I haven’t had time to fully explain myself. But spending most of my day off on this is worth it. I thank the author of the article for writing, also my friends who shared it on Facebook for arousing my thoughts, and of course everyone over the years who taught me something. I hope you know who you are because I have recognized you for it.
I’m going to stay in the middle, avoid extremes and remain questioning while keeping an open mind. And I’m going to end by stealing the author’s last line, which I think may be the best and totally sums up this imperfect industry: “The truth is, we don’t even have time to create an agenda if we wanted to… and if we found extra time, we’d eat!”
I’m so glad I haven’t had to cover this story. Apparently, Bruce Jenner has been looking more and more like a woman, with longer hair, manicured nails, and makeup. The tabloids and some people (not me) have been talking about it for months. But yesterday, it was reported the former Olympic star is transitioning into a woman.
A source close to the family told People magazine, “Bruce is transitioning to a woman .. He is finally happy and his family is accepting of what he’s doing. He’s in such a great space. That’s why it’s the perfect time to do something like this.”
The attention bestowed, or forced, on Jenner makes absolutely no difference to me. Jenner became famous for running in the 1976 Olympics. His Web site says he broke the world record for the Olympic decathlon and earned the title “World’s Greatest Athlete.” He even appeared on the front of Wheaties breakfast cereal.
Then, it seems we hadn’t heard about him for years. It often happens when people hit their 15 minutes of fame. Jenner’s official bio gives him lots of titles like entrepreneur, TV personality, actor, producer, and author. It also calls him “a devoted husband and father of ten (see below)” who “can be found spending time with his family onscreen on E! Network’s Keeping up with the Kardashians” which was “rated as the #1 show for the first two seasons.”
He’s now 65 and was married to his third wife, Kris Jenner, from 1991 to 2014. She was married to and divorced from the late lawyer Robert Kardashian, the only Kardashian I’d even heard of, who helped defend O.J. Simpson. (I covered the defense portion of that trial for WSVN on a daily basis. I’m sure Robert is rolling over in his grave when he looks down and sees what his family has become!)
Bruce Jenner had two kids with his first wife, two more with his second, and two more with Kris. That’s six. Kris had four with Robert Kardashian. That’s ten. They all became famous after Robert Kardashian died. I’m not going to name them because I don’t think they deserve the attention. You could say they’re famous for being famous because I don’t think they’ve done anything.
Back to the “news” of the day. So Bruce Jenner reportedly feels the need to transition into a female?
The GLAAD Media Reference Guide calls transgender a “term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” It also says “Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression align with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth” and “a person’s sex is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.” It’s called Gender Dysphoria and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation, drag, or cross-dressing.
I certainly don’t have any problem with people transitioning, if they feel the need. Live and let live! Heck, in the past two days, The Daily Beast reported the Graduate Center at CUNY is banning the salutations Mr. and Ms. (yeah, that’s a little overboard), and The Advocate reported the U.S. Navy is even allowing a name change! I don’t think public money should go towards prisoners transitioning, but I’m not worried about whoever sees me in the bathroom.
What gets to me slightly is what People also reports: that Jenner is recording his transition and plans to air it! (I guess, once a reality star, always a reality star.) There’s nothing wrong with him going out in the world, regardless of how he looks. In fact, that’s brave. Hopefully his new show, if it airs, will be educational. The public has lots to learn. Perhaps the attention he’s getting is really being bestowed and not forced on him. But I wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself in that way. It’s just not me.
Bruce Jenner was a great Olympian. He was a hero who made Americans feel proud of themselves when they needed it during tough economic conditions and the Cold War. As of now, that’s how he should be remembered. Maybe someday, he’ll also be considered a hero for the transgendered. I hope so. But not looked back on for his other reality TV work.