The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby
P.O. Box 4049
Santa Monica, CA 90411

The Brokaw Company
9255 Sunset Boulevard
Suite 804
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Dear Mr. Cosby,

Let me start by saying that I have always been, and always will be, a huge fan of yours. I believe you belong on the short list of the greatest Americans of this generation or any other.

A few years ago I was asked who my childhood hero was. I couldn’t think of one. I didn’t worship any one athlete or actor or celebrity. The people I really looked up to were in my family, my neighborhood and my school. This is, of course, how it should be for our children.

But as I revisited the idea from time to time, I realized there was one celebrity I respected more than any other, one William H. Cosby, Jr. He had always been there; comedy routines and albums, the Fat Albert cartoon, Captain Kangaroo, The Cosby Show, and so on. The latter was without a doubt the most important cultural happening of the 1980s.

The Cosby Show, coming along in my junior high and high school years, had a huge impact on my life in particular. There were the situations and jokes that everyone in my school found hilarious and repeated until we were sick of them (which took a very long time). One of my high school classmates even got dubbed “Bud”. It gently portrayed the American family life we all wanted—not one without struggle or conflict, but one with clear ideas of right and wrong, and one where everyone cared for each other.

Two episodes in particular were important to me, “Back to the Track, Jack” and “Off to the Races”, which showed Cliff getting back into shape to run masters 4x400 relays and relive his college exploits. They helped shape the impression that track and field is A Big Deal, and encouraged me to join my high school team. The day I began to run was the day my life changed. I continued on my college team and beyond, and I coached track and worked as an official, and now announce meets and write about track and field. It is my passion, probably running over into an obsession. I owe this in part to you, and your portrayal of it as a highly competitive but still friendly affair.

Track is not my job, though. For pay, I am an educator. And it is in that way that I really appreciate what you have done for America. Your work has always sought to educate in some way as well as entertain. Fat Albert always had a lesson. Picture Pages on Captain Kangaroo was explicitly educational. Other work, like The Cosby Show, often illustrated how we should treat each other.

A generally unknown piece, Bill Cosby on Prejudice, was part of my 8th grade English curriculum and I have never forgotten it. The message that hatred inevitably leads to isolation has stayed with me, encouraging me not to return hatred when it is directed towards me. That is at times a very difficult task, but it's the lesson of the 20th century.

In two weeks I will finally get to attend the Penn Relays, an event I’ve always wanted to go to since seeing it on your show twenty-five years ago. I’m going with my old high school coach, Bob Hayton, a man who has spent the last forty years teaching and inspiring and generally making life better for the youth of Toledo’s rough neighborhoods. I know that he is at least as big a fan of yours as I am.

I also know that everyone wants some of your time and attention. Despite that, I’d like to ask if we could meet you sometime during the Penn Relays weekend. If I met The Cos at the Penn Relays with my high school coach, it would be the greatest moment of my life. I’ll still tell my wife it was our wedding day, because she’s Italian and I’d like to keep on living. But I’d know what it really was.


Jesse Squire, aka “The Track & Field Superfan”

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