Thursday, January 13, 2011

Carlton Chester "Cookie" Gilchrist, 1935-2011

"Cookie" Gilchrist, one of the premier running backs in the Canadian Football League, then the American Football League, has died from cancer at the age of 75. His obituary in the New York Times tells of his remarkable life.

I knew the name when I was a kid, a really great sports nickname, but I knew little about the man. He was one of the few players to speak out about the racism he encountered, and his biggest success in that part of his life was as the leader of a threatened boycott of all black players from the AFL All-Star game if it was held in New Orleans, after days of mistreatment of those players in that city, denied service in restaurants, nightclubs and taxis. The boycott did not take place because the league decided to move the game to Houston.

Besides his stands against racism, Gilchrist was one hell of a tough running back. At 6'3" and 250 pounds, he was one of the most bruising fullbacks of his era and the first AFL running back to pass the 1,000 yard mark for a season.

I know some readers may find my interest in obituaries morbid, but my view is different. Well written obituaries celebrate a person's life, and often remind up how much the world has changed since we were young. Writing The Other Blog, I sometimes get weary with America's new obsession with instant celebrity, and to read about people like Cookie Gilchrist is a reminder of a time when people achieved success the hard way, when success in sports was not a ticket to untold wealth but just a little more than the folks who sat in the stands.

Best wishes to the family and friends of Cookie Gilchrist, from a fan.

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