Repaying a debt of gratitude to Bill Cosby

Delaware County Daily Times     Wednesday, June 12, 2018

Guest Column: A writer repays a debt of gratitude to Bill Cosby

By David Block, Times Guest Columnist

Posted: 06/12/18, 9:43 PM EDT

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Bill Cosby today, regardless of peoples’ opinions about him, I would be a complete ingrate if I did not publicly thank him for the way that he helped me by advancing my journalism career and made me feel better about myself.

I am a legally blind freelance reporter and documentary producer/director. When I covered big events, I often felt inferior to the professional staff writers of the larger newspapers. They were on salary, while I was getting paid small amounts.

One place where I felt most insignificant was when I covered the world renowned track event the Penn Relays Carnival at Franklin Field in Philadelphia for the Main Line Times and No matter how many times I told myself that I was as good as the other reporters and had a right to be there, I still did not believe it until I met and interviewed Bill Cosby there.

To date, I covered the Penn Relays for 19 years and nine out of those 19 times, Cosby allowed me to interview him. He never said no. (I interviewed him in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014.)

He would be on Franklin Field congratulating the runners after they finished their races. A Penn Relays PR person would walk me over to him and ask if I could conduct a brief interview with him, and he always said yes.

I once told him that interviewing him made me feel better than taking my antidepressants.

“Throw those away,” said Cosby.

 Sometimes, he was funny. When I asked him for a quote in 2008 he said, “I challenge you to a race next year blindfolded and the winner gets a kiss from his favorite girl.”

That same year, he made me wait 20 minutes before he spoke to me but I liked how he did it. He said: “Sit down. Be quiet. Go to sleep.” I had no doubt that he wanted me there because he had me sit next to him. If he did not want me there, he could have easily had a security guard take me off the field.

In 2003, I told him that I was nervous talking to him. “Slow down,” Cosby said. “Turn that recorder off for a few minutes. Calm down.” After I was relaxed, he allowed me to talk to him.

Another time he said:

“Look at you, you’re dropping everything, what’s wrong with you?” That made me laugh.

Talking to him made me feel important. Other reporters sometimes told me that they saw me on the field with him for 20 minutes and wanted to know how I managed that.

Because the Main Line Times and were confident that I’d get Cosby quotes at the Penn Relays, they allowed me to cover the Penn Relays for them, even after they cut their budgets.

Talking to Cosby convinced me that I was as good as the other reporters.

Regardless of what people think of Bill Cosby today, I will always owe him a huge debt of gratitude for advancing my journalism career. I can never bring myself to judge him because he helped me for nine years.

Thank you, Bill Cosby.

David Block is a blind journalist, Ardmore resident and former stringer for our sister paper the Main Line Times.

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