The Gentle and the Brave

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I mention what I thought was a remarkable obit — of a hockey player named Edgar Laprade, “known for his playmaking skills and his gentlemanly behavior on the ice” (in the words of the obit). I write, “Is that legal? Gentlemanliness on the ice?”

Well, a reader wrote me about the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — a trophy I had been ignorant of. It is given every year by the NHL (I believe), and the winner is selected by the hockey writers. The winner is the player judged to have exhibited the best sportsmanship in the year.

The trophy has been given for a long time — since the 1920s. So, is it a kind of consolation prize, a faintly insulting award, like “Mr. Hustle”? (I apologize to all recipients of Mr. Hustle awards, and congratulate you on your hustle. Please don’t resent the kids with talent.) No, no — some of the best players have received the Lady Byng, including Gretzky and Hull (both of them). And Edgar Laprade, for that matter — who is a Hall of Famer.

Also in my column, I pay one of my periodic tributes to black conservatives. The latest occasion is the defaming of Justice Thomas by a congressman as an “Uncle Tom.” I imagine that white people have only a vague idea of the power of that epithet — its ability to injure someone, socially and mentally.

Michael Steele once told me, “I have tough skin — I’m an elephant, you know” (meaning a Republican).

I quote that in my column. I also say something similar to my above statement: “My guess is, white people have only a vague idea of the price that black conservatives pay. These conservatives are some of the bravest, most daring, most longsuffering, most independent-minded people in the country. They are an example to everyone, of any color or philosophy.”

Many readers have said, “Amen” — and have gone on to discuss the issue of bravery, in its various aspects.

This got me to thinking of a person I believe I have mentioned before, in a column or post. Definitely in a speech. But it has been many years. He was an undergraduate at Harvard in the mid-1980s, and he wore a lapel pin depicting two little feet. It was a pro-life symbol. It would be hard for me to convey just what it took to wear such an item, in that environment, then.

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