We overhype everything in sports.
Every year we have the “Game of the Century.” Every touchdown catch, every Super Bowl, every World Series, is hyped and hyped until eventually it loses all meaning, and we can’t really tell just what the big deal is anymore about any individual event or accomplishment.
But Monday, something happened in the world of sports that really IS a big deal. A really, really big deal.
A journeyman NBA center named Jason Collins wrote an essay for Sports Illustrated that was published Monday.
In the article, Collins admits that he is gay. In so doing, he became the first active male professional athlete in a major team sport to come out of the closet.
And a moment that has been decades in the waiting has finally arrived.
One of the last bastions of homophobia has been shattered.
The word “fag” and other homophobic slurs used to be heard in gymnasiums, arenas and locker rooms, spoken and shouted by fans and players, in every sport.
But that is less and less the case now, and as more and more gay athletes have emerged, people like Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis, it has seemed inevitable that someday soon, a male athlete in a major sport would take the plunge.
And Collins is as good a trailblazer as any: Stanford educated, extremely bright, and a guy who’s established himself as a solid citizen and great teammate in the NBA.
As I and so many others expected, when the first gay pro athlete finally emerged, he was bathed in love and understanding. Collins was feted for his courage and bravery by superstars and scrubs, political royalty and average fans alike (Of course there was still the occasional bigoted comment, but they were so much in the minority)
Why now, Jason Collins?
“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade,” he wrote in SI.”I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”
Bravo, Jason Collins. He finally had the bravery and confidence to live his life on his own terms, and not be afraid anymore.
And may his courage today allow the other current MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL players who are still afraid to come out see that it’s really OK out here, and the water is fine.
A truly historic day in sports, and I’m so glad it’s finally here.
(There were a ton of beautiful pieces written about Collins’ decision on Monday; here are two of the best: Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated with an inside account of what it was like watching Collins unburden himself, and Bruce Arthur of the National Post (in Canada) writing eloquently about what this means for sports.)
**OK, on to less-earth shattering events. I’ve seen a lot of runners try to avoid tags on squeeze bunt plays before, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this before. Check out this play pulled off by Ferris High School in Ferris, Texas. Pretty sweet…
**And finally today, check out this remarkable essay in the New York Times by a man named Bruce Holbert, who recounts a childhood gun accident that saw him killed his good friend, and how he feels about gun control legislation today.
The last two paragraphs, especially, are particularly powerful.