Tag Archives: Jason Collins

Jason Collins makes history and knocks down barriers. Some thoughts on the end of the Olympics. And the fine art of professional cuddling

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Sunday night, sports history was made.

Sports history that was long, long overdue. History that most of us thought would’ve been made at the start of this NBA season, not now, in late February.

But change moves at its own pace sometimes, no matter how much we try to force it along.
Jason Collins played for the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night, and played 11 solid minutes in the team’s win over the Lakers.

It can no longer be said that no openly gay players have played in the four major team sports in America. A giant, 7-foot tall crack in the wall of bigotry and intolerance was blown open Sunday.

Some people say it isn’t a big deal, that he’s just a 35-year-old washed-up center being called on by a Nets team desperate for some frontcourt depth.

But it is a huge deal. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal makes the eloquent case here. Excerpt from the column:

“Yes: We are going to get to the point where it will no longer be a big deal. There will be other players who come forward like Collins and the college football standout Michael Sam and the MLS soccer player Robbie Rogers, and after a while it will no longer present itself as a major cultural moment. This is the way the world is going; this momentum in professional sports feels irreversible. The groundbreaking may start to feel routine. But it’s no reason to not admire the ones breaking the ground.”

Couldn’t agree more. Sunday was a great day for tolerance and acceptance in America.

As Andy Dufrane once said: “Hope, is a good thing.”

**Next up, something that should cheer up all you single, lonely people out there: There are professional cuddlers out there, who you can hire to hug and spoon with you. They’re called “hugging therapists.”

Yes, it sounds crazy. But I totally would’ve considered this when I was all by myself. Look how content these people in the video look!

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**Sunday night brought the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, and as always, I’m sad to see them go.
I know some people don’t care about the Olympics, and here in New York, with a million other sports stories to worry about, like Derek Jeter and spring training for the Mets and the continued abomination of the Knicks, the Olympics got lost for a lot of people I know.

But I love them. Every two years I get wrapped up in the bobsled and the skeleton and the crazy costumes and the swimming and the gymnastics and all the pageantry and heart-tugging commercials.
This year was no exception; a few parting thoughts from what I thought were a pretty entertaining Sochi Games:

— Boy that USA men’s hockey team really collapsed, eh? What a disappointment. Losing to Canada in the semis, 1-0, is one thing, but collapsing in the bronze medal game and giving up five goals to Finland? Awful.
— I watched some of the two-man bobsled competition and I continue to wonder what the guy in the back does. I mean, after the start is he just there for moral support?

— I think I’m not the only one pleasantly surprised that nothing blew up at the Olympics this year. Terrorism fears were all over the place two weeks ago, but the Russians did pull off a safe Olympics.

— Too safe, too, in one regard: I was really hoping at least one athlete who won a gold medal would offer up some sort of protest against the rampant state-sanctioned homophobia in Russia. But there was no 21st century Tommie Smith or John Carlos (look them up, kids, they were famous in 1968), and that made me sad.

— Finally, this Olympics has inspired me in at least one way: The wife and I are taking a curling lesson next Saturday on Long Island! (And yes, you’ll be reading about it).
I can’t wait.

The new Bob Dylan video is spectacular. How close the NFL really came to having an active gay player. And I tip my hat to Dean Smith, always a legend

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So there’s no way to sugar-coat this or oversell it: This new Bob Dylan video for “Like a Rolling Stone” is brilliant.

If you haven’t seen it by now, I’m surprised, because it’s been all over the Internet. But here it is, and it’s spectacular. It’s an interactive video; the whole video looks like a TV screen, and by using the up and down arrows on your keyboard, you can “watch” people singing the classic song in all different formats. There’s an old movie, a sports highlights show, a “The Price is Right” episode, and a whole bunch more people all singing the song perfectly in sync with each other.

I have no idea how it was done, but I keep watching it over and over. So cool. I really, really recommend clicking on it; it’s a dazzling example of the merger of a great old song and 21st century technology.

If you’re interested in how it was made, Rolling Stone interviewed the creators here.

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**I’m sure you all remember the media attention garnered last spring by Jason Collins, who became the first active male pro athlete in a major team sport to admit he was gay.
Collins, a longtime NBA center, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and hailed for weeks as a hero, as he should’ve been.
Unfortunately, Collins isn’t an active player anymore; most distressingly, the free agent saw not one NBA team reach out to him for so much as a tryout in training camp this year, and as the season rolls on he remains unsigned.

(Now, I completely understand that he’s no LeBron; he’s an aging big man who was never that good in the first place, and teams are totally in their rights to ignore him because of his lack of ability. Still, I can’t believe a man as PR-conscious as NBA commissioner David Stern couldn’t find a way to get Collins in the league.)

Anyway, around the time Collins came out, there were also rumblings that several NFL players were going to come out of the closet together. How close did it really come to happening? Pretty damn close, as Mike Freeman, an excellent sportswriter (and fellow UD Blue Hen!) writes in this story. It was about to happen, and then one of the teams got gun-shy and it didn’t happen; they didn’t sign the player (My fellow Jets fans might recognize the profile and characteristics of one of the players mentioned; if it’s who I think it is, it’s not a surprise; he played with the Jets for several years about six years ago.)

Pretty sad that it’s late 2013 and NFL owners are general managers are still too afraid to actually have an out gay player on their roster. How much longer will it take?

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**Finally today, a few words about Dean Smith, the legendary University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, who Wednesday was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now as you may know from reading this blog, I’m sort of a big Duke basketball fan (ha), which of course means I hate everything Carolina blue.

But I can never, ever, ever say anything bad about Dean Smith. Of course I admire all that he accomplished at UNC, from his victories, to his principled stand on civil rights (he was a leader in helping integrate the school in the 1960s, and recruited black players long before most others did) to his absolute grace and dignity on and off the court.

But personally, I was lucky to have interviewed him 1-on-1 a few times, and he could not have been more gracious. I’ll never forget asking him a question at a press conference once, the first time I’d gotten to do that, and then seeing him months later at a charity event. He walked up to me and said “Hey Michael, how’ve you been?” like we were old friends.

Dean was all class, and it’s heartbreaking to know that now he’s quite ill, with significant memory loss (no one has quite said what’s ailing him, trying to protect his privacy, but it sure sounds like Alzheimer’s or dementia).

He’s one of the greats, and I’m glad he continues to be recognized for the giant life he has led.

Good News Friday: Celebrities pay tribute to a dying 17-year-old. Jimmy Kimmel has fun with the Collins twins. And a homeless man’s dog gets saved.

A young man named Zach Sobiech, 17, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, and doctors have told him he has only weeks to live.

Not exactly sounding like a Good News Friday story, I know. But stay with me. Zach’s a musician, and as he faced the end of his life way too quickly, he wrote a song called “Clouds” that became a bit of a hit on the Internet.
Now, a whole bunch of celebrities have decided to honor Zach in a meaningful, beautiful way: They’ve recorded his song in a YouTube video that has gotten even more play.

Please watch Brian Cranston, Sarah Silverman, Jason Mraz, Ed Helms and others maybe put a smile on the face of a dying teenager.
I watched it three times and smiled each time. Live your life as if each day is going to be the last.

**Next, as  you probably remember, NBA player Jason Collins made big news a few weeks ago when he became the first male professional athlete in a major team sport to admit he’s gay.

Collins has gotten a lot of attention since, and deservedly so, and he and his twin brother Jarron went on Jimmy Kimmel the other night and did a very funny interview (Click here for Part 2)

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Kimmel got Jarron the above shirt so people can tell them apart from now on…

Again, it’s such a big step that Jason Collins has come out, and that people for the most part are not flipping out about it. We’ve come so far as a society in this area in just the last 20 years…

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**Finally, we have some good news about a man and his dog. An L.A. area homeless man named Charles Gilliam was distraught over the serious illness suffered by his companion Big, an 11-year-old mixed retriever/terrier.
He had taken Big to a vet who told Gilliam that the dog had an inoperable brain tumor and should be put down.

Gilliam then went back to the streets and asked people for a donation to help save Big, and an animal rights activist got involved, and the story has a very, very happy ending.

Click here to read the details. Again, just a small bit of human kindness goes such a long way.

Jason Collins comes out, and another huge barrier falls. A unique baseball squeeze play. And a haunting essay from a gun user

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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.