Dan Patrick, former ESPN Sports Center anchor, now headliner of the Dan Patrick Show, has been predicting for months an athlete from one of the four major team sports in America would go public while still playing, and do it very soon. He was right.
Monday a 1st person article appeared in Sports Illustrated in which Jason Collins, a back up center for the Washington Wizards of the NBA, came out of the closet.
Patrick was first to break the story by saying we needed to tune into the final hour of his show for a story that the entire sports world would be talking about. Right again Dan. That was Monday morning. They, meaning the professional sports media and analysts, are still talking, agendizing, politicizing, pontificating, and dissecting this revelation.
As for me, it really doesn’t matter. It’s not like he’s the first gay athlete in the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL. Collins is just the first to go public while still an active player. I’m not a big fan of the NBA and certainly not of the dead from the neck up Washington Wizards. So I really don’t have a nickel in it. I will say that I am for same sex marriage and I’m for homosexuals having all the same rights that every other American has. But ultimately I really could not care one way or the other about gay athletes. I’m betting my standard is the same as a lot of sports nuts: “Yo man can you play or not, cause the rest is all bull sh*t.” That about sums up my level of interest in the matter.
That is until the headlines started flowing, and believe me they flowed. Then the superlatives started to be bandied about, and believe me they were bandied. More on that in a second.
There was this pregnant pause from around 11:00am Monday when Dan Patrick announced/SI issue appeared (Andrew Perlof works for SI but also for Dan Patrick as one of the Danettes and the show’s blogger) and the reaction on social media, mainly twitter, then the news outlets which occurred about an hour later. I guess people were waiting to see what type of reaction everyone would have.
It was mixed, but not between positive and negative. More like between positive and apathetic. A lot of people were really in the “Who Cares” category, but most were positive. There were some negative reactions.
Most notably Chris Broussard of ESPN and Tim Brando of CBS Sports.
Broussard came out quickly and went the holy roller route. Calling homosexuality a sin and saying Collins is in open rebellion and war with God. This is not a new stance for Broussard, and they aren’t really his words, he was quoting the bible, or at least his interpretation of it. But it may be his last stance, at least with ESPN.
Brando saddled up the sanctimony that is his high horse and took issue with the term hero.
Brando is an ass of the highest order, but in this instance I agree with him about the hero business. People were awful quick to call Collins courageous, a hero, and even compare him to Jackie Robinson. To steal a phrase that’s all the rage in presbyterian sermons, let’s “unpack” these three terms shall we.
Courageous I get. Collins was in several ways. It takes a set to be the first to come out. Regardless of your position on the matter it is still a notable moment. As Patrick rightly said, the country seems more ready for a black president than a homosexual playing in one of the four major american sports. Hind sight being 20/20 Collins is now aware the majority of the sports world supports him, but he really had no way of knowing that when he was deciding to make this life altering decision. Plus it’s not like he’s Lebron James.
Collins is the 12th man on the 12 man roster of the Washington Wizards, one of the worst teams in the NBA. To say he’s a journeyman is being charitable. He’s also 34 years old. The twilight of his career is upon him. So adding this drama to his life might not have been the best career move. He has stated that he still wants to play. It’s up in the air wether or not this helps or hurts, but lets be clear his career was in jeopardy regardless.
So yeah courageous fits. Hero doesn’t.
As Tony will tell you my obsession with golf has reached a pathological state. So I say this with the full knowledge the golf gods will cause every drive I hit from now on to slice; golf has ruined the word hero. I know most of you could not watch 5 minutes of golf on TV, let alone the entire 5hr coverage. But I do and the announcers use the word heroic, and courageous for that matter, to describe shots hit by golfers that had almost no chance to succeed but wind up being great. Trust me folks, golfers are not heroic when they hit the golf ball. I don’t think Collins was heroic when he announced he was gay.
He was in no physical danger and he saved no one from physical danger. He rushed into no burning building in West Texas, he charged into no bomb ridden stands in Boston, and braved no floods from Hurricane Sandy. He plays basketball, and he plays it badly. Now I am aware some people have put forth the theory that a high profile player making this type of admission may stem some of the countless suicides that occur each year from troubled youth unable to cope with their sexuality. But it is just that, a theory, if for no other reason than there is no way on God’s green earth any of these kids had ever heard of Jason Collins. As I said he ain’t Lebron James. Hell, he ain’t Mitch Kupchak. (google him). So the jury is still out on the suicide hypothesis. But the jury is not out on the tag Hero. In my mind he’s not one. Sue me, you know, after y’all are done getting Chris Broussard fired.
On that note, why is this guy hailed as a hero for saying he likes men, but Tim Tebow was basically told to shut his mouth and play football when he speaks of his Christian faith? At least Tebow has been saying this stuff since the beginning of his career. Collins has waited until the end of his and the environment favored this type of announcement. I have no doubt ESPN will be forced to fire Broussard for his comments. In other words, anyone voicing an opinion that’s anything less than full throated praise for Collins will get more heat than Collins did for coming out and risk putting their own livelihood in jeopardy. Again who cares, but help me out, where is the heroic part?
This brings us to the comparison to Jackie Robinson. For those who don’t know, Robinson broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball in 1947. Now lets talk hero. His life threatened constantly, his own teammates threatened him constantly, opponents tried to scalp him every time he went to the plate, spike him every time he slid into a base, and otherwise harass and try to run him out of the league every time he took the field. And those were the players, you can imagine what the fans were doing. Robinson responded with his play and nothing else and crafted a hall of fame career in a situation most people would have walked away from after the first day if not the first inning.
I’m struggling to find the comparison between that and Jason Collins’ situation. Other than the fact that both men are black and they play a team sport there is no equation, no calculus, no abstract algebraic sum that can find equality between Robinson’s historical career and Collins’ situation. None. Broussard of ESPN was quoting the bible, not even his own words but God’s word, and Broussard’s going to get fired. You know some drunk idiot will yell “fag” from the stands of an NBA game, if Collins can even make a roster next season. And you know what, half the arena will try to kill that guy and then he’ll be thrown out by security as he rightly should be. Within minutes of the announcement, half the NBA stars were sending messages of encouragement and support. I’m talking Lebron, Kobe, Shaq, etc… There are societal barriers to homosexuality in America, but there are none in the NBA. This guy won’t feel one bit of stigma from this. And when he fails to make a team next season it will be because he’s a 34 year old journeyman center with marginal skills. Period.
President Obama said Collins is a 7 footer who can bang with Shaq. Come on O, on his best day Collins couldn’t bang with Jeff Ruland (google him).
Let me reiterate that I am all for Collins’ and all homosexuals getting the same rights every other American enjoys, but please.
He’s like Jackie Robinson? Are you freaking kidding me?