Just like last week, the biggest story of the week happened on Monday. Each time I needed to either write a separate story, in order to try to be timely, or wait until I wrote and posted my normal column. On both occasions, my usual schedule has not allowed for the early post, so I have had to settle for a story well after the event. Like with the attack on the Boston Marathon, though, the story was big enough to still stand up a week later. This week, it was the revelation by NBA player Jason Collins that he is gay. He is the first active player in one of the major team sports to come out of the closet, so this is clearly a big deal.
The issue of gay players in sports has been a topic of discussion for a long time. There have been retired players who have come out as gay, but never before has there been an active player. How that player would be treated by his teammates and the fans has been the big question. In the past year or so, it has seemed more and more likely that this would happen, as things like same-sex marriage have not only been major topics of conversation, but also as the public seems to have moved in the direction of greater acceptance and tolerance for homosexuality. Based on the percentage of homosexuals in the general public, it seems certain that there are a decent number of gay players in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball. I don’t think there will be a sudden flood of announcements, but I feel certain that the next will be very soon. There is safety in numbers, of course, and nothing will make this seem commonplace sooner than getting past this initial shock. That will happen as additional people realize that they no longer have to hide who they are simply because they play sports.
Jason Collins’ words were brave. It is hard to be a trailblazer, especially when there is so much emotion and hatred in opposition. Collins is actually a free agent right now, so it will be interesting to see how the offseason treats him. He is an older player, but still serviceable, so he likely would have been signed anyway. The cynical among us might say that he made it even more likely that he would get a contract, as the league would hate to see him go unsigned and have people say that it was because he was gay. There may be something to that, although I think he wouldn’t have actually needed that extra incentive. Still, that in no way diminishes the guts it took for him to go public with this information. As you might expect, it didn’t take long for the idiots to come out and speak negatively about Collins’ revelation. My Twitter feed was full of positive comments, but a number of athletes managed to show their bigoted sides, starting with ESPN announcer and former NBA player Chris Broussard, who spouted off the usual tripe, hiding behind some selective religious ideas to express his disapproval.
A person’s sexual preference should not matter in the world of sports. I have heard people asking why this sort of announcement is even necessary, saying that people like Collins should keep their information to themselves. At some point, that will be possible. A player really should not have to tell the world about who he wants to date. It will take a bit of doing to get to that point, though. I am confident we are on the correct path to get there.
Good sports, continued:
2) Like him or don’t (I’m in the “don’t” camp, admittedly), you have to respect Lebron James as a basketball player. On Sunday, he won his fourth league MVP award, becoming only the fifth player ever to win the award at least four times, joining Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. Pretty good company.
1) Justin Blackmon, a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars, will be suspended for the first four games of the coming NFL season after failing a drug test. This followed two DUI arrests in the last three years.
2) Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buccholz is off to a torrid start this season, having compiled a 6-0 record with a 1.01 ERA over the season’s first month. This week, two announcers for the Toronto Blue Jays accused Buccholz of doctoring the ball with some kind of wet substance, an act known as throwing a “spitball.” The pitcher and the Red Sox organization are vehemently denying it.
3) In a bizarre story, Kobe Bryant is suing his mother to try to keep her from selling a bunch of memorabilia from his early playing days. This ought to end well.
4) After plummeting to the second round of the NFL draft, Geno Smith, who at one point was thought of as a possible first overall pick, fired his agents this week. Since that happened, each side has spoken out publicly against the other. Smith was taken by the New York Jets, so this current circus will fit right in to that whole drama.
5) LeRoy Butler, the retired former Green Bay Packers safety, was scheduled to speak at a church in Wisconsin. After the Jason Collins announcement, Butler sent out a Tweet congratulating him for his courage. In response, the church canceled Butler’s appearance. There’s intolerance, and then there’s intolerance, I guess.
6) An assistant soccer coach for a prep school in Delaware was arrested on Tuesday for possession of child pornography.
7) Is there any other sport in which a television viewer can affect the outcome other than golf? After the recent incident at The Masters which cost Tiger Woods two strokes and nearly got him disqualified when a viewer called in to report an illegal drop, it happened again this weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina. A caller reported that Sergio Garcia may have marked his ball improperly. I am all for rule enforcement and getting things right, but if the on-course officials and people involved with the event don’t see or deal with an infraction, that should be the end of it. Some idiot on his couch should not be impacting a professional sporting event. Officials ruled there was no rule broken, in this case.
8) A referee for a youth soccer league in Utah died after spending a week in a coma caused by a punch in the face delivered by a 17-year-old goalie after he gave a yellow card to the player for rough play.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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