What should be the biggest sports news of the day (unless you’re ESPN, shedding sad, salty tears that any team could be so mean as to cut Tim Tebow), is that Jason Collins has come out as the first active gay professional athlete. While he isn’t currently on a team, he is still the first to come out with hopes of playing still. Very commendable, and you know had to have taken some guts. I wish all the best for him.
But is this news? Should this be news? We have gays in every facet of life, because, believe it or not, they’re just people too. They have skills and goals and dreams just like everyone else. So why is it that it seems to be such a big deal for a professional athlete? The obvious conclusion must be that having a gay player makes the locker room uncomfortable. And while there is some fact that it might not be ideal, these guys are professionals. I seriously doubt they can get to this level if they can’t focus on the task at hand, and not occupy themselves by ogling teammates in the shower. To assume otherwise would be pretty juvenile. It would be the same as assuming any woman giving a post game interview in the locker room is about to get jumped. Baseless.
The reaction so far has been surprisingly supportive, which I’m glad to hear. I suppose my main problem with this grabbing the sports world attention is that we shouldn’t care. We really shouldn’t. I know that society is increasingly “celebrity crazy” and we have to know the personal lives of people that have no relevance in our lives, but there’s celebrities and then there’s athletes. Often one bleeds into the other, but I wish it weren’t so.
Here’s how I like my athletes: Performing on the field/court/ice. It’s what they do there that makes me form my opinions about them. That’s what makes them an athlete first, and a celebrity second. I know plenty of players I would never even want to have a conversation with, but respected their ability in the game. There have also been players that, through their interviews and actions, I’ve developed a fondness for, but would still not want near any of my favorite teams because of their lack of skills.
The thing that matters the most for athletes is what is done on the field. Short of any crime, their personal lives should not matter. Knowing whether or not a player is gay is akin to knowing whether or not a player is dating so-and-so. I just don’t care.
I realize that a ton of people do care about these issues. That’s why TMZ seemingly has taken a larger interest in snagging headlines filled with pro athletes. People want to know what is going on in the lives of others. So I knew this sort of, well, I don’t want to call it a gay witch hunt, but you know the media is waiting on pins and needles to plaster the gay player all over their coverage. “Guess what everybody!” They can say. Now that the first active pro athlete has come out, it’ll turn into a huge circle-jerk of “who’s next!?” and the like. This is all inevitable.
Please note I’m not talking about the social acceptance of homosexuality at this time. I honestly think you’re getting left behind the times if you can’t accept someone for having a very personal lifestyle that has no relevance to your life. It’s their life, let them live it how they want. Be well, and live.
What I am talking about is the media shitstorm that was bound to follow along this social subject, knowing what kind of drawing power this type of story had. Unfortunately, it’s still a polarizing topic for much of the country, and will be a lightning rod for all sorts of different takes from talking heads and public polls. The levels sports media can take this storyline knows no bounds. Yet, I don’t care.
But I knew it was coming. And that is why I thank you, Jason Collins. You have put this whole thing in motion. It was a completely necessary hurdle our media and social consciousness had to take, and now that it is started, soon enough we can put this all behind us. Soon, we can start questioning whether or not a gay player should be on a team, not because of his orientation, but because of their production and worth. Which is as it should be.