NBA veteran Jason Collins today became the first player of a major American sport to come out and announce that he was gay.
Boy, some people will do anything to steal the attention from Jackie Robinson and the movie 42.
(And yes, I'm joking.)
This story has been getting huge media attention, being the lead story all day on ESPN. It's the cover story in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. Online analysts and newspaper columnists are writing about it.
And all I could think was -- wait, you're telling me that there is someone who's gay playing in professional sports?!! Well, slap me with a wet fish.
Honestly, I know this is a move that takes courage. Not just from a sports perspective, but a societal one. And being the first of anything is always more of a challenge and attention-getting. But at this point in life, how many people truly believed that there were no professional athletes today who were gay? Hands? Anyone? Even among the athletes themselves, how many there didn't think -- or didn't know -- that some of their teammates were gay?
I'm not reacting to the news of the announcement or the fortitude of making it. I'm more marveling at all the press attention. It's big news that he's the first to announce that he's a gay pro athlete. But he's not the first gay pro athlete. Between all the four major sports, there are probably dozens.
The best analysis of this I heard during the day came on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption where hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser both say that while they expect there to be some thoughtless, lunkheaded reaction by a handful of players in the NBA, they expected the overall response to be totally accepting and only concerned about whether a player can help their team or not. The biggest impact, they felt, would be on how society outside the sport will now recognize and become more accepting of gays as part of the mainstream of life.
One small quibble about the story. The news reports all refer to how this is the first time an active player in one of the major sports has come out as gay. However, the reality is that at the moment, Jason Collins isn't signed by any team and is a free agent. Now, he isn't retired, so maybe that is the fine line they're dancing on, but right now he isn't under contract to any team.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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