LOS ANGELES — Sportscaster Tim Brando went on what could classified as a Twitter RT rant Monday night. Sprinkled throughout it were bizarre tweets about a sex tape and what the definition of a “hero” is. He apparently took some issue with NBA player Jason Collins being referred to as such by members of the mass public following Collins’ revealing in a Sports Illustrated article that runs this week he is gay.
This is major news – Collins’ remarks, not Brando’s – not regulated to only the sports pages. Collins is not the first professional athlete to come out and he won’t be the last. He’s not even the first active professional athlete to do so – women’s basketball player Brittany Griner did the same just recently in the coolest and most nonchalant way possible – but he is the first among the four major sports; NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and that is why it’s major news. Someday we’ll live in a world where it isn’t and I hope I’m around for it.
For now though, when an athlete who looks like Collins makes this announcement this grand it’s an A1 story in every newspaper and on every television talk show in the country. But no matter how progressive a direction our country moves the Chris Broussard’s and Mike Wallace’s of the world hide behind the Bible and machismo when speaking about homosexuality, and their opposition makes the rest of us look bad.
But does it really matter what they think? Yes, because they have a public platform in which their reaction is deemed newsworthy; and no, because they are shortsighted. People are entitled to their opinion, as wack is it may seem to others. And while I might have in the past, I won’t tell people what they should think. I’ll disagree with them, but that is my right, as it is theirs to think and believe what they choose. But this is an issue that shouldn’t be up for debate. You shouldn’t have to live your life in fear. Sadly, many do.
Folks will say Collins’ declaration will open doors and make it easier for others – pro athlete or not – to follow suit. He’ll be their lead blocker on this issue which has a stranglehold on our society despite the building outcry of support from those well-thinking individuals. However, there are still too many who won’t be OK with this. But like I said, it doesn’t matter. All that matters his Collins’ happiness and peace of mind, and it appears he finally has both. Collins said he’s been boo’d before, and surely he’s heard slurs of all sorts and couldn’t react. I don’t know how well I would’ve done had I been in his shoes. What restraint that must have taken.
To paraphrase my high school football coach and history teacher: you can’t deny an idea whose time has come. And the time has come for open gay athletes and it’s not too soon. Though I wonder just how much impact this will have. Collins is not superstar. He’s not even an all-star. He’s a respectable, tough and dependable team player in his sport whom no one probably expected to be gay. But is he this social movement’s Martin Luther King Jr.? I don’t know.
Around two years ago, I started posing a hypothetical scenario to friends in regards to this issue. It went something like this: suppose you knew that Player X, a super duper star athlete with a perfect image, was gay, but he wasn’t out until well after his Hall of Fame career was over. How disappointed would you be in him that he never came out during his playing days and became the face of the gay athlete and leader of the social movement? Everyone is usually puzzled by this and doesn’t offer a thought one way or the other. I, however, would be fairly disappointed. Surely the hypothetical burden he’s already under is great, but being the best of the best in his profession, there are already great burdens, so you’d think he could handle that as well. Plus, you’d have to think a majority of the sports community would be beyond supportive.
Just a thought.
On TNT’s postgame show Monday night Charles Barkely called Collins’ revelation “a huge deal.” And added, “I’m happy he can be himself. We all played with gay players.” And he’s right. We’ve all worked with gay people, know someone who is gay – out or not – and probably have a gay family member. It doesn’t matter. Who they are as people is what matters.
By all accounts, Collins is a man’s man. A stand up guy and someone anyone would be lucky enough to spend their life with. Does that make him a hero? His decision to come out now, while an active player is courageous. But Brando’s point was that it doesn’t make him heroic, just brave. My hero is my dad. The toughest guy I know and someone whom I always know I can turn to in time of need. Collins hopes to someday have a family and no doubt when his kids read about the week he’s had, they’ll think he’s a hero. And I’m guessing that’ll be enough for Jason Collins the man.