Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jason Collins Starts An Overdue Conversation

First Gandalf, Now This Wizard
By now, I'm sure you've hear about the landmark announce- ment that Collins, a back-up center who has never been known as anything more than a banger who has had some success defending Dwight Howard, came out of the closet in a Sports Illustrated story. This did the near-miraculous thing of making both himself and Sports Illustrated relevant again, for a day at least. A few quick points about all of this, and yes, I'm avoiding the cheap joke list for once.

> Saying that Collins is now some kind of hero or standard barrier is kind of silly. He's a role player nearing the end of his career; in terms of professional ambitions, he's going to be lucky to draw a pay check for more than a couple of more years, and if your favorite team signs and plays him, your favorite team is just not very good. But no one's 11th or 12th man plays in the NBA; they are there for practice purposes, so that the bigs can make sure their angles are right and that the guards can learn how to finish against size. That's why every team has a guy like Collins at the end of their bench. The only question is whether or not some team will think that his willingness to stand up for the GLBT community makes him too toxic for the role.

> The fact that Collins doesn't have a team right now -- he last worked for Boston and Washington this year -- makes this a curious moment for the NBA. He becomes, basically, everyone's player.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that Collins is a Stanford grad, well-liked, and has no past history of poor behavior off the court. With the possible exception of Howard, who might be the most disliked player int he league, I can't remember anyone who has ever had an issue with him. Not that this is a definitive, of course; we can never really know about these things. But for a guy who has been around as long as Collins has, to not have any blemishes in the rear view mirror, it's noteworthy.

> It's going to be curious to me, really, just how long people want to talk about this. There's nothing all that interesting about Collins as a player or person; he's just a tall guy who knows his role on a court and is the first to decide that living outside of a closet while being a team athlete is preferable to staying in. What's interesting is whether the timing is right, and if it's not, well, when? Especially since sports is primarily a youth pursuit, and young people are the most likely to accept marriage equality?

> The idea that Collins is going to become persona non grata because guys in a locker room dress and shower together... well, um, independent of just how scary it might be to be in a shower with a gay guy, two points. First, is your fear of some encounter not just a subconscious desire, and second, how does that feeling change when you know who is that way, and presumably have the ability to put distance between you and him?

> The real distaste that some have for homosexuality isn't, of course, the act or even the conduct, but the over-the-top femininity. We're going out on a limb here and presuming that Collins isn't going to go all Dennis Rodman with feather boas and borderline drag queen behavior; we're also going to presume that, unlike Rodman, he's not going to become an elite rebounder or defender. So, um, what's really changed from yesterday?

> A brief moment about Biblical dictates against homosexuality: it is, frankly, one of those moments where equating modern life to what times were like 2-3,000 years ago just does not equate. When the verses were written, the average life span was in the mid '30s, overpopulation was never an issue due to famine and disease, and what the writers probably meant by homosexuality was more like pedophilia, since the likelihood of a dense and populous enough community to allow for a minority sexual proclivity like homosexuality was, well, just not very likely.

Let's also mention this: there is no direct mention in the Bible against pedophilia, but there is the famous Leviticus strictures against homosexuality, Which do you think is the bigger taboo, really? Or the more likely editing mistake?

One last point about this, and I'll let it go... if you want to claim objections to homosexuality based on an absolutist reading of a book, I'm fine with it. Really. But I'd also ask you to have the common courtesy to give the rest of the book the exact same weight. Which means no shellfish, no clothing that mixes fabrics, no wine, no masturbation, and all of the Commandments -- including Jesus' dictates against wealth and loving others as you do yourself. (There are, of course, dozens of other things that you aren't going to find all that easy to live with you, but hey -- it's your book.) And judging not, lest ye be judged. And if you can do all of that while cheerfully telling Collins that his existence is a conscious choice for sin, without even the possibility for doubt in your mind, as if you were, well, the Deity himself...

Who, exactly, is doing the sinning here?

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