Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Week Later, And The Conversation Has... Stopped. For now.

Old Number 98
So a week or so after the Jason Collins announcement, the following thoughts.

1) There's around 2,500 active players in MLB, NBA and the NFL. By the commonly believed numbers for homosexuality, that means there are hundreds of closeted players, and even if you think that number is more like 1%, there's still dozens more.

Note that no one else has followed Collins out of that door yet. And my guess is that no one will for months, if not years. Especially if he stays unemployed, or smeared in the press, or if there's some dirt about him that comes out.

You see, that's *why* people are sincerely calling his act courageous. Being gay isn't, of course; you can just go move to a place where it's supported by the community and be as out as you like. What Collins is doing instead is being out in a space where it's not supported, or at least, has not been historically. Whether he's doing that to gain public prominence and one last check or not doesn't matter, really. He's advanced the conversation, and put one more dot in the map for where you can be who you are and not get the crap beat out of you for it.

2) If you are an athlete and have to tell me how much you don't care about Collins coming out, that's fine. And if you really think it's awful that Collins might go so far as to *flaunt* his preferences, I'm also OK with it.

Just be fair.

That means no more pictures of you with your hetero spouse, your smoking hot eye candy, your model kids and your non-court life.

After all, if we shouldn't pay attention to Collins' sexual preferences, why do yours get play?

(And seriously, a world in which athletes are only seen on the court, and we only pay attention to Game, rather than Not Game? Along with a million less commercials where ad execs do the easiest damn thing in the world and have a jock pretend to use the product? SOLD. Get Shaquille O'Neal out of his stunt Buick and his probing fingers off my TV. STAT.)

3) As for the idea that we've got honest equality here... um, no. Not by a long shot. We're decades away from that. And here's why.

Collins has come out as gay, but he's also come out as the Only Kind Of Publicly Acceptable Male Gay: Manly And Alone. There's no shots of who he's with, no hand-holding, no hint of femininity or sense that he's going to be marching in some Pride parade. (Note: I am not asking him to do any of that. In general, I am anti-parade. Doesn't matter who's involved. Moving on.) In interviews, he's made sure to talk about how hard his fouls are, how much his teammates have supported his decision, and we've all heard about how smart and cool and a good teammate he's been.

There's a great Patton Oswalt routine in which the comedian talks about auditioning for a gay role in a movie, and how he only wanted to take the job if he could actually play the character as, well, dumb. Since gay people in television now are only nonstop catty quip machines, and how this is, of course, just one more form of stereotype (albeit a better one than maladjusted sexual predator).

We will know equality when people with *poor* PR skills come out and still have jobs. We will have an even playing field when some guy doesn't look like a noble monk, or jokes about what he wears or how many people he's dated, and the world doesn't freak out like a pro wrestling crowd being shown a guy with a feather boa. We will get to the point where no one gives a fig about when out athletes get married and the story doesn't make the news, because it's no longer novel.

And I'm sorry if all of that seems off-putting and (gasp!) flaunty, but it's also how things actually work in the real world. Things go from trailblazing to novel to ordinary to boring, and the media stops caring around step 2.5. You don't get to skip steps 1 and 2 just because it makes you go weak in the knees.

So this isn't done, and it really isn't going to end with Collins, and we're going to be working through the ramifications and readjustments for the next 5 to 10 years at least, and that's only if we're (very) lucky and quick about it.

And if you somehow don't believe me on any of that, consider this... we don't have any discussions about race and sports any more, right?

4) Oh, and one last thing: if you really think that Tim Tebow is being ostracized for being Christian while Collins is being celebrated, please, for the love of all that is holy, get a grip. There are a majority of athletes that share Tebow's faith and are employed; he has no job because when he throws a football, he causes blindness. (There are also those who call themselves Christian and don't subscribe to the idea that the gays are all going to eternal hellfire for what appears to be anything but a free will choice. But we never hear about them. I digress.) On a team that employed the first Buttfumble QB, he could not convince the coaching staff to do anything more than punt team hijinks. He's terrible. End of story.

Collins is unique to date and unemployed, and literally anything could happen to him at this point; a team with attendance issue could sign him to be a starter, he could be blacklisted out of the league, some nut could try to silence him, he could get endorsements and become a political figure, and so on, and so on.

Tebow, we will struggle to explain to future generations.

Collins, they will know.

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