Rubicon Crossed

David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

Cupido

Cupid swings both ways

Sooner or later the day would come, as we knew it would. The question, however, was when and who. Now we know:

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center.  I’m black.  And I’m gay,” says Jason Collins.
Sports Illustrated

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center.  I’m black.  And I’m gay.  —  I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport.  But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation….

Emphasis on “start.” 

popeye-I-am-what-I-am

Now, you’d think they’d know about teh gay in sports. The number of stories told by men and women, boys and girls regarding their gym coach and their first gay or sexual experiences is quite astonishingly large. And well-known, but, like the old title for what they called homosexuality in the 1950s (other than ‘perversion’) not discussed in society, polite or un-.

They used to call it “the love that dare not speak its name.”

greco-roman wrestling

Nothing gay here

And, as with all absurd taboos, the prohibition against talking about or discussing or acknowledging that teh gay exists in the world of sports is as ridiculous as it is improbable. Sportsmen and sportswomen know about it just as surely we all know that Grandma just farted at the Thanksgiving dinner, but, like all non-Grandmas present, no one will break the taboo and speak about it openly. (Later is a different matter.)

Ulysses Giving Wine to Polyphemus 1805 by John Flaxman 1755-1826

Early Greek action

But Jason Collins has, and we all ought to applaud him. It remains a courageous act, because there is so much   hysterical (pun intended) homophobia in sports, and professional sports in particular. Like the old porn moguls, who grew visibly disturbed whenever I raised the question as to why so many MEN were obsessed with the size of another man’s penis (see “Rambone”), the Feudal Lords who hold baronial sway over sports are insanely sensitive when one asks, reasonably, why so many men are fawning over other men? And why the need for all these suited, macho men and reporters to be in the sweaty locker room, surrounded by nude and semi-nude athletes praising their own and others’ prowess on the fields of glory?

J Bisbee circa 1837

Remember how upset they all were when the prospect of WOMEN REPORTERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM was raised?

Frankly, I always thought THAT was weird, going back to the late 1960s, when my little brother and I had access to the Wyoming Cowboys’ locker room after home games, and watched the Wyoming radio and print reporters interviewing the stars and goats of the day’s contest.

gladiat0r

But, since the admission of female sportswriters into locker rooms, mass orgies have not broken out, nor has a single gang-rape been reported, a thousand hysterical editorials notwithstanding. If the fabric of society has unraveled in the interim, no one reasonable would suggest that it were wimmen in them locker rooms what dun it.

Listen:

I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful….

Maybe a few other souls will follow Collins’ brave example.

opening orwell olympics 2012

In fact, I can just about guarantee it, long term. But, short term, it might be interesting to watch how this plays out. And, as with Grandma’s Thanksgiving Treat, perhaps civility can grip us all, and it will be the subject of some closed-door jokes, but very little else.

Rubicon crossed. Tolerance 1, Bigotry 0, but it’s only a partial score, at present.

Courage.
====================

A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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Author: HART WILLIAMS

A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog, His Vorpal Sword (no spaces) dot com.

  • slamfu

    VERY brave man. Guys that can play at his level are few and far between, and most of those can only do so after a childhood, high school and college life devoted to honing their skills to do so. Doing anything to put all that work and potential in jeopardy takes some serious stones. Its entirely possible that while people on the surface accept his decision to come out because otherwise they will be labeled publicly as homophobes, he may get quietly blacklisted by agents and teams and his free agency could be his retirement. Best of luck mister.

  • http://hisvorpalsword.com HART WILLIAMS, Guest Voice Columnist

    Well said and right on, slam.