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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is this 2013 or 1947?

Last night when I got home from work, my older son was sitting on the couch watching one of the cable sports talk shows... so I joined him in order to share a little father-son time.

The topic of the moment was the news that Jason Collins, an NBA basketball player for the Washington Wizards, had mentioned in an interview with Sport Illustrated magazine that he is gay.

Apparently he is the first pro basketball player in the US to formally 'come out of the closet'.

As I sat watching with my son (who has grown up with openly gay family members and friends), I was sort of pleased that a pro in any major sport felt comfortable enough to reveal something so intensely personal (not to mention potentially a source of ridicule), in an interview with arguably the most prominent sports magazine in the world.

But as the show went on, the topic continued to be discussed.  And went on and on... until it was clear that his being gay was to be the topic for the entire 30 minute show.

Within a few minutes I went from being mildly pleased at how evolved society had become that a player could reveal something that only a decade ago would have made him a pariah... to realizing that a society hasn't really evolved so much if this kind of revelation was enough to fuel an entire 30 minute sports talk show.

We're not yet at the point where a person's sexual orientation is as much 'news' as his right/left handedness, hair color or any other 'hard-wired' aspect of who they are.  That's certainly a looong way off.

But in my humble opinion, the litmus test for how big a deal to make of something should be how many times it would be appropriate to raise the subject in a face-to-face, one-on-one interview.

Being an openly gay pro basketball player in 2013 is arguably worthy of a question or two.  Being the first is certainly worthy of a follow-up question or two. 

But if I'm Jason Collins and the fourth and fifth question of the interview are still about what I enjoy in the privacy of my bedroom, I'd have to wonder out loud if the other player's sexual preferences were worthy of an entire sports show.

Move on, people.  This isn't Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947.  And if we treat it like it is on the same level, we need to face up to the fact that, as a society, we aren't nearly as evolved as we think we are here and now in 2013.

Posted by David Bogner on April 30, 2013 | Permalink

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As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Here I disagree a bit. The fact of the matter is that, until yesterday, no active player in any of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US had ever 'come out of the closet'. The fact that Jason Collins, clearly a remarkable person by any definition, has now crossed that threshold IS a story. The bigger story is that this announcement has been almost universally praised and supported throughout the sports world and beyond. I think your point would be more accurate if this was the 2nd or 10th or 50th male professional athlete to come out. When that happens and it is still a full 24 hour news story then I agree with you 100%, not much progress has been made.

Posted by: Josh Sussman | Apr 30, 2013 11:13:14 AM

Are suggesting there is a fourth major sport?

Posted by: Jordan | Apr 30, 2013 1:34:46 PM

Josh Sussman... My point was that there was never a ban on gays in the major sports leagues, and being gay today is supposed to be a non-issue. So why is an openly gay player suddenly an issue?

Jordan... He either means NASCAR or PGA Golf. On second thought he couldn't be referring to Golf since the Womene's PGA roster is, um, well integrated already. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 30, 2013 4:48:37 PM

I was going to make a comment to the effect that you make a good point, but then I realized it might sound like comment spam - you know the type. But you make a good point, anyway. The fact that we talk about this stuff as much as we do indicates that we still think it’s a Big Deal. And here, in the Year of Their Lord 2013, it shouldn't be.

Posted by: Elisson | Apr 30, 2013 6:26:30 PM

Jason was raised with an indentical twin brother who has said he is not gay. Having seen both brothers play since HS, Jason`s anouncement was a real surprise.

Posted by: Ed | Apr 30, 2013 6:38:49 PM

4 major professional sports in the U.S.: baseball, basketball, football, hockey. NASCAR and golf don't count, neither do tennis or soccer.

Posted by: Amy | May 1, 2013 12:39:52 AM

"..and being gay today is supposed to be a non-issue."

But it is, and always will be. Religion, human nature, sexual attraction..all are powerful factors affecting people's attitudes and beliefs and they won't go away.

Posted by: Karl | May 1, 2013 6:11:08 AM

Yesterday, Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay, active, NBA player. Collins is a center for the Washington Wizards and is supposedly the first active professional sports player to come out. I don't think that's true. After all, several female players, such as Brittany Griner who is going pro this year, are openly gay. I'd even argue that if you didn't know Martina Navratilova was a lesbian during her time on the pro tour, you just weren't paying attention. Of course, she wasn't 'open' about it. Not sure how more open she could've been, but it was pretty evident to me and I was only a teen.

But Collins is, supposedly, big news. Big enough to be a top story on every major sports and news broadcast. In fact, I can't get away from it this morning. It's getting more than a reasonable amount of coverage on every morning TV show.

I don't see what the big deal is. Nearly every self-centric person who is gay is coming out these days because it garners massive amounts of attention. Many others come out with little or no fanfare, which is preferable. Frankly, I don't care what they are, and I'm not sure why others are so interested.
I'm not intolerant, and I am happy for Jason that he is able to come to terms with his sexuality. But it's really just not my business, nor do I understand why anyone makes it theirs. So why does the media have to make it our business?

It's a political agenda. There is a belief that by blasting it on the airwaves 24/7, somehow it will 'solve' the 'gay problem'. No, the 'problem' isn't making gay people straight, it's making people who dislike gays suddenly like them, or at least start voting to approve gay marriage. Unfortunately, this focus really just reinforces my belief that the media is disconnected from society. My sons, and virtually all their friends, are not interested at all in someone's sexuality, and won't be denying people their rights.

That the government needs to 'approve' gay marriage ignores why the government got involved in marriage. Typically this involvement was to restrict who could marry, either within certain religious groups, to prevent miscegenation, or restrict polygamy by groups who practiced it. Marriage today is viewed as a right imposed by government rather than an agreement between two people to form a bond and a family, and having this bond witnessed and consecrated by friends and/or a religion.

The last time I reviewed the Declaration of Independence, we are all entitled to a 'pursuit of happiness'. This is not a governing document, but I never saw anything in the Constitution which limits rights to only straight people, nor are there any restricting rights for gays. Maybe I misread it.

On the other hand, I heard Mark Cuban state that Collins has the right to come out and not be criticized. He's wrong. Freedom of speech does give us the right to criticize anyone we want, whether the criticism is considered tolerant or not. Maybe Collins and Cuban won't like it if someone criticizes Jason's personal story, but opinions are what opinions are. If we are truly tolerant, then we have to accept that some people are just uncomfortable with and cannot accept the fact that some people are gay. I haven't cared one way or the other for as long as I can remember, but I'm not about to spend time trying to convince someone their views on the gay issue are wrong. It's a bit petty if they feel this way, but we all have things in our life we get petty about.

I wish Jason Collins luck and all the best in his life. I'm glad he's more comfortable today by coming out. But honestly, I'm tired of the focus by the media on whether or not someone is gay. If you're a person who makes someone's personal life an issue in your life, that's your problem, not theirs.

Posted by: Birdg | May 1, 2013 7:36:48 AM

I think the whole "news" sensationalism afforded to "coming out of the closet" is completely inappropriate. It's too much intimate information being spewed to the masses who don't have a need to know. I don't want to know about Jason's sexual preferences any more than I want to know about yours or the president's, prime minister's, my neighbors or anyone else. Why would that be our business / why should we care? If he was in a relationship with a woman would they have spent an entire 30-minute show discussing that and would he have put up with that type of publicity? What relevance does it have in his professional life?

It makes me question what the agenda is of any sports or entertainment idol for sharing their sexual preferences and practices on worldwide TV/internet? And what is people's obsession with receiving this type of information (because if the network didn't think it would "sell" then they wouldn't broadcast it)?

Posted by: Tehillah | May 1, 2013 1:55:41 PM

i am pretty sure i was the first openly gay software quality analyst... no one raised an eyebrow. huh.

Posted by: weese | May 1, 2013 4:23:37 PM

http://cnsnews.com/node/668272

Posted by: Karl | May 3, 2013 4:53:41 AM

What a sad post. You're on their side, and don't even get it yourself.

Posted by: Nachum | May 7, 2013 9:42:01 AM

Nachum... Whose side would that be? I didn't realize this was an issue where people got to decide what side they are on. Out of curiosity, did you make a conscious decision about your own sexual orientation? Do you think you could change your orientation if it subjected you to ridicule, prejudice or violence? I don't need to 'get' anything. The point of my post is that in this day and age where, hopefully, we are enlightened enough to understand that sexual orientation is something that is hardwired and not a conscious choice, what a professional athlete does in the bedroom should not be news... only what he/she does on the field/court.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 7, 2013 9:49:06 AM

You realize that what you call "enlightened" many, including pretty much anyone who lived before forty or so years ago, would call immoral, right? Does that not count for anything, or are you too blind to the propaganda that even here you feel uncomfortable with?

Posted by: Nachum | May 8, 2013 2:05:42 PM

Trep,
Long time reader 1st few times commentor (er.. commentator?) from Canada just saying hey.....take your time.... don't force it.
:)
Maybe start with a new technology recommendation to get your creative juices flowing?
Good Shabbos.

Posted by: Trep Seeker | May 31, 2013 6:55:37 PM

Hey, Dave - you OK?

Posted by: psachya | Jun 3, 2013 9:05:03 AM

Trep: Missing your wit and wisdom. Everything ok on your end?

For whatever it's worth to your earlier commentators:
The way I understood George Takei's explanation of why the media harps on these 'outings' is that they're hoping for equal civil rights - insurance & death benefits, adoption / retirement, taxes - all of the wonders (whatever they may/may not work out to be!) of being in a civil union.

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 12, 2013 3:44:07 AM

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