Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Really No Big Deal

Congratulations Jason Collins on becoming the first openly-gay player in major team sports history.  Now go and get more rebounds. While the media is going nuts over yesterday's release of the Sports Illustrated cover story of Collins coming out of the closet, the average sports fan's reaction is "meh" at best.

Perhaps it's because Collins is a career journeyman who averaged just over two points a game last year.  Or maybe it's because we've just become accustomed to the presence of homosexuality in all other aspects of society (I believe every tv show and movie is required to have at least one gay character).  But most sports fans will give Collins announcement just passing attention because the only thing we care about is if he can actually perform on the court.

That is one of the beauties of sports--it is a results-oriented medium.  We don't care if you are gay, straight, white, black, Christian or Muslim.  If you can put the ball in the hoop, make tacklers miss while carrying the ball or throw a fastball 98-miles an hour, we will want you on our teams and we will cheer you.

I haven't seen the movie 42 yet--but I hope they don't portray Dodgers President Branch Rickey as some crusader for social justice and equality.  He signed Jackie Robinson to play for Brooklyn because he knew that it would give his team a better chance to win--nothing more, nothing less.  And if other teams wanted to maintain the "gentlemen's agreement" then the Dodgers would gladly take the competitive advantage and run with it.  Jackie Robinson didn't advance the African-American cause by turning the other cheek for two seasons--he did it by hitting over .300 and driving in runs and stealing bases--which kept him in the league and opened the door to others behind him.  A .210 hitter who couldn't catch the ball wouldn't have lasted half a season--regardless of historical importance.

The modern gay athlete actually has an advantage that Robinson and the "trailblazers" of the other sports did not enjoy.  They have actually been allowed to play the game--really since the inception of professional sports.  They have the stats, the championships and the big money contracts to prove they can compete at the highest levels--and general managers and coaches aren't suddenly going to turn that backs on that kind of track record--whether the player comes out or not.

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