June 2013

A Line in the Sand: Coming Out of the Closet

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

FRANK DUNNE, JR.
Here’s a smattering of what was going on in the world when some unheralded journeyman NBA center named Jason Collins announced to the world that he’s gay last April:

•North Korea threatened nuclear attacks.
•Syria attacked its own citizens with chemical weapons.
•Savage Islamic jihadist terrorists had just blown up the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding hundreds.
•The U.S. economy remained mired in the muck with a pathetic 2.5 percent growth rate and unemployment still at Carter Administrationesque levels.
•The president continued his litany of lies and obfuscations in an attempt to cover up his treasonous dereliction of duty during the September 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

The birdbrains in the media had a bigger fish to fry, though. “Active NBA Player Comes Out as Gay” was the headline story of the week all over print, TV, radio, and online media.

Yawn.

Jason Collins is gay? So what? Carmelo Anthony is black. LeBron James jumps high. Jeremy Linn is Asian. Stephen Curry is small. Jason Kidd is old. Joakim Noah looks like a girl (but he can sure play like a badass), Steve Nash is Canadian. Who cares?
If it seems like we’ve been here before—the media making horse’s asses of themselves over a non-news item from the world of sports—you’re right; we have. Remember how Tim Tebow was mocked, ridiculed, and attacked for praying on the field and otherwise behaving in an openly Christian manner? Yup. That’s all he did, and he was savaged in the press, as were his fans. We wrote about it here. Courtney even used my favorite word and called Tebow an idiot.

Well, I’m not going to call Collins an idiot. He’s not. I did a little bit of checking, and he seems like a pretty stand-up guy, running hoops camps for kids and donating money for disaster relief. He even taught Sunday school as a teenager. Wait a minute! Sunday school? Could he be a Christian? How did that slip by the press?

Anyway, while I take issue with him and I’ll get to that shortly, Collins is no idiot. He did, however, unleash a parade of idiots. That would be the army of pantywaist political correctness sycophant so-called sports and news journalists who fawned over him for days and days after his “story” broke.

It was amusing, but at the same time appalling, to witness all these media morons climbing over one another in psychotic zeal to offer the most profound paean to their hero. Missing from the cacophony was anything resembling an original thought. One and all parroted identical politically correct talking points in an intellectual and journalistic equivalent to brain-dead North Korean army divisions goose-stepping across the square. Jason Collins, brave, courageous, and gutsy!

What’s so brave about that? Apparently coming out as gay is the fastest track to media darling status. Collins even got a call from the president. Just say you’re gay, and the president’s got your back while the media beats a path to your door. But if you dare to be openly Christian, the media will kill you and the president will attack you as a “bitter clinger.” Coming out as gay looks like a pretty safe play to me.
Collins said that he doesn’t want to be a distraction and that it’s always been about the team. Is that so? Then why did he steal the spotlight from the NBA as the playoffs got underway? Let’s look at the record. He hung around the league for 12 years because he’s a seven-footer, a body to fill a hole. In 12 years, Collins played for six different teams (expendable?) and averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Now he’s a 34-year-old free agent. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Or is it? Congratulations Jason Collins. You finally got your 15 minutes of fame. You got your call from the White House. Can a book deal and an ESPN 30 for 30 movie be far behind?

Jason Collins is gay. So what? So are a bunch of other people, but most of them don’t get paid over $800,000 a year to perform their jobs as badly as he performed his.

COURTNEY HAMPSON
Last month, Frank and I debated desserts vs. appetizers—a total softball topic and a result of Frank being uncomfortable debating gay marriage. “No way. Not touching it. I’d lose friends. Reality-challenged friends who I love dearly, but reality-challenged nonetheless,” was his response to my prompt on the topic. Since my position was in favor of gay marriage and marriage equality, I’m going to go ahead and assume (I know, I know …) that Frank is against. What choice does he leave me, right?

So, it is apropos that this month we get to tackle a related topic, one on which Frank was quick to state his sharp-tongued opinion. Last month, when NBA player Jason Collins announced in Sports Illustrated that he was gay, he became the first professional athlete to do so. The Web lit up with commentary, as did the social media world. I thought, wow, good for him. Can’t be easy to come out… and to doing it via mass media to the entire world takes some real confidence.

Then I asked Frank how he felt about it and he said, “I don’t feel anything, but this is what I think. I’ve never heard of him so I looked him up. Fifteen years in the league averaged 3.6 points a game and 3.8 rebounds. Career likely over. He’s a nobody trying to be a somebody, and trying to get a 30 for 30 movie made about himself. Boring.”

Whoa Francis, settle down. That’s a pretty bold statement and an interesting reaction to boot. That’s like suggesting that Lamar Odom (career scoring average of 5.0 points) married Khloe Kardashian to elevate his playing potential. Or that Kris Humphries (career scoring average of 4.4) married Khloe’s sister Kim for the same reason. Wait a minute. I smell a conspiracy here.

I say Bravo Jason Collins for choosing to stay true to who you are over marrying a Kardashian. I mean who wants to have to keep up with Bruce Jenner’s toy helicopter obsession and all that godforsaken plastic surgery.

Sorry. Let’s focus. First it is important to know that I know nothing about basketball, so I had to do my research on the stats. Collins is a defensive player, thus making his role more blocking and stealing than scoring. Nonetheless, the average points scored this season for a player in the NBA is 8.8, based on 22 minutes of playing time.

Collin’s played an average of nine minutes a game this season, so are his stats that horrendous? He’s been to the playoffs nine times in 12 seasons. To quote Ron Burgundy (which is by no means a scholarly source, but cracks me up), that feels like kind of a big deal. So, I’m trying to figure out why Frank is knocking the guy.

According to a NCAA study conducted in 2010, the chances of even becoming a professional basketball player are .03 percent. Basically, of the 156,000 senior high school basketball players, only 44 will be drafted to the NBA. So, maybe we cut Collins some slack since the fact that he even made it to the NBA defies the odds.
In the Sports Illustrated story, Collins said, “The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”

Coincidentally, one of the four plaintiffs in the case for same-sex marriage is Jeff Zarrillo, a Brick, NJ boy and my high school classmate. I’ve watched Jeff’s journey in awe and admiration for the last few years as he and his partner Paul have fought for the right to get married. They don’t do it for the media attention. They don’t do it to advance their careers. They do it for love.

I can’t believe that Collins would open himself up to such scrutiny in an effort to rejuvenate his NBA career. Instead, maybe we should be grateful that because of his role in the NBA, further attention will be brought to the fight for equality. And, let’s not forget that in the true spirit of team, Collins waited until after the season was over so that his teammates wouldn’t be affected by his announcement.

Thank you Jason Collins for having the courage to speak your mind, for using your voice, and for being a role model to the thousands (millions?) of others who haven’t yet worked up the courage to do so themselves.

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