Gays in Sports

Once again an athlete (in this case Todd Jones of the Colorado Rockies) has decided it’s the thing to do to gay bash. In the context of commenting on “Take Me Out,” a play that deals with a superstar baseball player who announces that he is gay, Jones is quoted in the Denver Post. “I wouldn’t want a gay guy being around me,” Jones said. “It’s got nothing to do with me being scared. That’s the problem: All these people say he’s got all these rights. Yeah, he’s got rights or whatever, but he shouldn’t walk around proud. It’s like he’s rubbing it in our face. ‘See me, hear me roar.’ We’re not trying to be close-minded, but then again, why be confrontational when you don’t really have to be?” He later apologized, saying at a Rockies press conference. “I think my only mistake was that I made my views public.” (Huh?) The thing is, he already likely shares the field and the locker room with a gay team mate. Apparently he thinks as long as a guy isn’t wearing spike heels and putting Liza Minelli on the clubhouse sound system, he’s not gay. But if 1 in 10 men would self identify as gay, there are gay athletes on professional sports teams. It is impossible for me to believe that all athletic gay men gravitate to individual sports. So are there dozens of gay baseball players? Or scores? There are likely scores of gay football players, and dozens of gay hockey and basketball players.  Yes, they’re in the closet. And some of the closeted are married and have families. Don’t pretend shock. Until recently, the only way a gay man could have a family was to marry a woman, either aware (and accepting for her own reasons) or unaware of her spouse’s true preference. And even now, gay men choose to subvert their own sexuality to have so-called “normal” lives, with varying degrees of success. There is, in fact, right this very minute, an athlete in one of the four major sports who is gay (I’m not getting any more specific because he has every right to stay in the closet if that’s where he chooses to live) and was fairly indiscreet about it in one of the cities in which he played. But he was never outed. He will eventually, indisputably, be in his sport’s hall of fame. And I do sometimes wish he’d come out at his induction. But, no, I don’t really think that will happen. Of course, those of the God squad persuasion will say it’s about morality. Now, I’ll admit I don’t see homosexuality as immoral. I believe gay men have more choice in hair color (there is that Clairol bottle) than they do about sexual preference. But even if you accept the idea that being gay is somehow sinful, why is it seen as any different from any other bad behavior? The moralizers are the same fine upstanding Christian men who accept among their ranks wife beaters, philanderers, adulterers, and those who use illegal substances for recreational purposes. There’s the NHL player who threw his pregnant wife from a moving car; a MLB superstar who thinks his wife beating is his own business; the NHL superstar who when he was 29 was dating a 16-year-old (precocious or not, parental approval or not, she was still 16); the NFL player who groped the next door teen ager in the bathroom, the NHL coach who killed a woman while driving drunk. There’s the college player who beat his pregnant ex-girlfriend and pushed her down the steps (and later was drafted into the NFL, where he, surprise, had socialization problems). The only ones who are immediately and irrevocably punished with exile are those who steal from another player’s locker. Yeah, stealing a baseball glove from a teammate is much more reprehensible than having an affair with your married but separated sister-in-law while you are unseparatedly married. I just can’t understand, really I can’t, why it is such a big problem for folks to accept gay athletes. In fact, I’m especially at a loss about the reactions of current athletes. Think about it. These guys have spent their entire lives in what is basically an adolescent subculture. A subculture that glories in all the foolish hijinx of hazing and practical jokes. Hazing that frequently includes such homoerotic activities as teabagging (the hazer smacking his scrotum into the face of a hazee) and having the hazee sit naked on a block of ice until the family jewels are quite hidden away. But then, maybe that explains it. I do wonder, when I hear the vehement responses of athletes about gays in sports, if their fear is more of their own histories than anything else. If it is true that roughly half of all adult men have had at least one voluntary homoerotic experience before leaving adolescence, are they worried that someone will reveal a pissing contest, a jerking off contest, an exploratory kiss or cuddle? And because it is true that so many people have been fed the fear that one gay experience makes you gay, then are these guys walking around in fear of being found out? No matter how straight, there are loads of straight guys out there who could be outed by some mean-spirited or greedy acquaintance for something done as a 12-year-old. Pontificators talk about educating the athletes. Education is all well and good. But if that education happened when the boys were boys, the lessons would be a whole lot more valuable–to the men they’d become and to the communities in which they live. Sexual curiosity is a normal part of a boy’s development. What you did when you were 12, or 18, or even 21 (let’s face it, men are adolescents into their mid- to late 20s) doesn’t define who you are. In fact, your sexual behavior doesn’t define who you are. If they aren’t in fear of themselves, they won’t be in fear for themselves. And then maybe they could let themselves accept their gay team mates. At least, that’s my theory.

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