Newsstands and sports fans are abuzz with the new Sports Illustrated story written by Jason Collins. Collins starts his story by announcing, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” I was surprised, I did not know that Collins was 34.
Collins’ article, written with Franz Lidz is a very personal and up-close inspection of his own life. He shares his thoughts and feelings in an open and honest way. His surprise that his Aunt Teri, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge already knew his secret long before he decided to come out to her may underscore both the angst and the irony of trying to stay on the down low. Although I don’t have a lot of experience with it, I’m guessing that those around you, those you are most fearful of telling may already know. After all, they are the people closest to you, which is why you want to unburden yourself to them in the first place.
The first time I met my friend’s 8-year-old son (let’s call him Frankie), I told my wife that I suspected he was gay. I repeated that suspicion many times over the next several years. When Frankie had problems in high school-drinking, etc-I asked my friend straight out if he thought his son was gay. He first considered, then discarded that notion. A dismal first year in college and more drinking problems eventually led to the revelation that Frankie was, indeed gay.
I took no great pleasure in being right about Frankie. It just seemed to me that if he had been able to share his feelings without fear of rejection, his life might have been easier. He might not have had to go through the struggles of adolescence, just to get to the place he needed to get to in the first place. Know what I mean?
Jason Collins’ coming out took courage and the self-esteem gained during a 12-year NBA career. Not everyone with Collin’s secret will have that luxury. The question, though is why we as a culture are so interested in what other people are doing in their bedrooms. Michael Jordan didn’t feel the need to announce his sexual proclivities at his wedding this weekend. He and his beautiful wife are consenting adults and whatever they do or don’t do is tacitly sanctioned because they are a heterosexual couple.
I don’t claim to understand the attraction of one human being to another of the same sex. I don’t even understand why my friend, Alexandro married Leona, otherwise known as “The Wicked Witch”. I don’t understand the addiction or even the attraction of cigarettes. These things are just not in my wheelhouse. I think I understand, though that this “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” thing should preclude anyone from infringing on anyone else’s right to do whatever the heck it is they do behind closed doors, assuming, of course that all present are consenting adults.
Yes, the Jason Collins story is big news today. In the world as I see it, though, and maybe as John Lennon “Imagine-d” it, there would be no Jason Collins story. There would only be Jason Collins, playing the game he loves and loving the person or persons of his choice. Just as does Kevin Garnett, Shaqulle O’Neal and LeBron James. Then Sports Illustrated could get back to what it does best, showing scantily-clad hotties in exotic locations.
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