Oh, Grow Up, NBA!

Gay Sports
P.F. Chang’s. Salt Lake City. February 2002.
Dinner for three. Two sports writers and a basketball player.
The conversation starts at chitchat but picks up swiftly. The player proves to be genuinely interesting. Then intellectually simulating. Then profoundly challenging.
Coming from a league in which the players’ tattoos say more than the players often do, a league in which slamming chests is a form of communication, a league in which a conqueror will thump his fist over his heart but never, ever over his brain, this particular player could not be more mentally engaging.
“Man,” I finally tell him, “you’d be a tough guy to date. There’s so much in there, so much depth. You must intimidate the women, huh?”
He only smiled.
Before the night’s over, I find out that, yes indeed, this player hasn’t had much luck with the ladies. But that’s by his choice. John Amaechi prefers the company of men.
So now we all know, the news becoming public last week when it was announced that Amaechi will disclose his homosexuality in an upcoming book.
The reaction here today is the same reaction I had five years ago:
Good for John Amaechi, and what’s the big deal with the rest of us anyway?
For a society that loves to celebrate its remarkable progress, we remain pathetically stalled in yesterday in so many ways. The fact this story was received by many like a space alien would be at 7-Eleven says way too much.
Dead-head analysts on television and radio awkwardly fell over themselves in discussing Amaechi, several inexplicably calling him “allegedly gay.” There were countless allusions to homosexuals as being “they,” “them” and “those people.”
LeBron James, sounding every bit like a 22-year-old, miserably groped, talking about trust and teammates but offering mostly nonsense. Steven Hunter, for some reason, referenced married men sleeping with other men. Shavlik Randolph used the word “gayness.”
It was all very unbecoming, this ham-handed attempt at acceptance or something disguised as acceptance. Amaechi could have written a book about being a lollipop-stealing, seal-clubbing robot and we would have reacted better.
Shouldn’t we be beyond all this already? Haven’t we witnessed enough to be open to pretty much anything we see today? Doesn’t this discussion feel a little like arguing the merits of the color TV?
We’re supposed to be the enlightened ones. Equality and all that, remember? We’re smarter, more advanced, deeper thinkers.
Yeah, right. And more than a few people ridiculously compared Tony Dungy winning the Super Bowl last week to Jackie Robinson breaking the baseball color barrier.
Just guessing here, but Jackie probably had it a little tougher.
The sports section forever has been the toy department of the newspaper. This is true in part because we write about kids playing games. Some of these games take place on junior high fields; others take place at Staples Center and Angel Stadium and all the rest.
The maturity level inside a professional clubhouse or locker room can be alarming. Pampered and spoiled, athletes are outrageously rewarded for their physical skills, while they net not a single dime for their ability to be adults.
They are encouraged to grow rich, you see, without facing the burden of having to also grow up.
Of all the things to drag into this adolescent environment, would any be more difficult than a man’s homosexuality? Recall just a few years ago when Mike Piazza, then with the Mets, called a news conference to announce he wasn’t gay.
There is a tradition of teammates accepting felons, drunkards and drug users. At times, such things even have been romanticized. But a homosexual? Forget it. Too much to ask for minds too small.
Interesting place we live in here, this charming sports world, where it’s better to rape the opposite sex than desire the same sex.
Amaechi’s story illustrates well just how Dark Ages we remain on this subject. His announcement reverberated throughout more than just the NBA. It shook all of sports, prompting reaction from men and women, active and retired.
And this is a player who appeared in all of 301 professional games over five seasons, averaging double figures once.
Amaechi’s sexuality runs contrary to some of my deepest beliefs. But Amaechi’s sexuality has nothing to do with me.
He’s gay. Big deal. Didn’t care then, don’t care now.
He is an exceptionally bright, giving man, a man who once turned down $17 million from the Lakers to sign for $600,000 with Orlando, out of loyalty.
Amaechi has mentored, adopted children and been charitable to a fault, once plunging more than a half-million dollars into debt.
For too many, none of this matters. All they see is a homosexual, their eyes plenty open but their minds sadly shut. Some people just prefer being ignorant.
Not that there’s anything right with that.
from The Orange County Register / Jeff Miller

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