Monday, April 29, 2013

Hero of The Day: Jason Collins

I know next to nothing about basketball. I mean, I know the rules for having played it a bit in high school, and I'm aware that in order to win, a team must score more points than its opponent, and that some baskets are worth 1 point, others 2, the trickiest farthest 3.

Like baseball, I stopped following the pros over a decade ago, so while I watched a lot of games involving Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Larry Bird when I was younger, I haven't seen Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James or Dwayne Wade play.

I stopped caring when the Toronto Raptors came in, and when Shaquille O'Neal became a superstar. Not because of those events, but around the same time. I went from casual fan to not caring at all. So that's for context.

What changed? Not much. I likely won't watch a game any time soon, but my respect for its players has increased a tad now that Jason Collins has come out of the closet. For a while now, basketball players were up there with football players as athletes whose egos got so big they thought they were above the law: allegations of rape, selling drugs, gun violence, robberies, gang affiliations... the only ones who didn't get prison time settled out of court - not exactly a plea of ''not guilty''.

And yet, just when everybody was looking at the NFL for the first openly gay in the top-4 of North American pro team sports, in comes a basketball player to take a stand. We'll see where that gets him, though, because as of the end of the season, he'll be a free agent. His twin brother - Jarron Collins - became a free agent two seasons ago and never got hitched to a team; now teams would have an extra reason to exclude Jason if they had any inclination in that direction...

Speaking of Jarron, he was completely unaware of his brother's orientation. So much for twin telepathy!

Hopefully, this starts a chain reaction of coming out and acceptance, and we can get back to what really matters: the sports themselves. And when we focus on the athletes and try to figure out what type of person they are, we can assess how they treat those they get in bed with (i.e. 'not a rapist', 'doesn't cheat on his wife'), and not bother with their gender.

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