Monday, February 24, 2014

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

One athlete came off the bench to nearly foul out while scoring zero points in 10 minutes of playing time in an NBA game.

The other wasn't even playing a game; he'd shown up for the increasingly-weird spectacle known as the NFL Scouting Combine.

Yet both Jason Collins and Michael Sam made history over the weekend. Now, let's hope what they represent becomes ordinary enough that it's unremarkable. Let's hope the phrase "first openly-gay" is only attached to their names in history books.

Neither man shrinks from who he is; both went out of their way to tell the world about their sexual orientation and display full awareness of the weight of their revelations. Neither is a superstar. Collins just signed a 10-day contract to make his first NBA appearance since coming out last summer; Sam had a fine college career but isn't on anyone's short list of can't-miss NFL defensive line prospects.

Are their stories newsworthy? Of course. Has either man been held back by his sexual orientation? Very hard to know; Collins is a journeyman at the tail end of his career while Sam is just starting. There's certainly no indication that either has suffered for his frankness.

Which leads me to my point: it'll be nice when whoever the next gay NFL prospect or veteran NBA benchwarmer is doesn't need to be identified as "openly-gay" any more than he needs to be identified as "tall" or "fast".  67 years after Jackie Robinson's debut, do we still need to mention a baseball player's race? Of course not.

American society isn't all the way to where it will eventually be on many issues. Race and sexual orientation are among them. But there has been progress, and the truest measure of that will be when Collins and Sam are not so unique.

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