TELANDER: We’re getting closer, but it’s still risky for gay male athletes to come out
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org February 23, 2013 6:26PM
FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2009, file photo, Robbie Rogers, of the United States, eyes the ball during the friendly soccer match against Slovakia in Bratislava, Slovakia. Former MLS and U.S. national team player Robbie Rogers says he is gay. In a post on his personal website, Rogers writes: "Life is only complete when your loved ones know you. ... Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay."(AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File) ORG XMIT: NY158
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:16AM
That first superstar gay
athlete is out there.
I don’t know who he is, but he is there.
And I don’t think it will be long before he tells the world who he is.
You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘‘she.’’
There already have been loads of ‘‘out’’ lesbian athletes. Former basketball stars Sheryl Swoopes and Carol Blazejowski and U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe quickly come to mind. Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Amelie Mauresmo in tennis. Why, even the UFC’s Liz Carmouche, a former Marine who fought Ronda Rousey on Saturday, is out and open.
Close, but not yet. The stakes are still too high.
Pro soccer player Robbie Rogers, whose Major League Soccer rights are owned by the Fire, recently announced he was gay, then said it was time to ‘‘step away’’ from the sport. The guy’s only 25, and maybe he’ll be back. Hopefully without issue.
But you almost can hear that drunken voice in the stadium crowd yelling a gay slur. Or an opponent whispering it. Or a teammate moving to the other side of the locker room. For a man, there could be glances, tweets, whispers, even violence.
But it’s getting closer all the time. The world around gay athletes is evolving. Someday, maybe even the homosexual male couple on ‘‘Modern Family’’ won’t have to be so overtly effeminate.
Two weeks ago, openly gay USA Today columnist Craig Wilson, a guy I’ve been reading for years because he deals with Baby Boomer issues with insight and humor, recounted wistfully ‘‘the time, years ago, when gays were exotic. Interesting even.’’ He admitted to a young woman in a grocery store that he ‘‘feared gays were becoming so common we were turning into Ozzie and Harriet, although I had to explain to her who Ozzie and Harriet were.’’
Shortly after the Super Bowl, Sports on Earth columnist Chuck Culpepper wrote about thanking Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for standing up for gay rights, telling us — but not quite Ayanbadejo — he is gay. I’ve known Chuck for years. So have just about all veteran sportswriters. He has worked all over the United States, even England. He’s a great, self-deprecating, talented journalist and a fine friend.
I don’t know who didn’t know Chuck was gay. I think I honestly can say nobody cared or cares. Not in our group. Who has time for it? What difference does it make?
But in pro sports, big-time pro sports — NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL — it’s not quite the same.
Someday soon. Almost.
† CRITICS WHO WANT Derrick Rose to hurry up with his rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and get back on the court, the ones who imply that after 10 months of recovery Rose must be lazy or malingering, should ponder this: Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel tore his ACL and had surgery 10 months ago, just like Rose. Gamel came back for spring training, rushing it a little, and tore the same ACL during the first full-squad workout. Out for the season.
† THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE has voted wrestling — real wrestling, not Hulk Hogan-style choreography — out of the Olympics.
This is so preposterous, so lacking in real-world appreciation of competition and sports history, that it seems it must be a joke, like NASCAR voting engines out of race cars. But it isn’t a joke.
Wrestling is an unglamorous, incredibly difficult sport. The boys and men — and girls and women — who participate in it and take it seriously are precisely the kind of athletes the Olympics should extol. Theirs is truly a discipline built on spirit, desire and competition for its own beautiful sake.
And history? Wrestling is one of the five original sports of the ancient and modern Olympics. And the Eurocentric, anybody-got-a-bribe IOC says it instead needs to promote the pastiche sport of modern pentathlon, a thing consisting of pistol-shooting, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show jumping and a 3-kilometer cross-country run?
Maybe you should feel better, former Chicago Olympics 2016 organizers and politicians. At least you know the IOC, which gave the Games to Rio de Janeiro, is made up of blue-blooded, half-witted, corruptible, on-the-make aristocratic jerks. But maybe you should have known that long ago.
After all, is that really much different from sweet home Chicago?