(pic taken from Media Bistro without permission)
It’s probably redundant to be posting on something that’s been bubbling along quite nicely in the comments section for a couple of days, but since John Amaechi’s coming out party (to be published by ESPN books!) became public earlier this week, we’ve seen media coverage that is ignorant in conventional ways — i.e. “Amaechi’s not one of those guy dudes who tackles and humps straight men/pre-teens” — and now, a little later, a contrarian take on L’Affaire Meech. The dullest of these butterknives is probably LZ Granderson (above, right), an ESPN.com writer who deserves credit for continuing to take on sexuality in sports, but deserves the gas face for his armchair pep talk to closeted, active gay athletes. “I am so over gay people,” Granderson begins. But he has one particular gentleman in mind:
You know, the athlete who comes out after retiring, writes a tell-all, and then hears how courageous he is from straight columnists trying to appear “evolved” even though I’ve heard the word “f—–” come out of their mouths just as freely as some of the athletes they write about. I’m over it because we’ve all been here before. Like a remake of “Groundhog Day” featuring the cast of “Will and Grace,” the country works itself up into a frenzy any time the subject comes up, true or false. Amaechi comes out (“Gasp, there’s a pro gay athlete!”) or Mike Piazza holds a 2002 news conference (“I’m not gay”), or the suggestive Snickers commercial airs, and then we go back to our same routine until another “courageous” soul comes out when he feels has nothing to lose.
I do not mean to belittle Amaechi’s experience or the experiences of any other athlete who comes out after retirement. I am friends with gay, former pro athletes and look forward to reading Amaechi’s book (to be published by ESPN Books). But I can’t help but wonder: When will somebody simply man up? That is, come out while he is still playing and finally demystify this whole gay athlete thing once and for all.
First of all, enough with the fucking Snickers commercial.
Secondly, all of this is easy for Granderson to say. He works for a company that doesn’t even make him use periods between his first two initials, let alone make him shower with the other Page 2 writers (John Clayton wears a shower cap). While his heart is clearly in the right place in terms of what he wants to see happen in professional sports, this is an example of a fairly enlightened intention running up against one of the biggest problems in sportswriting/opinion journalism: the staking out of a strident, proudly blinkered perspective, and then defending it to the last (straw)man, contradictory reality be damned.
It might not be as edgy a column to harp on the willful ignorance of the NBA towards issues of discrimination, but this “wake me when someone mans up in a league that does zero to ensure a safe and undiscriminatory workplace for gay people” stance is way beat, and every bit as much an avoidance of the complicated realities of real-life intolerance as Commisioner Stern’s “have you got game?” inquiry-ender. Amaechi was a marginal player whose career could easily have been ended — especially considering his less-than-enlightened employer — by coming out; Granderson is a comparatively marginal writer (takes one to know one) whose career at ESPN has not suffered similarly. Those who live in glass Worldwide Leaders probably shouldn’t throw stones.