For those of you who might not be aware (Honestly, I’m sure there aren’t many at this point), veteran NBA center Jason Collins came out publicly as a homosexual yesterday in a revealing and poignant piece in Sports Illustrated. This was a ground breaking moment for major American sports. While plenty of athletes have come out from more minor sports and even some retired athletes have made their homosexuality known to the masses, never before had an active player in any of the four major sports come out and stated to the public that he was a homosexual.
For years, columnists, pundits, and fans have wondered who would be the first professional athlete to take the brave steps forward to reveal their true selves for the world to judge. It’s a shame, but that’s the honest truth. In 2013 we have to worry about what others will think about how we choose to live our lives and whether or not it is deemed acceptable despite the fact that it may have little to no impact on anyone other than ourselves and our families. In this case, it has to deal with whom we choose to build those families with.
I fully support Jason Collins and his decision to come forward as a homosexual man in professional sports. Even as a heterosexual male, living happily in what society has deemed to be an “acceptable marriage,” his bravery hits close to home for me. Like most of you reading this, I’ve had friends from all points in my life come out publicly. Each and every time it happens the issues affecting them become that much more real to me. I can’t begin to imagine how they have been forced to live their lives and the personal hell they may have dealt with prior to their coming out. Knowing that life may have gotten a bit easier for those currently struggling with their true selves, thanks to Jason Collins’ bravery, gives me hope for the future.
Also adding to this hope for the future were the reactions of the Cleveland Indians to the Collins bomb shell.
Jordan Bastian reported last night, after the Tribe’s 9-0 rout of the Royals, the thoughts of many of the players regarding Jason Collins and the reaction they would have to finding out they had a gay teammate.
Leading the charge in the clubhouse in support of Jason Collins was veteran slugger Jason Giambi. Giambi, who has been around the game longer than anyone else on the current roster had several positive things to say when he spoke to Bastian.
“I applaud him,” Giambi said of Collins. “That’s probably been weighing on his soul for a long time. I’m happy that he’s happy, because life’s tough enough. If that’s what makes him happy, I’m excited for it. I definitely think times have changed, there’s no doubt. There’s a place for a gay baseball player, or an alternative lifestyle, however you want to put it. There’s room.
“I know this is a good ol’ boy’s game, but it’s definitely changed. Society has changed. People have opened themselves up more to it.”
Vinnie Pestano also shared those sentiments with Bastian, stating that the sexual orientation of a teammate would be the furthest thing from his mind on a daily basis.
“If I had a gay teammate,” Pestano said, “the only thing I’d worry about is can he hit, if he’s a position player. Or does he get outs, if he’s a pitcher. That’s the only thing that matters to me. What somebody does in their own personal life is their business. It’s not going to affect me. That’s just how I feel about it.”
Finally, Terry Francona, the man most responsible for the clubhouse and managing the personalities within it had this to say to Bastian.
“I don’t know if it’s just our game of baseball,” Francona said. “I think you’re talking about life in general, which is probably more important. I’ve never thought about it, because if you have an Indians uniform on, and you can hit, or you can pitch, that’s what we care about. That, and behaving yourself. That’s what’s important to me.”
It’s a refreshing take on a difficult subject from individuals that may have side stepped the question or offered little to no comment as recently as 10 years ago. To hear how accepting they would be to someone facing such a difficult situation makes me proud to know they represent the city I was born and raised in on a nightly basis. It also speaks well to the culture the front office has attempted to build within the organization.
Change doesn’t happen instantly. It occurs gradually over time. So while Jason Collins’ decision to come out publicly signals a change in the major American sports landscape, it will not be an instant change. But, knowing we have such high quality people within the Cleveland Indians organization that would be willing to help facilitate a change in a culture that has become outdated can only help.
The Indians may be coming off of a few down years and they might not be off to the best of starts in 2013, but I honestly do not think I have ever been as proud to call myself a fan of this team as I am today.