Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Jason Collins Dilemma

By Steve Coulter

Now that the dust has somewhat settled from Jason Collins' landmark announcement on Monday I think it's an appropriate time to discuss what the future looks like for the four major sports in America and, potentially more importantly, what the future looks like for the man at the epicenter of both the gay and athletic community of our country.

There's no need to rehash Collins' decision and why he made it. You can read about it here. You can hear about it here . And You can see the reaction, somewhat overblown, yet reasonable, here.

The point is now that Collins, who lived with his demons during a 12-year professional career in the NBA and fo even longer before that, is out as a gay male athlete ; he deserves the applause, the recognition and the support from the sports community and those who follow it regardless of their preconceptions and opinions.

However, beyond the jubilation of his decision"lies a bevy of answered and untapped questions that are pertinent for us to as as the NBA entrenches our spectatorship for the next 50 days or so.

How do these seemingly polar communities - gay and professional sports - come together to work with one another for a common goal? (Editors note : I do not want to imply gays don't watch or like sports, just saying they are two separate entities that haven't been connected since Monday)

What does this common goal look like and is Jason Collins the secret piece of the puzzle to unlocking it? Or does somebody else need to step up in line to join him?

Do you believe Collins' announcement stems from any ulterior motives other than alleviating his own pain; say to keep playing in the league with his playing career literally at a crossroad?

Can Collins influence professional sports and tolerance around them without playing; say as coach or a manager?

The one underlying and unquestionable response to these jagged blades is simple - the NBA wants him back next year and this almost ensures him a roster spot somewhere, at least from some undefined period of time.

Although there are a lot of factors that play into this other than the ignorance of just saying "he's gay, he's marketable, therefore the league loves him," we need to agree that it will inevitably happen at asome point, even if it's not at the start of the next basketball season - Jason Collins, or some other out-spoken gay athlete, will wear a jersey and play in a game as a professional athlete.

It doesn't matter how long Collins' career lasta, what matters is that if he wears the jersey for even on game more, he will set a tremendous precedent for those to follow in the future. In essence, he will become the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes.

There's no question the bar of tolerance has been raised and lifted in America, what remains nebulous is how far it has been elevated and if we, as a community of sports fan, have the integrity and courage to keep raising it, even when it looks to be high enough.

It's important that Collins did this alone and without a team, because the media couldn't suffocate this moment under the headline "Washington Wizards center comes out."

And now that the media frenzy is taking its inevitable downturn away from the monumental moment - don't worry I'm sure it will up-kick soon enough - the onus is placed on us as sports fans to do the right thing.

While you're on your couch this weekend watching the games and enjoying what has shaped up to be arguably the most competitive first round in league history, ask yourself this question - what do you stand for as a person and is that at all different than what you stand for as a sports fan? I hope the answer to the latter is nothing.

Sports are just another part of human life. We can't let them alter us anymore than they do on a fan-based level, not a personal one.

In what was seemingly a paradoxical situation - a professional athlete announcing he was gay, where an individual cannot avoid a problem because of a contradiction in rules or values, Jason Collin's decision has seemingly transcended our own preconceptions and made them, well, moot.

This era's ambassador of change has set the mark, now it's our collective duty to make sure to keep raising the bar.

Now, he just has to lace up his sneakers and put on his jersey - even if it's only on more time.

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