Collins and Rogers vs. The Proud “Politically Incorrect”

 

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Welcome to a weekly column by Kyle Bauer on various happenings in national and local sports.  Agree or disagree with the author? Please comment below or let him know your thoughts by email,[email protected] or twitter, @kyle_bauer

 

I was heading home from the grocery store Sunday afternoon, riding my bicycle south on Schoenherr. A passing car slowed, the teenage  passenger wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off and ripped down the sides, stuck his tan, muscular arm out the rolled down window and screamed “FAGGOT!!!” in my direction. The driver floored the Pontiac G6 as they cowardly sped away.

I am not gay, that is not why I was offended by being a victim of juvenile behavior. I was offended, because what if I were gay?

That’s not a question most straight men in this country are comfortable enough to entertain but one that I believe we should be asking ourselves as social progression trudges forward, no matter the antiquated ills mucking up the landscape.

Sure, these were probably just some high school juniors juiced up for having the Monday off from school. Almost anyone could’ve been a target of them recklessly screaming out of the window in a moving vehicle. Teenage boys seem to have an inclination for catching unsuspecting people off guard and then not having to face consequences–it’s another form of bullying with no teacher, parent or principal to face up to. When I was their squishy age, my dumbass pals and I used to speed around the uneven asphalt of Warren with our windows down screaming random junk at people, laughing at their off-balance shock, then cranking Blink 182 back up. And yes, we used the that F-word too. I don’t remember screaming it at some poor random person, but I called my friends that word, I called people I didn’t like that word, I mumbled that word under my breath towards pitchers who struck me out or the defenseman who crosschecked me after the whistle.

Then, I, as likely the case with these kids, didn’t give a second thought to the power of such derogatory language. I didn’t think that pitcher was actually gay; he plays sports, and he’s better than me at it so he can’t kiss dudes! But I still used it as a general insult, as most of us did.

It was only around 10 years ago that I would jocularly roam the halls of Warren Woods Tower High School without the concept of homosexuality actually existing. Faggot and queer were simply silly insults. If a gay person were around well I’d sure as hell be able to pick them out; they’d be wearing glitter and feathers and pink, while prancing around the halls, waving some sort of wand and of course they’d be hitting ON ME–because I’m just THAT attractive–threatening my simple preference of women.

I wasn’t homophobic to the point where’d I’d call an out-homosexual anything derogatory or fight or threaten or bully them–yet I had such of a gross, media-fed, heteronormative misconception of homosexuality as something so blatantly different and brooding from heterosexuality, I was without a doubt homophobic.

In my senior year of high school, I met a lot of great people–not gay people, just decent human beings who helped shed all my misconceptions about gay people, and how those words used generally and without caution, allowed homophobia to breathe and live on. If hating people simply for circumstances outside of their control continues, we can at least do our own little part to stay above the fog and maybe help bring some others up with us.

These values have stayed with me and conviction in my beliefs of equal opportunity for all have only grown stronger over the years. For this, I’m referred to by some as an “elite” and a PC THUG. Well um, okay? I’d rather be a politically correct thug than just a thug.

A month ago, NBA free-agent center Jason Collins came out as the first gay athlete in one of the four major American pro sports. The other night, L.A. Galaxy forward Robbie Rogers–who came out in February–became the first out-homosexual to actively play in a top-level professional American sport. Collins and Rogers are heroes for coming out in the relative spotlight. It took Collins, 34 , to the (likely) end of his career but Rogers, only 26, career may continue for years. Somewhat luckily for him, the MLS is the most socially forward of the professional American sports leagues, placating a sort of counter-culture to the Anheuser/Coors fueled, Nickleback blasting NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. Their bravery should be lauded and for a brief time the achievement should be spotlighted and merited. This was the case for Collins, who was largely congratulated by his peers and even received a phone call from President Obama. Still, there was the polar reaction which sprouted an immediate push back.

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This was an expected problem to me.

The “anti-PC” crowd immediately struck with the likes of,

“Why do we need to know Jason Collins is gay? Now I’m not homophobic, it just doesn’t matter and we don’t need to know!” 

that’s not a verbatim quote from anyone in particular, just an amalgamation of various pundits demeaning opinion toward history. Josh Levin at Slate catalogued a series of quotes along these lines from Rush Limbaugh, Mike Francesa, Tim Brando and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel.

If YOU don’t care, I suppose that’s fine, and maybe life’s just that simple for you; you don’t see race, sexual orientation or culture–humanity is just one big gray blob for you to fear. Hey, racism, xenophobia and homophobia no longer exist anyways, so you’re in the right. GOOD FOR YOU! Me and my commie friends are the real hate-mongers, Rush!

But likely, you just don’t want to acknowledge the existence of homosexuals capable of hanging in the throes of uber-masculinity. You people who say you don’t care and claim this doesn’t matter are among the biggest reasons why this matters.

This is essentially saying,

“Cool, Jackie Robinson is black, we just don’t need to know he’s black! It’s totally not a big deal!”

in 1947.

Pundits with the opinion that Collins and Rogers should just keep their mouths shut are denying these athletes the freedom to express who they actually are. If you disregard the courage it takes to come out as male professional athlete, you not only disregard who they are as a person but also the persecution homosexuals have overcome and continue to face in this country.

If we hear which actress Derek Jeter gave herpes to, which waitress Tiger Woods philandered and get to see Justin Verlander’s then-girlfriend emotionally jump into his arms after his first no-hitter, we are then seeing, hearing and experiencing their hetero personal-life. So where’s the objection to Tim Duncan’s pending divorce being reported? If a male professional athletes hetero lifestyle can be openly publicized and we can gawk at Verlander showing up at a local bar with Kate Upton’s breasts, Collins and Rogers sure as hell have every right to come out as gay and it be a MAJOR story.

This rationale denying Collins and Rogers publicity reminds me of the same rationale I had in high school; I’m not going to be outwardly, physically homophobic toward gays but that doesn’t change that I’m still uncomfortable and foreign to their existence. Just because they’re not calling them “fags” doesn’t mean they’re still not being (at least) ignorantly homophobic.

Their coming out not only breaks down league barriers but also cultural perceptions of sexual orientation, strength and masculinity. Momentous occasions such as this could change how we view not only sports but the world and ourselves. They’re coming out at a time where you can still be called a “faggot” while innocently riding your bike in your neighborhood, and several states (the South) still vehemently oppose same-sex marriage. To me, that’s a bigger story and takes a ton more courage than Tiger sleeping with nearly every female in Central Florida.

Maybe you don’t see an issue with some teenage boys just “being boys”. Maybe you do see a problem with the media publicizing Collins and Rogers decision to come out and don’t see why it matters. Maybe you think I’m just some politically-correct lib trying to choke out opinions I disagree with, using my “elitist” commentary.

Maybe you should stop and think, what if you were gay?

 

 

Josh Levin- See If I Care? Jason Collins’ coming out reveals a peculiar form of homophobia : http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2013/05/jason_collins_gay_why_do_so_many_people_want_us_to_know_how_little_they.html

 

Kyle Bauer is an award winning college sports broadcaster and former Sports Director of WXOU 88.3fm, freelance journalist and radio producer who has been published in The Macomb Daily, mlive.com, Oakland Post and MIPREPZONE.com, follow him on Twitter @kyle_bauer

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