Thursday, February 08, 2007

Amaechi-do About Nothing

John Amaechi. Gay.

According to the Boston Celtics, that's Gay-OK.

Just, uh, make sure you let Al Jefferson know to keep both hands on the soap.

Jefferson was uncertain about how teammates and fans would react if a current player came out. Amaechi, like those in U.S. team sports before him, didn’t do so until after his retirement.
“I don’t know,” Jefferson said. “It’s hard to say. I mean, would his teammates want to play on the same team with him? I don’t know. You’ve got to understand teammates take showers with each other. They’re around each other every day. I don’t know. I can’t speak on that.

Gays, people. In our NBA lockerrooms. Taking showers -- and they're probably using lavender-scented soaps. Explain to me how Mark Blount is going to concentrate on pulling down an offensive rebound if he has to rub bodies with some European named Michel, taut and glistening, his hair like meadowgrass, on the tide...

So John Amaechi is gay. Just like Esera Tuaolo and that guy who wrote Moneyball.*

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ukraine is game to you?! How 'bout I take your board and smash it to pieces?!

= = =

* May not be accurate.

Edit: In the interest of furthering the discourse, and in response to a previous comment, I give my fully articulated opinion on the matter, unsullied by sarcasm and references to Tom Waits:

My objective here was two-fold, and I admit that while writing this in haste, I sacrificed some precision in my analysis. One, comments such as those made by Al Jefferson (and others; Shavlik Randolph said, "As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine") suggest that NBA players aren't necessarily prepared to deal with an openly-gay teammate. But Amaechi, as a retired player and not one of great import (journeyman role player for five seasons) isn't as impactful as the media would like for us to believe. That he is the first openly-gay former NBA player is mere trivia -- retired athletes in other sports (the NFL's Esera Tuaolo, MLB's Billy Bean) have already as much as confirmed that homosexuality in the locker room or clubhouse is a reality. But a retired player gives players such as Jefferson and Randolph a measure of security, in that they don't need to confront him in their professional capacities. What sport needs to really progress on this issue is the first openly-gay active player. Given some of the attitudes expressed about Amaechi, it will probably take a true star player to overcome the ensuing stigma and scrutiny.

So there it is: 1) professional basketball players aren't necessarily socially enlightened, and 2) Amaechi's announcement does little to alter perceptions beyond what his predecessors have already accomplished.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Guest Post by Stubs McKinley

Today I had the misfortune of sitting surrounded by athletes. Please allow me to explain.
I am attending a well-ranked University in Boston, MA, and occasionally find myself in class. The problem with attending a well-ranked University in Boston, MA, is that they tend to be sort of popular (everyone hopes to someday be a Kennedy), and as a result several of the classes in which I find myself are huge lectures, the sort of anonymous experience only the military or an orgy can provide. In cases like this, I find my time is best spent by watching silent movies on mute on my laptop computer while some professor discusses the Crusades and their effect on Philip Roth. The best place to do this is the corner in the back of the room, so nobody can see my screen but the sort of person who would sit in the back row. I’m getting to the athletes.
Today, I became surrounded on nearly all sides (think: peninsula) by people wearing baseball caps. I swear this is true. Each and every one of them is wearing a baseball cap. I myself am sporting a stylish bucket hat emblazoned with “Jacob Burns Film Center.” Like Fred Willard in This is Spinal Tap, I do sort of worry that I will be mistaken for one of the band.
Anyway, unless these people are Jay-Z, most of the attendees of this well-ranked University who sport baseball caps on all occasions are members of frats who participate heavily in athletics. I do not attend Duke; the athletes do not have bad reputations. I do attend any University, so the frats do have bad reputations. As a result of the frat-sport correlation, the smell of weekend date-rape has unfortunately rubbed off on the athletes. The point of this is that I recognize men wearing baseball caps as exactly the sort of man my mother told me not to grow up to be. Call me prejudiced if you like; these are not people who are disempowered.
In any event, here I am, surrounded by baseball caps, and one of them is holding a school newspaper, the Daily. Upon seeing it, they begin to clamor.
Before I continue with this story, I will explain that I always turn to the comics section first. I do not pretend to be the sort of person who cares about Bill Richardson. I am interested in seeing whether Anthony and Liz will end up together.
These gentlemen were similarly single-minded. “Are we in there?” They were. Our paper has extensive sports coverage, and these baseball cap-wearers were included. The only time I’ve ever been included is when I’ve actually written an article (my name will then appear on the byline).
Then one of them grew confused. “Stimmy? Sty-my? What does that mean? Stymied?” Indeed, though the man’s team had been recently stymied, he was baffled by the word itself.
If I may briefly drift off-subject, my well-ranked University has recently been the subject of much controversy, and because of affirmative action. We’re not the University of Michigan. Our conservative paper published an item suggesting that my University’s black students are not qualified to attend such a well-ranked University, and the affirmative action program weakens our school by including them. This is not a statement with which I agree.
Of course, here again we have some white students, all wearing baseball caps, who participate in athletics and do not know what the word “stymie” means. I do not resent athletics, except in terms of their sexual magnetism. I do not resent the fact that my acceptance to this school may have been more academic and theirs may have been more athletic. It takes all kinds. But it occurs to me that when people start looking around for someone who doesn’t belong in a well-ranked University in Boston, MA, perhaps they shouldn’t go after black people first.

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