As a contributing columnist for Oregon Sports News I focus on the world of sports for the most fascinating stories.
My research goal is to find the compelling story behind the leading headlines.
With that in mind, the news of former PAC12 and NBA player Jason Collins announcing his sexual orientation makes the cut.
He’s the first active player in any major league sports to say, “I’m gay.” Now comes the real test with friends, family, and teammates.
Who will stand by him, and who will walk away?
In a similar fashion, Magic Johnson learned who his friends were when he announced he’d contracted HIV.
Though he retired after learning he had the disease before the 1991-92 season, he came back to play in the ’92 NBA All-Star Game.
Let’s hope Collins gets a better reception than Magic did from ex-teammates Byron Scott and A.C. Green who said Magic shouldn’t play. Or former foe Karl Malone who worried about exposure to HIV on the court if Magic got cut. Fear dominated their dark day.
Away from the spotlight, a family member of this writer came out of the closet in the mid-60’s.
His parents didn’t drive him out of their small town, but they didn’t leave the welcome mat out either.
He moved to San Francisco, telling his mom and dad they’d see him again when they learned to be more accepting.
When he moved to Portland years later my wife and I welcomed him and took part in social events with his friends. His partner had a sister in town and we met there one night for dinner.
In an amusing stereotype, the women cooked in the kitchen while the men gathered in the living room. It was quiet and subdued among the six gay men and I until my wife stepped through a doorway and said, “Has David told you about the soccer and basketball teams he’s been coaching?”
While none of the six guys were die-hard athletes, they’d all played sports, and they all had a similar story. They were all Portland baby boomers, too.
Like some kind of sports therapy session, one story circled the room.
They enjoyed sports until they found themselves on a team with the wrong kind of coach, the one who belittled them because they weren’t good enough, fast enough, or strong enough. One after another they talked about a coach who ruined the spirit of competition and fun for them. It was an awful thing to hear from a coach’s perspective.
Reading about Jason Collins put me back in that room. On the way home I promised myself I wouldn’t be the coach in anyone’s story about why they quit playing their game.
Collins has had over a decade of NBA coaches and teammates. He’s no quitter.
If he adds his voice to the sports world for those ready to walk away due to a bad coach, he’ll do a great service.
If you add your voice to the those who accept differences between us, you’re doing a great service too.