Monday, February 24, 2014

The NBA rainbow

In Brooklyn, where "bums" is not a 4-letter word and Jackie Robinson struck down the color barrier in Major League Baseball, another athlete has struck down another barrier. Jason Collins, who came out openly as gay last year after being cut from his last NBA team, was signed to a temp contract by the Nets and played his first game Sunday, helping to win not just the game but also helping to further the cause of gay athletes in all sports, all levels, for all time. With Michael Sam ready to break open the gay drought in pro football, Jason Collins' 10 minutes of playing time on Sunday should effectively end all such taboos in all sports from this point forward.

The fact that both Jason and Michael are black men makes this moment even more significant, especially for someone who has made no secret of a long fascination (fixation more like it, right?) with strong, dominant black tops. But all that petty puppy love aside, this is really a great time to be a sports fan. I recently saw the movie "42" about Jackie Robinson's efforts to break the color barrier in baseball, and I was really moved by an early scene where a young black kid was so enamored of Jackie when he was playing in the minors in Florida that he camped out at the train station the day Jackie was to join his new team up north, just to catch a glimpse of this new idol. Before boarding the train, Jackie turned around and handed his young fan a baseball. As the train rolled away, this exuberant little black kid ran alongside as fast as he could, not wanting to let Jackie or the train out of sight. You could see the inspiration bursting from this boy's face. And you were dying to know who this kid was.

As the movie ended and the credits rolled, there was the picture of this little kid again, along with a blurb telling you who he grew up to be. He was Ed Charles, one of the Amazing Mets of 1969 who won the World Series that year.

I can only hope the boys and girls who watch Jason Collins today are inspired to be true to themselves as they grow up, unafraid to let people know who they are, even if they're gay.

Thank you Jason.