- Jemele Hill, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine
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I want my mailbag column to be what happens at 2 a.m., when all the lights are suddenly turned on in the club.
In other words, it should be a bizarre mixture of chaos, self-defeat, shrewdness, foolish ambition and unrealistic expectations.
I'm the type of person who'd rather cannon-ball through life than dip my toe into the pool. Fair warning: This first mailbag isn't for the weak-kneed.
Last week, I wrote a column about former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree's controversial public stand against gay marriage in New York. (The state just became the sixth in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.) I received hundreds of emails, and the column generated thousands of comments on this site. Some of you understood that I wasn't endorsing a position on gay marriage, rather I was supporting the right to express a personal viewpoint. Others called me a bigot.
Either way, I couldn't have been more delighted with the discourse.
I'll never shy away from serious issues in this mailbag. But I'd also like to make room to ponder life's true mysteries, such as Wendy's jalapeno ketchup, which I swear was made by unicorns.
Anyway, as will always be the case in this space, the opinions I express are strictly that of a self-deprecating windbag.
On to the Inbox
I am not a big, activist zealot. I don't go to Gay Pride parades. I don't listen to house music. I am just your average, forty-something, hard-working guy who happens to be gay. I won't go on and on, but I want you to honestly think about this: If it was Peyton Manning up there, saying it was just his personal belief that black people should allowed to be married, would you write a column defending his first-amendment rights?
-- Michael Callahan, Philadelphia
Never. But I also don't consider that a fitting correlation.
Several readers pointed out to me that some Christians used the Bible to justify outlawing interracial marriage, and racist practices in general. All true.
I don't want to use this space to debate the nuances of religion or politics, but when I interviewed Tyree, I didn't sense he hates gay people. In his mind, he's trying to protect a concept (marriage) that he believes is faith-based. And I guess that's where the real debate begins. Is marriage a religious ideal or just a ceremony?
I'm not smart enough to solve that riddle.
But we are a country that allows its citizens to practice whatever religion they choose. The column wasn't about taking a position on gay marriage, but rather accepting that there is a huge segment of people who feel as if Tyree does and examining where those opinions fit in the marketplace.
Also, it must be noted that Tyree does not disagree with civil unions, or extending the same rights to gay couples that married, heterosexual couples receive. If he had been against those things, I don't think I would have written the column.
The passionate responses to the Tyree column reminded me of an honest and thoughtful blog written by NBA analyst Chris Broussard, a devout Christian, after former NBA player John Amaechi disclosed in 2007 he is gay. Broussard wrote he believes the NBA is ready for a gay player, but he also powerfully laid out that while he's against homosexuality that doesn't preclude him from being friends with ESPN.com columnist LZ Granderson, who is openly gay (and a dear friend of mine, too).
Broussard wrote: "LZ and I know where each other stand and we respect each other's right to believe as he does. I know he's gay, and he knows I believe that's a sin. I know he thinks I get my moral standards from an outdated, mistranslated book, and he knows I believe he needs to change his lifestyle. Still, we can laugh together, and play ball together.
That's real diversity. Disagreeing but not being disagreeable."
I have respect for free speech. I don't think anyone disagrees with his right to having free speech. But "respecting his convictions"?
-- Dave Johnson, New York
"Respect" was in the headline, which columnists don't write. But there was a reason I chose the word "accept" in the actual column, rather than the word "respect." We don't technically have to respect anyone else's opinion. but in this case, we must accept that there are two sides to this debate.
I can't believe ESPN would publish this article.
-- Chris Catanzarite, Denver
Every time I file a column to my editor, I say the same thing.
Why is it that immediately after Rory McIlroy's fantastic win at the U.S. Open, the first thing a lot of folks did was start comparing him to Tiger Woods? Why can't we just appreciate a great performance without putting pressure on Rory to live up to the professional standards set by Woods, or Jack Nicklaus? That also goes for the people who kept asking, "Who's the next Jordan?" I just don't get why every great athlete, or great performance, has to be compared to another great athlete or performance.
-- Sharon Storm, Sunnyvale, Calif.
We're obsessed with categorizing everything in historic terms, and doing it immediately.
Yes, it's premature to compare McIlroy to Woods, just as it's premature to start eulogizing Woods' career. Rory is an incredibly talented young golfer, but he has a long way to go to be compared to Woods, much less Nicklaus.
I believe one of the reasons so many of our young sports superstars are ruined before they ever experience sustained success is because they spend so much of their careers battling history. Or rather, our revisionist versions of it.
If you were dropped onto this planet yesterday and heard sports analysts talk about Michael Jordan, you would think he never missed a shot, never had a failure and invented the game of basketball.
The media deserves blame, of course, for the way we build people up then level them as soon as they make a mistake. But let's be real: If LeBron James wasn't on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager, if he wasn't characterized as someone able to be the face of the league as Jordan was, he would never have received a $100 million contract from Nike right out of high school.
Players today earn more than ever because of our intense fascination, but they also crumble just as fast.
What do you think about the Lakers trading Pau Gasol for Dwight Howard straight up and Dwight playing power forward in LA?
-- Troy Sims, Watchung, N.J.
I live in Orlando, so that means if I'm not careful with how I answer this question, my house is going to be spray painted with expletives.
I don't think Howard wants to leave Orlando, but he might be forced to leave. Unless something drastic happens, the Magic won't be able to compete for a championship in a way that will satisfy him. I thought it wasn't possible for them to pick up a worse contract than Rashard Lewis, but they did with Gilbert Arenas, who is owed roughly $60 million over the next three seasons.
Sure, a trade for Gasol wouldn't be bad, but here's an idea I like even better: Dwight for LeBron, as suggested by my ESPN colleague Jeff Van Gundy.
Orlando is in a worse predicament than Denver was with Carmelo Anthony. This could be the second time in franchise history the Magic will lose not just a No. 1 pick and arguably the best big man in the league, but one of the most marketable stars in the NBA.
A Dwight-for-LeBron swap would solve a lot of problems for both teams. Miami needs size. Orlando needs a star. Both players would put each franchise in position to win a title. Maybe it wouldn't happen immediately in Orlando, but you get the point.
I'm not recommending Miami should give up on LeBron. But like most NBA fans, I've made a hobby of obsessing over trades that have as much of a chance of happening as a Frank and Jamie McCourt reconciliation.
I need advice on a new celebration dance. Currently using the Tiger "fist pump." Thinking about bringing back the bankhead bounce to celebrate. Like (after) I got paid, or the wife makes my favorite meal. What do you think about that?
-- Joshua "DMQ" Quinn, Los Angeles.
Might I suggest this?
Jemele Hill can be reached at email@example.com.
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