Wednesday, February 7, 2007 Updated: February 8, 4:39 PM ET
Another ex-athlete comes out? Not impressed
By LZ Granderson Page 2
I am so over gay people.
Specifically, John Amaechi.
Not him personally -- I hear he's a delightful guy -- but gay people like him.
You know, the athlete who comes out after retiring, writes a tell-all, and then hears how courageous he is from straight columnists trying to appear "evolved" even though I've heard the word "f-----" come out of their mouths just as freely as some of the athletes they write about. I'm over it because we've all been here before. Like a remake of "Groundhog Day" featuring the cast of "Will and Grace," the country works itself up into a frenzy any time the subject comes up, true or false. Amaechi comes out ("Gasp, there's a pro gay athlete!") or Mike Piazza holds a 2002 news conference ("I'm not gay"), or the suggestive Snickers commercial airs, and then we go back to our same routine until another "courageous" soul comes out when he feels has nothing to lose.
Amaechi's book will be available in stores Friday.
I do not mean to belittle Amaechi's experience or the experiences of any other athlete who comes out after retirement. I am friends with gay, former pro athletes and look forward to reading Amaechi's book (to be published by ESPN Books). But I can't help but wonder: When will somebody simply man up? That is, come out while he is still playing and finally demystify this whole gay athlete thing once and for all.
I've read the magazines.
I've seen the interviews.
Hell, I've written the stories.
Closeted athletes are miserable.
They have thoughts of suicide, they can't perform as well as they'd like, they live in constant anxiety of being found out, and while their heterosexual teammates are out chasing skirts during road trips, they stay locked up in their hotel rooms afraid to make eye contact with anyone because the bellhop's gaydar may go off.
Get over it.
An athlete in 2007 who stays in the closet during his playing days does more to support homophobia in sports than coming out after retirement does to combat it.
But what I am suggesting is that by not living the truth you are supporting the lie. The lie that gay men are inherently weaker than straight men. We can go in circles about whether homosexuality is a sin, but that's not what this argument is about. It's about whether a gay athlete can perform on the field or on the court at the same level of excellence and intensity as a straight athlete. I've talked to a lot athletes over the years about having a gay teammate, and their top objection is they believe a gay dude won't be able to pull his own weight. The whole shower thing is a close second.
Tracy McGrady was a former teammate of Amaechi's in Orlando. "I"m the type of dude who don't give a f---" says McGrady. "I don't care what you are as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing on the court. You could be the most flaming (guy) on earth and answer to boyfriend and kiss him after the game as long as you don't try it with me. I just want to win. And that's how I am. To each his own, be yourself, and be proud of it. Everything else is just a bunch of crap."
I agree with T-Mac. Everything else is a bunch of crap. That's why I say it's time to man up. Life as an openly gay man cannot be any worse than life as a closeted one at this point. Look around, whatever endorsements you might lose for being gay you will be able to make up from other companies looking for buzz. High school athletes are out and changing lives. Isaiah Washington of "Grey's Anatomy" had to go into rehab to keep his job after directing an anti-gay slur at a co-worker. Twenty years ago, it would have been the co-worker worried about his job. This isn't "Gaytopia," but the movie studios aren't forcing you to marry a woman like they did in the old days.
And don't hand me the it's-harder-in-sports crap, either. I've been an out sportswriter for years now. I've been on TV, had my face in one of the largest newspapers in the country and my mug is sitting right next to this column. I've been called names in work meetings, received death threats and told I was going to hell more times than the devil. But you know what, I don't give a rip. Because at the end of the day I know walking within what I know is true for me is a lot easier than trying to run from it. Just ask Jim McGreevy. Or Mark Foley. Or Ted Haggard, who appears to still be running.
Better yet, why don't you ask yourself. You have worked extremely hard to become a professional athlete. You are young, rich and famous-ish. This is supposed to be the best time of your life. Isn't it about time you have the courage to try to enjoy it?
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and host of the ESPN360 talk show "Game Night." LZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.