Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Ability is the issue -- not orientation
By LZ Granderson Page 2
Last week, in reaction to John Amaechi's revealing his sexual orientation, I wrote a column suggesting, among other things, that an openly gay player in a major sport would not have as hard a time as some people think. While most of the e-mails I received agreed with the sentiment, I kept reading a variation of this question: How are straight players supposed to act with a gay teammate in the shower? Translation: the gay guy is going to be checking out teammates and trying to have sex with them.
The fact that defensive end Adam Goslin is gay isn't an issue at Washington University in St. Louis.
That certainly was Shavlik Randolph's concern when he said "as long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine." While I find it comical that straight players like Shav are so delusional they believe everybody wants to see them naked, I can understand the concern. After all, this ain't Europe. Here nudity means sex. That's one of the reasons some guys feel it's necessary to gay bash in the locker room -- they want all the naked men around them to know they are not thinking about sex. This overreaction is similar to the one that prevents guys from saying another guy is attractive, as if the admission means they want to sleep with him.
Juvenile, yes, but it is what it is.
And the truth is men know men -- a straight guy in a locker room full of women is going to look, so it's safe to assume a gay guy in a locker room full of men is going to do the same.
Meet Adam Goslin, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis. Goslin, a DL on the football team, is not on the DL -- he's openly gay. His family knows, his friends know, the entire football team knows. "Goose," as they call him, started telling folks on campus he was gay around his sophomore year.
"I was really scared at first because I had some really good friends on the team and didn't want to lose them," Goose said. "But after I told the first person, it was easier to tell the next one."
Eventually the word spread and before long even the waterboy knew Goose was gay.
"I didn't get it at first," says running back Scottie Guthrie, the first guy on the team who knew. "My mom had gay friends, but I had never met an openly gay man before. But after a minute or so it was no big deal. I mean, it was Goose -- he's like my best friend."
But dude, what about the shower?
"That's one of the things that cracks me up when people talk about gay teammates," Guthrie says. "How is it that the straight guys are the ones who feel threatened? I mean, what do they think is going to happen, the guy is going to rape them or something? If anything I think it's the gay guy who would feel awkward in that situation."
Joe Lubelski is from Chesterland, Ohio, a small town of about 3,000. He says he's never met a gay person in his life before Goose and was shocked to think one could play football.
"The shower thing popped in my head at first," Lubelski said. "You know, wondering if he was going to look at me or something, but then I realized just how stupid it was to be worried about taking a shower next to somebody. Especially a friend and a teammate.
"I've heard what some of the pros say and I think they are all commenting on things they hadn't really thought of or something they hadn't had to deal with. Here we had to deal with it and for the most part the players are very accepting because it just doesn't matter. A gay teammate is a teammate first and foremost. I'm sure there are some guys who are still a little nervous or whatever, but people are going to realize that another person's personal life has no effect on their life. Especially in the shower, I mean, come on "
Arden Farhi, a shortstop on the school's baseball team, met Goslin when Goose played baseball his sophomore year. He said Goslin's sexuality wasn't an issue on that team either and calls the whole shower discussion absurd.
Goslin also played baseball during his sophomore year at Washington.
"I mean seriously, what kind of bull---- excuse it that?" Farhi says. "Do the pros really feel threatened in that situation? I can't imagine that they do. What, do they honestly think someone's going to stare at them, or try to attack them or something like that? I know for sure Goose is the one who feels weird and changes quickly and tries to get out of there as soon as possible."
Is that true Goose?
"Being the gay one, you already feel a little awkward because you want to make sure the guys are comfortable," he says. "I've had some teammates joke and say, 'Hey, you checking me out? What do I need to work on?' but it's all in fun. But really, after the game or practice all I want to do is take a shower, clean up and get some food."
So, you never checked out another guy in the locker room?
"No, never. It's not like that."
Have you ever had a crush on a teammate?
"No way. These are my teammates and this is football."
Not even a little crush?
"When you are playing sports, you see these guys every day for months and they become your brothers," he says. "So asking me if I ever had a crush on a teammate is like asking me if I've had a crush on my brother, and that's disgusting.
"Look, I think the whole being naked in the locker room thing is blown out of proportion. If someone's going to help you win, then that should take precedent over a five-minute shower."
Which brings me to this point: Every week the coaching staff hands out "The Hammer Award," which recognizes the player who gave the hardest hits during a game. This season the running joke was they were going to rename it "The Goslin" because Goose kept winning it every week.
"He played so well on the field that hardly anyone ever brought up the gay thing," Guthrie says. "And the funny thing is most of the guys who had an issue with it didn't play that much because they weren't that good."
Guthrie may be on to something. Shav "don't bring your gayness on me " Randolph has a career average of 2.7 points per game and has started only seven games. Perhaps someone's else's "gayness" shouldn't be his concern.
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.