Acceptance

Jason Collins is gay.

You might not know who Jason Collins is. He is a 34-year-old journeyman NBA center. He is now the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. Jason Collins came out in a ground breaking article that he wrote for Sports Illustrated.

This was inevitable. The talk of a gay athlete finally coming out has been increasing recently and it was simply a matter of time before someone did it. It takes immense courage to be the first athlete to come out. It is unchartered waters and for Collins to be the first to put himself out there to face the unknown must be commended.

Jason Collins will be likened by some to be the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes.

Although what Jason Collins is doing cannot be diminished, his coming out of the proverbial closet will not be nearly as difficult as what many have anticipated.

Collins writes himself that “I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted.” The landscape in 2013 is not one where the public will harass and demonize Jason Collins for being openly gay. The world has changed.

If you take one look at the comments on the article from Sports Illustrated website, the majority of comments are those praising Collins for his bravery. For every negative comment, there is at least one other commenter willing to attack that person’s narrow-minded perspective.

Search Jason Collins on twitter. Read all the tweets mentioning his name. Despite the anonymity and cruelty that is the twitter world, the majority of the people are expressing their congratulations to Collins. Other than the kudos, there are not many tweets harsher than a mildly inappropriate joke, often making fun of his ability as a player or that this should have been Chris Bosh (I still don’t get those ones).

While there are probably lots of other people, especially among the older generation, who may be disgusted by Jason Collins that simply aren’t tweeting or commenting on Sports Illustrated, it shows that entire landscape has changed.

Not only are people much more accepting of homosexuality in general, people who are not accepting of that lifestyle do not publicize their opinion out of fear for being labelled a bigot or a homophobe. In the politically correct North America that we currently live in, the outspokenness of small-minded individuals is lessened due to this fear.

If Jason Collins ever finds his way onto another team at age 34, the first fan to chirp Collins in the stadium about his homosexuality will be met by a whole host of fans defending Collins.

When Jackie Robinson became the first black professional baseball player, you could imagine the outcry from the media.

Jason Collins does not have to face any of that.

Collins will not have to face the scorn of the media. As Collins continues to receive congratulations from left, right and centre around media circles, those in the business who don’t approve of his behaviour cannot speak up. Even those who wish they could speak out against Collins will not because they will get fired.

Jason Collins might never play another NBA game. It will take a bold owner to take on a 34-year-old center who, in almost all likelihood, isn’t good enough to be on an NBA roster anyway. Jason Collins knows that.

The locker room is still the place where acceptance is up in the air. Having to face the public and the media is one thing, but trying to be accepted in the locker room is quite another. It’s the Tim Tebow dilemma all over again, except multiplied exponentially. Teams don’t want the distraction.

This is a monumental day in sports because Jason Collins has opened the floodgates. Gay athletes can now start to reveal their true colours, however slowly that may be, without the anxiety of going down in history as the first to come out.

As straight athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo continue to speak up for gay athletes to come out, more and more players have warmed to the idea of having an openly homosexual teammate. It just isn’t an obscene concept anymore.

While this is undoubtedly a monumental day, it is not quite as monumental as one would have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago. The world is a different place. Jason Collins, alone, is not bearing the brunt of the blow like pioneers of the past have. There are hundreds of thousands of supporters that are willing to help him along the way. The ignorance is not as real as it once was.

By doing it on his own terms and in such an eloquent way, Jason Collins finally opened the doors that needed to be opened.

But Jackie Robinson, he is not.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

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Questionable Person

Geno Smith

If Geno Smith wasn’t on national television he might have thrown a tantrum.

Slipping in a very Aaron Rodgers-like fashion, Geno Smith did not handle what was in store for him in a very Aaron Rodgers-like manner though. Geno pouted, his head was slumped down as he texted and he eventually left early, too rattled to endure a few extra minutes of pain. There were even reports that Geno Smith wasn’t going to stay in New York for the 2nd round, which garnered a lot of bad publicity. So Geno Smith stayed, saying he never intended to leave.

His response to finally being drafted. Well, that wasn’t anything to be proud of either.

Geno Smith told you everything you need to know about Geno Smith the person without saying a word and, when he did speak out loud, it didn’t help anyone change their mind.

It is always dangerous to read too much into these types of things. For such a young person to have the most exciting day of their life turn into the most depressing day of their life documented in front of the world cannot be easy to deal with.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a good sign for the New York Jets, who have now officially wasted the past 4 seasons on Mark Sanchez. They could be wasting another 4 on Geno Smith.

Geno Smith already has tons of question marks surrounding his ability to be a franchise NFL quarterback. Duh, he went 39th overall. All those question marks have been dissected to the Nth degree. There have also been mixed reports regarding his possible lack of character, most notably from Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Nolan Nawrocki’s report before the draft. Now, I have to say that I am buying whatever Nolan was saying.

To be a great NFL quarterback, having it figured out between the ears is a must. More so than any other position in sports. Ryan Leaf, Vince Young, Jamarcus Russell. None of them had it.

Geno Smith does not strike anyone as the brightest bulb in the janitor’s closet. He was unable to replicate a simple white board play with NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III breezed through the white board test during last year’s NFL Network special. People don’t rave about Smith’s intelligence like they did with all 3 of last year’s rookie sensations.

Not being smart does not make Geno Smith a bad quarterback. Dan Marino has shown that you can be great without having too much going on up in the ol’ noggin. It certainly doesn’t help though.

More importantly, it is the way Geno Smith reacted at the draft. What he did was confirm all these character questions surrounding him. To react in such a childish manner demonstrates a lack of intelligence, character and an inability to handle adversity. Geno Smith thought it wasn’t fair that he did not get his cookie and he didn’t care who knew that he was upset.

He had to have known it was a realistic possibility that he would drop out of the 1st round altogether. Did no one give him a draft history lesson?

You think that was tough Geno? Wait until the New York media gets a hold of you.

Geno Smith has mentioned how the critics have been motivating him, that the chip on his shoulder is getting bigger and how he wants to prove all the doubters wrong. I guess those things were a lot easier to say when he thought he wouldn’t drop outside the top 10 because, by responding the way he did to the situation, the critics are all refueled and ready to pour more onto the fire.

Instead of showing everyone how mature he could be in handling a very difficult situation, Geno Smith melted. He said that “I think it was just a test of patience, a test of character,” and that “I wanted to make it my duty to come back today and still represent for my family and all of those that support me.” If this was a test, he failed big time. Furthermore, he should not have had to explain why he decided to attend the 2nd day of the draft. It should have been common sense.

It isn’t fair to compare Geno Smith to a guy like Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers is a rock. Nothing bothers the guy. He handled the Brett Favre debacle as well as any sane person could.

The thing is, that’s the type of character I want in my quarterback. I don’t want the guy who knows that all eyes are on him but still can’t turn his frown upside down when Roger Goodell wants to go in for one of those ridiculous bear hugs.

Geno Smith is entitled to be unhappy but a person in his circumstances puts a mask on That’s just what you do. The fact that he wasn’t able to do that says something about the guy and it isn’t anything good.

If any other team was thinking of taking Geno Smith, he must have made them feel pretty good about their decision to pass on him.

The New York Jets got some pretty good value out of a guy some felt would be snapped up as early as 6th overall. An incredibly physically gifted quarterback, Geno Smith is going to bring a lot of buzz, as there always is, to the city of New York.

The past is the past. It’s time for these young men to get to work.

But the way the past 36 hours unfolded for Geno Smith, all I can say is, thank God he isn’t on my team.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

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