One of the most thoughtful of readers who connect to this page, Brian Savin, calls himself a “contrarian.” He has a point of view about Michael Sam, the college linebacker who has announced he is gay.
In the previous posting about the Mets, Brian wrote this:
In this day and age being gay gets you lead articles in the NYT, WSJ and a story covered in the first 60 seconds of every morning TV news show???? This is 2014 (albeit with a little 1964 Ed Sullivan thrown in yesterday). And they claim this Defensive Player of the Year is "projected" to be drafted in mid-third round?????!! You know what I think? (I'll tell you anyway.) I think this kid has latched onto the greatest sports agent who ever lived. He just somehow, some way moved the kid up to high second round, or maybe even first, and several million dollars. I'd like to hire this guy to be my agent for my retirement portfolio. Good hunting, Mr. Sam.
GV replies: I don’t think any athlete would welcome this kind of publicity strictly for its own sake. Any athlete knows there are players in his or her locker room who are prejudiced for religious or other reasons.
Just look at the front page of the NYT on Sunday, about gay men being whipped in northern Nigeria. We’ve got some psychological hand-choppers in various religions right here in the U.S. I know some.
Thank goodness for Pope Francis asking, "Who am I to judge?" The funny thing is watching his cardinals trying to walk back the Pope's comments.
It sounds as if Sam has been surrounded by support in his college career. It may be a smart business/life decision to get this out before the meat-market workouts by the NFL, coming soon. It’s out. No whispers. Will this make money for Michael Sam – or get him shunted to a lower draft round because he did not “test out well?”
Let me ask this: with all the big men, regulars or backups, getting injured this NBA season, has Jason Collins, one of the most positive professionals, gotten a call since coming out last year? Good luck to Michael Sam.
Judging from the lovely messages Robbie Rogers has received, his friends and teammates care for him and would surely welcome him back.
Rogers needs to work out the complications from his coming out the other day, and most of us have no idea what that involves.
He is part of the new generation that has been around gay issues from the start – friends who had gay parents, friends who came out, people who had the comfort to live their lives more in the open, plus all the references in pop culture that were not there in past generations.
It’s easier now, even if incrementally. The older generation still gets a little nervous when the subject comes up; the intolerant religious flank is watching a new generation pay no attention.
Rogers has already scored and created important goals for the national team through his ability and instincts. He is only 25. When the time comes around again, it would be wonderful if he played the sport at which he excels.
He also could contribute something vital: he could be the first openly gay male in one of America’s major leagues. Rogers could come home, to the right team in Major League Soccer, which has enlightened leadership that enforces penalties on homophobic slurs. That league will not permit ugly stuff from the crowd like the chants Rogers could expect if he stayed in England. (Ask Tim Howard about the lyrics he hears making fun of his very mild case of Tourette’s syndrome.)
My guess is that the time is right to openly welcome a gay player in an American league, as has already happened on the women’s national soccer team. Megan Rapinoe, one of the best and most popular players, came out a year ago. For that matter, her coach at the time, Pia Sundhage, one of the more mature and interesting leaders, is gay. The world did not end.
The pressure would be considerable in a male league, from media scrutiny, from fans, probably from some conservative fans and sponsors and the inevitable religious groups. Blazing a trail as a gay player would be challenging, but then again so was sitting at lunch counters for blacks in the 1960’s and so was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers for Jackie Robinson in 1947. It’s a different time.
Those sweet messages to Rogers from his pals tells me they already get it, and will be there if he decides to play again. I hope he does.
Your comment is welcome.
I’ve met only one astronaut, and that was Eileen Collins on Aug. 31, 2005, after she had been the commander of the Discovery space flight.
Many of us had seen live images of Discovery gliding to a graceful landing on terra firma, with Collins in control, and three weeks later for some reason or other she and her two colleagues were in Shea Stadium before a Mets game.
Given the crush of reporters, I talked to Collins only briefly – she had been a Mets fan as a girl in upstate New York – but I did get to chat with her husband Pat Youngs, a pilot for Delta. I learned he was a good amateur golfer, knew all about Mike Piazza's sore wrist, and was very proud of his wife.
A pilot who controlled jets packed with passengers displayed obvious awe for his life’s companion, who had taken a craft where he presumably would never go.
I thought of Eileen Collins and Pat Youngs the other day when I read the obituary for Sally Ride. I am not a big follower of space travel, but I did know the name Sally Ride.
Not only was she the first American woman (and third overall) in outer space, but she also had that felicitous name that seemed to come directly from the fertile mind of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., or Joseph Heller, if they had been writing a novel about a female astronaut. Ride, Sally Ride, indeed.
The obituary also contained a reference to a former husband and a subsequent "partner," Tam O’Shaughnessy. Since then, the media has pointed out that Ride was both a business partner and life partner of O'Shaughnessy, and that the couple was rather private about the relationship, as was their right.
However, we are in a time when that most public of officials, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, likely the next mayor of the city, can don an apron for the Times and describe her restorative weekends on the Jersey shore with her now legal spouse Kim M. Catullo.
These days, Kim Catullo will be able to stand front and center if her spouse is inaugurated as mayor, the way Pat Youngs stood in front of the Mets dugout and watched his wife chat with the media horde.
Despite the judgments of Rep. Michele Bachmann and others on the religious right, more people are able to openly live the life they want. In that earlier time, one can only hope, Tam O’Shaughnessy never felt she had to cover up the pride she surely felt in being the life partner of Sally Ride.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.