You know, ever since the historic 2008 Presidential Election, the media has been absolutely obsessed with finding “The First”. It was during this election season that America was presented with the most diverse choices for the next Commander-in-Chief ever recorded. There was the first Mormon candidate (former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney, Republican), the first major female candidate (former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat), and the first major “Black”, or actually Biracial, candidate (Illinois Senator Barack Hussein Obama, Democrat). The media’s ever-present identity fetish was in overdrive. After eight chaotic years of statist conservatism under Republican George W. Bush, the voting public wanted anything but another Republican, so Romney was out of the running early. The real battle was between Hillary and Obama. One of them would be “The First” of their kind. And when the inexperienced Obama had the White women voters in Iowa sighing at his every word, the “Long-Legged Mack Daddy” pushed Hillary out of the way. The media had their “First”. And the eventual GOP candidate, 72-year-old Arizona Senator John Sidney McCain, never stood a chance, even with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate, trying to woo female voters.
Well, we’ve seen several “Firsts” since then. Televangelist T.D. Jakes became “The First” Black Spiritual Counselor to a President. Eric Holder became “The First” Black U.S. Attorney General. And Sonya Sotomayor became “The First” Wise Latina Woman on the Supreme Court. But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the perhaps the most coveted “First” in modern “journalism”, which was handed to the media on April 30th, 2013. It was the announcement that Jason Collins, an obscure NBA basketball veteran, is gay. He is now “The First” openly gay male athlete in a mainstream team sport.
Don’t get me wrong here. I think it’s great that the NBA and America are welcome to an openly gay professional athlete. It’s very possible “The First” gay Michael Jordan could emerge from all this, with the focus he draws going to where it should, his talent, and not on his personal life. That’s assuming, of course, the media allows for it.
The Collins affair highlights the main problem with people steeped in identity politics, and people who center their entire life on one aspect of their life (or in the case of the media, everybody else’s). I’ve said this about online dating services for years, and it’s just as true in everything else: if all you want is somebody Black, pretty much anybody Black will do. It’s the same way with gay, White, blonde, on and on. It doesn’t matter that Jason Collins doesn’t average 4 points a game, went to three different teams this past season, and is not even currently signed to a team. It doesn’t matter that he was on the down-low for eight years with his blonde girlfriend (an everyday sight in Atlanta, and we know what’s happened to the Black community because of that). It doesn’t matter that something outside the game of basketball is pretty much the only reason to even sign the 34-year-old to a team, even if a more deserving athlete is cast aside. Jason Collins is “The First” openly gay pro athlete. The sacrifice required for a potential pro athlete’s love of the game is trumped by the love of the d*ck and a headline.
This is contrary to the legacies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the guy Collins is constantly being compared to, Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. These two men broke barriers and SET EXAMPLES for others of all races to follow. As is the case with any major social movement, the few people who benefit from it will have to assimilate and validate themselves through the content of their character. Those willing to follow those examples were better off; those who didn’t were cut off. In a way, it’s wise for the media to pump up Jason Collins. Promoting a down-low marginal pro athlete presents a reachable standard. The LGBTetc. activist crowd is constantly looking to the media and celebrities to present for them the “role models” they’ve never been. By pushing Collins, there’s finally somebody to take the critical eyes of the general public off them, and somebody’s coattails they can ride. However, this will make the emergence of an outstanding gay athlete cumbersome. When this guy arrives, others will have somebody to compare them to on and off the field or court. People will now see there’s more than one kind of gay person, and will welcome the ones they like, and jettison those they don’t. It happened with Dr. King and Mr.Robinson, and will inevitably happen again. That’s part of the problem with pro sports, anyhow: we know more about their exploits outside the game (sex life, arrest record, financial dealings) than is really necessary.
I guess, as a gay person, I should be happy that President Obama took time out of his… busy schedule to personally call Jason Collins regarding his announcement. Never mind that the families of those in the Texas explosion or the Boston Marathon attack weren’t. And don’t get me started on his hometown of Chicago, the American murder capital. It’s all about being gay. Nothing else matters.