I think everyone knew that sooner or later this day was going to come. The day where a male athlete in a major team sport came out of the closet. Still, I have to admit that today's news from Jason Collins was shocking to me.
Overall I was impressed with the way the League, quite a few players and several teams (including the Hawks) greeted the news. Clearly the League knew this announcement was coming and they were prepared. So kudos to Jason for giving the League advance notice - it paid dividends at the end of the day.
But the League reaction to Jason's announcement is not what I want to talk about. It's an open post to my fellow Hawk, NBA and sports fans.
As a gay sports fan, I understand there's a profound level of discomfort surrounding homosexuality in team sports - especially male team sports. For many fans and no doubt quite a few professional basketball players, today's news changes the paradigm. (And it goes without saying this news will ripple throughout all team sports, not just the NBA.)
"In theory" became "in reality" today. Once you come out in such a public way, there's no going back to the way things were. The team sports landscape has been forever altered.
Fan reaction has been predictably split between acceptance and understanding, condemnation for religious reasons, and a tremendous amount of reaction along the lines of "who cares?"
In addition to fans, some athletes are no doubt going to have an issue with this for a variety of reasons. But I firmly believe that the day is coming when it won't much matter in a team concept.
The movie "42" offers insight as to why this is the case. An idea that at first is shocking - a black player joining MLB - after a while becomes old hat.
And high drama such as "how can blacks and whites possibly shower together?" in the 1940s came with an easy enough answer - "with individual bars of soap and by looking straight ahead." But it took a while for everyone to get there. I'm highly confident the answer is the same here in 2013 with gays and straights - but it would be silly to assume that everyone is going to be comfortable with it right off the bat.
That's how we humans work - we resist change until it's forced upon us. We struggle with the change. And then after a while we wonder what the fuss was all about.
As with the arc of "42" and Jackie Robinson's story, I don't presume that the conversation will be easy - for obvious reasons. But it's a conversation that's necessary and hopefully can be had with grace and sensitivity on both sides.
For those of you who say you don't care - please understand that there a lot of people who certainly do on both sides of this issue. I would encourage you to view Jason's announcement today as moving us closer to your stated ideal rather than further away. We just need as a society to talk it through first.
For those of you who have religious disagreements about homosexuality - I don't agree with your perspective but I celebrate your right to believe differently. I hope you are able to extend the same courtesy. It is my hope that both sides will engage in a robust and respectful dialogue. After all, I don't want you get called a "bigot" any more than I want get called a "faggot".
So I salute Jason Collins for courageously embracing this mantle and initiating the dialogue. It took guts to do so in ways that we fans will never be able to fully understand.
Collins has given is a gracious and thoughtful starting point. Where we take the conversation, as well as the quality of the dialogue, is up to us individually and collectively.