The Tenth Inning Week 6 Jason Collins

By Mike Ivcic

We interrupt this regularly scheduled column of “The Tenth Inning” for breaking news from Ultimate Capper senior writer Mike Ivcic.

“Hi. I’m Mike Ivcic. I’ve been a sportswriter for five years, a male since birth, and I believe it’s time for the world to finally accept me for who I am.”

“I am a heterosexual.”

Chances are, you won’t find those words above reprinted in The New York Times or broadcast on the CBS Evening News, mostly because a) I’m a virtual nobody in the grand scheme of life, and b) my sexual orientation isn’t news. So now, I ask you this question:

Why was Jason Collins’ declaration of homosexuality last week any different from my declaration of heterosexuality this week?

Jason Collins is a fringe NBA player. He’s had some decent seasons since being drafted with the 18th overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 2001 out of Stanford, but he is by no means a star. I wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a police lineup or a Starbucks line, and I’m not sure his jersey or autograph are worth any more than my high school hockey jersey or my signature at the bottom of my dinner check. Yet somehow, this virtual no-name basketball player managed to top Twitter’s trending list multiple days in a row simply by explaining into a microphone that he prefers to sleep with males instead of females.

So again, I ask – why do I care?

See, the thing about the whole gay-rights/anti-gay battle is that it’s predicated on the idea that we as human beings actually care about the sexual orientation of another individual. One side wants gay individuals to be afforded the same rights as non-gay individuals while simultaneously promoting their distinct difference (a walking contradiction), while extremists on the other side shout bigoted and inflammatory remarks at anyone even remotely attracted to people of the same gender. Both are flat-out, deadpan wrong, and this entire “issue” won’t go away until more people start acting like most of the people I know who find a person’s sexual orientation irrelevant. If I’m a fan of the Washington Wizards (for those who weren’t aware – which means probably most of you – that’s the team that currently employs Collins), all I really care about is whether or not he can shoot, rebound, block shots, set picks, play good defense, and find the open player from the post. I’m completely and totally disinterested in his love life or choice of sexual partner, mostly because I am smart enough to understand that the person he chooses to go home to at night doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on his performance on the basketball court – and, if it does in any negative way, I would hope that he would remove himself from spending time with that individual, male or female, for the sake of his career performance, regardless of my own or anyone else’s opinion.

And that, my friends, is the only thought that runs through my mind when I hear the name “Jason Collins.”

Collins may be the first “openly gay male athlete,” but he won’t be the last. Our mainstream media doesn’t share my liaise-faire attitude towards athletes that seek the spotlight for the unveiling of their personal lives, so more will almost certainly follow suit, and thus be covered by ESPN, NBC News, Yahoo!, Fox, and the slew of other outlets that churn ratings by airing “exclusive interviews” with those willing to “bare their souls” on national television. The thing is, it’s cliché now. Collins got to the podium first, and there can only be one “first.” Everyone else is just a follower, so maybe, hopefully, this will be the impetus to put this conversation to bed. There are straight males playing basketball, and there are gay males playing basketball. There are straight males playing hockey, football, and baseball, and there are gay males playing hockey, football, and baseball. Hell, for all we know there are bisexual and transgender players in all four sports too – just in case anyone thought I was leaving out a particular minority. I’m not a bigot, I’m not anti-gay or pro-gay, and I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m just interested in watching the best athletes in the world play sports at an amazingly high level, and the rest be damned.

I’m just Mike. And I’m a heterosexual.

Three series to watch this week…
1) DET @ WAS (5/7-5/8) – It’s only a short two-game series, and it won’t feature Verlander or Strasburg, but this is still must-see TV for any baseball fan that wants a glimpse of a postseason atmosphere in the middle of May.
2) KCR @ BAL (5/7-5/9) – I didn’t actually look this up, but I’ll just say with almost 100% certainty this is the first time I’ve put the Royals on a “series to watch” list. But they’ve earned it – 17-10, second in the AL Central and first in the AL Wild Card.
3) OAK @ CLE (5/6-5/9) – What a fun four games this should be. Both teams are hanging around in their respective divisions and feature some great young talent. For two storied AL franchises not named the Yankees, I always wish nothing but success.

Three series to watch this weekend…
1) ATL @ SFG (5/9-5/12) – As a Mets fan, the fact that the Braves have to play four games against the Giants in San Francisco just makes me smile a little more. Hey – it’s not like my own team is giving me reasons to cheer, so I might as well salute the schedule-makers.
2) MIL @ CIN (5/10-5/12) – We said it could be a bad week for the Brewers, and it was. Now they have to visit the projected division champs who seem to be finding their stride. Not good for Milwaukee.
3) NYY @ KCR (5/10-5/12) – Fans of the late 70’s and early 80’s will appreciate this series. And remember, this would be the current Wild Card game if the season ended today. Note to Mariano Rivera – stay off the warning track!

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