Only A Game? - Ever heard of Jason Collins? Now you have

Jason Collins.
Jason Collins.

Say what you want about the good old U.S. of A. but when it comes to dealing with such important issues as gay men and women in sport and homophobia they are streets ahead of the rest of us. Maybe someday soon it’ll be ok to be gay here too.

Jason Collins. Ever heard of him? No? Will now you have.

At the end of last month, Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to publicly come out as gay.

Collins, who is a centre for the Washington Wizards, is seven feet high and weighs a whopping 117 kg - I’d like to see someone berate him for being gay to his face - that would be something I’d pay to watch.

The fact that I decided to write this week’s column about gay men and women in sport and homophobia just proves how uncomfortable people feel even thinking about it, never mind talking about it.

If Jason Collins can ‘come out’ as gay in America why can’t the same thing be done here in Ireland?

If anyone seriously believes that homosexuality is an invention of modern times or that it’s a fashion statement then they need their heads looked at.

I am not homosexual but I have friends who are. I know of one gay man who always carried around with him the pain that he will never be able to father children in the traditional sense - it’s not a decision people make - it’s how people are born.

There’s a definite level of almost tolerated homophobia in sport in Ireland and in the United Kingdom. I think this is because of a fear of the unknown and those whose experience of a gay man is limited to stereotypes on television really do believe that when they are in the company of a gay man he will try to chat them up.

Gay men don’t fancy all men the same way heterosexual men don’t find every woman on planet Earth attractive. So if you’re a bit of a homophobe and believe if a gay man is in the same room as you he will instantly find you attractive then I think it’s time you got yourself a reality check.

It might come as a big surprise to many but gay men and women can exercise self-control and are as just as picky over who they fancy. Bar the fact gay men and women find people of the same sex sexually attractive they are the same as you and me. End of story, no ifs, ands or buts.

Now that I’ve cleared things up for the homophobes out there it’s time to get back to the sport.

Jason Collins is as brave as they come. In a sport which is dominated by men and where male physicality is at its greatest, Jason Collins, decided to speak publicly about his sexuality. I can only imagine what he must have been going through all these years.

In an article for ‘Sports Illustrated’ Collins wrote about how he wanted to keep his private life private and explained the reason he wore the number 98 was in honour of Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and murdered in 1998. Why? Because he was gay.

The thought that other human beings believed it ok to kill another human being because of his sexuality makes me so angry and sad at the same time but credit must go to Collins for having the bravery to make such a public statement with something as inane as a number on a basketball jersey.

Collins called the number “a statement to myself, my family and my friends.”

The reaction to Collins’ statement is something that I really believe would happen here if someone was brave enough to open up in a similar way about his or her sexuality.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, fellow NBA player Kobe Bryant and the once amazing tennis star that is Billie Jean King all came out in support of Collins. The same would happen here, I just know it.

Some have criticised Collins for ‘coming out’.

ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard stated that he did not believe that Collins could “live an openly homosexual lifestyle” and be a Christian, but thought that Collins “displayed bravery with his announcement”.

Collins, a Christian, responded by saying “This is all about tolerance and acceptance and America is the best country in the world because we’re all entitled to our opinions and beliefs but we don’t have to agree. And obviously I don’t agree with his statement.”

I think Jason Collins has summed it perfectly. At the end of the day, whether it’s someone’s sexuality or their political opinion it’s all about tolerance.

It’s perfectly alright to disagree with someone about how you may or may not perceive certain things about them but you must respect them.

Jason Collins still has a good few years left in him as a basketball player and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t and can’t live an openly gay lifestyle. Openly gay doesn’t mean having sex in public or kissing players in the opposing team, it simply means seeking out a life that can make that person happy. How can anyone disagree with that?

Never heard of Jason Collins? Will now you have.