Brave Men Run, Gay Men Ball

Something very interesting has happened this week. John Amaechi, an retired professional basketball player – a really bad player, it should be noted for the record – came out as a homosexual. A small handful of football and baseball players have come out before, always after the fact of their playing days, but never a basketball player.

man middle
(I'm allowed to find the title hilarious, right? I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be...)

It doesn’t seem like it should be any different. After all, they’re all sweaty, overpaid, alarmingly entitled jocks who get millions to jump or whatever. But, in an 11 man locker room, tensions seem to run a little higher.

It’s the weirdest double-edged neurosis in the world. The fear that, on the one hand, some dude will look at your junk and be turned on. Or, on the other hand, and maybe even worse, that he’ll look at your junk and not get turned on at all. You’re a professional athlete, after all – you haven’t spent decades training and honing your body to NOT turn somebody on when they look at you naked.

There’s a sort of incredible article from espn.com that almost reads like a fool-the-world piece of fake news. There are some really, really nice responses – Tracy McGrady turns out to be just about the coolest motherfucker alive (even though he, too, falls into the "as long as you don't try it with me" trap), and Grant Hill is real cool about it, and Lebron James is cool and at least very thoughtful and measured and speculative and seems to be accepting in his own right. But then the carnival starts. The quotes that they coax from some of these seven foot tall millionaires are exactly the types of things you would expect from, well, seven foot tall millionaires….. and confederate backwaters from the Florida-Georgia border with Confederate flags on the hoods of their Chevys.

Shavlik Randolf says, and I quote, “As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine.” That’s right. I repeat, just let this sink in, “As long as you don’t bring your gayness on me.”

Steven Hunter says, "Nowadays it's proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness." Yeah, that’s real too. “Sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness.” Because all gay men are Ted Haggard. It would almost be a brilliant Christopher Guest-esque parody of what you think somebody might say in a mockumentary about gay athletes, if only a dude hadn’t actually said it.

But truly the apotheosis of weirdness is, or was until a day ago, Ray Allen, star of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking anti-discrimination-in-athletics vehicle He Got Game. "You don't want to know that there is somebody in your locker room and you are not aware of it. And maybe you had to be careful being where you put yourself in a situation where you might get hit on by a teammate."

Uh huh. Ray Allen is worried about getting hit on by a teammate. Ray Allen, media darling, one of the NBA’s all-stars, one of the greatest offensive threats and best known players in the world, a man who simulated sex with two white women, and then Rosario Dawson, in a movie – and let's face it, he's one of the worst actors I've ever seen, and he couldn't pull that off if it was pure mimesis – is worried about being mistaken, by a teammate, for a gay man, and then openly and intrusively approached in an overtly sexual manner, in the locker room. Said the gay player, “Woops, shit, sorry man… you know… I thought maybe, you know, you were gay, and we could just kind of go at it right here and now.” It’s like one of those incredibly bad scenes in movies where a gay guy kisses a straight guy because for a moment he suspects gayness, only to be spurned and cruelly turned away! Remember that scene in Boogie Nights, where Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to kiss Mark Wahlberg? Just imagine if M-Key-Mark was replaced with Ray Allen, and Hoffman was playing a mincing 2-guard for the Seattle Supersonics. That would be hilarious. And, arguably, fairly implausible.

Steve’s genius contribution to fake news for this week: “Ray Allen added, ‘Like I usually pull my pants down really slow in the locker room, and swivel my hips in a seductive manner. I wouldn't do that if a gay guy was around. That's just common sense.’”

Call him Gay Ray the Posemaster, lookin' all fine in his mock turtleneck.

But journalist LZ Granderson’s reaction is maybe my favorite, on merit of being the most strange. “I’m not impressed,” he says.

Wouldn’t it be fun to go around all day pontificating on everything that doesn’t impress you? “I’m not impressed with your drapes. I’m not impressed with your haircut. I’m not impressed with your day-to-day wardrobe. I’m not overly impressed by your personal hygiene, either, and I'm certainly not impressed by the revelation that you are a gay man. You retired already!”

See, because it’s just odd, when you start an article like this. “I am so over gay people. Specifically, John Amaechi. Not him personally -- I hear he's a delightful guy -- but gay people like him.” So, you’re over gay people. You’re over one specific gay person. But you’re not over him personally (i.e., specifically, right?). You’re over him specifically-generally? Ok, so you’re over the trend of him. I suppose we can rip that out of there, although, as a I say, he is the first pro basketball player every to come out, before or after or during his playing days.

“I do not mean to belittle Amaechi's experience…,” Granderson writes, “But I can't help but wonder: When will somebody simply man up?” Granderson is himself a divorcee and an openly gay man, and I just gotta wonder. When are all these homosexuals who are engaged to women just gonna man up and come out of the closet to their spouses-to-be? I don’t mean to belittle his experience or anything…

And I’m not trying to attack Granderson, because he’s obviously a smart guy, and a good guy, he just wants what’s best for the future. But the way he said it, it just reeks of, I dunno, something. Bloggerism. You know, like this entire post. The difference in my mind being, of course, that I don’t get paid and am therefore full well entitled to be a gigantic judgmental tool. But come on! I'm not impressed?! You can dance the standing-still, Mr. Granderson. I'm pretty fucking impressed.

And, at any rate, yesterday John Amaechi and every other gay athlete got a pretty solid reason not to come out while they’re still playing professional ball. “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” said 2000 Olympic Team point guard Tim Hardaway. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States." That’s right. He represented America (This is our countraaaaaay) to the world at large in the Olympics. U.S.A! U.S.A!
20000831 SPT hoops 3
U.S.A! U.S.A!

I read his comments at first, and they were incredibly disturbing, obviously. In his playing days, Tim Hardaway was my favorite point guard. He was a slasher, a driver, a shooter, a star like Streisand, Cher, or Nathan Lane in the Bird Cage. The kind of guy every would-be diva wants to dance and shimmy and wiggle like. He was a dynamo on the court. He was a legend, the type of player I aspired to be in my mind every time I clumsily mauled the rock. "Hardaway, for three!" *Clang.* Since he retired, he’s done some half-time commentary. Seeing him speak, at length, for the first time was one of those revelations that you get sometimes when somebody you’ve idolized for years turns out to be unbearable. (All About Eve without the all the elegance). The man is clearly an idiot. He’s got the public speaking skills of a seeing-eye dog that has spent some time with a blind kid in a second grade class.

Maybe we can blame Boo Radley for goading us into giving idiot manchilds the benefit of the doubt. Boo wasn’t scary! It turned out to be real sad, Jem and Dill being scared of him and all, and we loved Boo Radley at the end of the day. We hoped Boo was an object lesson. We hoped you could have faith in people. When you see Tim Hardaway on TV, you can’t help but imagine his only state of being is a kind of captivated, childlike fixation – because that’s the way he looks at the teleprompter, terrified and drowning in a cataract of words rushing at him.

Which made his comments all the more chilling (and embarrassing). Because Tim Hardaway didn’t, like, write this in his blog when he was drunk as fuck. He didn’t accidentally let it slip out to an interviewer who told him it was all off the record. He didn’t get high on crack and go to a strip club and get overheard by a lesbian stripper who sold him out to a tabloid. Nope, he CALLED IN TO A RADIO CALL-IN SPORTS SHOW. To tell the guy. That he hates gay people. The tape is unbearable, because he’s simultaneously stammering, and completely on autopilot. He’s not espousing an opinion in the sense that it’s something he’s deliberated on and come to a conclusion about. He’s just saying something, because it’s just something that he says. “I hate gay people,” he says. Pretty incredible.

Even more incredible? The question that prompted his tirade was as follows: “You know what you are saying there is flatly homophobic? It's bigotry?”

The very first words of his response: "Well, you know I hate gay people.”

Then Hardaway later tried to, in a very sad way, offer something that split the difference between an ineffectual retraction and an offensive apology to CBS reporter Jim Berry. (The following was nicked from the awesome website outsports.com, “the ballin’ site for gay sports fans and athletes” – what a great tagline).

Berry: "Do you think some people would view that as bigoted as someone white saying I hate black people?"
Hardaway: "Probably so. I don't condone it. And if people have a problem with that, I'm sorry. I'm saying that I can't stand being around that person knowing that they sleep with somebody of the same sex."
Berry: "So if you had a family member who was gay, you're saying that you hate them?"
Hardaway: "Yes. Yes. Yeah. I wouldn't talk to them."
Berry: "Tell me why."
Hardaway: "I just told you. 'Cause I don't condone it."

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living and loving in an age of enlightenment.

Hardaway’s comments have been roundly criticized by the press – it even made all the 5:30 national news broadcasts – and they’re being called some of the most hateful things ever said by a professional athlete. Sadly, and not entirely surprisingly, Hardaway’s diatribe(s) prompted a rash of hatemail to Amaechi from people of similar mindsets, all of whom, I’m sure, brandish bibles like blunderbusses and hold them overhead like lanterns of truth to guide their hateful way. They’ll throw Romans at you, even though they haven’t read it and it’s confusing as hell and right after Paul gets done talking about how God forces people to be gay (“God gave them up to vile affections”) he says, “judge not lest ye be judged.” They’ll throw Leviticus at you, saying any man who lays with a man (as with a woman) is to be punished by death, and always ignore the fact that the “as with a woman” part runs parallel twice, not just once. Death to all fornicators, after all.

Then they’ll ignore the fact that there are 613 laws in the OT the breaking of which is to be punished with death, including eating leavened bread during the Fest of Unleavened Bread. That’s right, eating leavened bread during the Fest of Unleavened Bread is a grievous sin on par with homosexuality, and the only just recompense is death by stoning. Repent, ye sinners, repent, and eat less leavened bread. And don’t forget, Catholics, God needs a confession for every sin, of either omission and commission, and Jesus said the Old Testament laws all still apply.

Then, of course, they’ll forget to mention that these are the only two actual mentions of anything resembling non-young-boy-prostitute homosexuality in the one million verses of the bible, Old and New Testament combined, and that, in fact, eating blood seems to be far more grievous to God (and yes, that includes rare meat). They’ll forget to mention, like Dante done told you, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Because all you straight fornicators, face facts, there’s no special straight hell for the straight lot of you. I’m willing to bet almost, if not exactly one-hundred percent of heterosexual male basketball players, not unlike most American Christian republicans or atheist liberals, have had pre- or extra-marital sex. Be like Mike, the theory goes, and get blown by prostitutes after away games. Have twenty kids with seventeen baby-mamas. And remember, any man who looks at a woman with lust in his eyes has already committed adultery in his heart, according to Jesus in Matthew. So, you unwashed impenitent masses of men leading lives of quiet desperation and possible latent homosexuality (forgive yourselves already! It’s ok if you let it be!), you’ll all be seeing a whole lot more of Satan first hand. And I’ll be right there with you. But at least I won’t have been such an asshole.

The best part so far, though, is an excerpt from the apparently big-hearted and witty (and sexily accented) Amaechi's book from ESPN the magazine. “The NBA locker room is the most flamboyant place I’ve ever been. Guys flaunted their perfect bodies. They bragged about sexual exploits. They primped in front of the mirror, applying cologne and hair gel by the bucketful. They tried on each other’s $10,000 suits, admired each other’s rings and necklaces, it was an intense camaraderie that felt completely natural to them. Surveying the room, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself; And I’m the gay one.”
God bless you.


SenorStephenUrkelDaedalus said...

Ok, new sitcom idea. Tim Hardaway will star as himself, as he tries to deal with buidling a career in his post professional basketball/failed commentator life. He will share a large, lavishly decorated penthouse apartment with a barely closetted interior decorator, named Leion (which Tim Hardaway will hilariously misspronounce as Leon), played by Michael Richards. To top things off, the Leion character will also secretly hate black people. Or maybe Leion should secretly be dating a black man (special guest star, Jon Amaechi?) This is a tough choice. In any case, the series will be called "Scoring in the Paint," and will run before new episodes of The Magic Johnson Show on the cable channel that I plan to buy once I become rich enough to do so.

D said...

Scoring in the Paint, Season 1 episode guide:
1) Strong to the Hole (series premier)
2) Stripped from Behind
3) The Ball Handler (guest starring Brooke Shields)
4) Palming the Ball
5) On-the-Ball Defender
6) Down Low Penetration (featuring Jon Lovitz as a loveable plumber)

*Series cancelled, but re-signed due to fan support*

7) Offensive Genius
8) Shaq's Big Rear End
9) Phil Jackson's Japanese Bush
10) Be Here Now
11) Both Ends of the Court (with Keifer Sutherland)
12) He Hustles, He Cleans Up
14) The Locker Room Bond
15) Intangibles (Such as Love and Trust Between Two Men) (Season Finale)

I'll help you finance this show when I, too, am rich, on the condition that it be entirely improvised.

SenorStephenUrkelDaedalus said...

Entirely improvised, and Tim Hardaway will be led to believe that it is all real.