Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jason Collins: Who Cares, Or Rather, Why Do We Still Care?

The sentiment is uplifting but the connotation is upsetting.

I'm upset.
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, the NHL is about to kick off the hunt for Lord Stanley. The ink from the NFL draft is still wet and I'm still trying to figure out what the heck happened to Russel Westbrook yet all I hear about is an NBA basketball player who doesn't even play basketball. The second most interesting thing about Jason Collins, to me, is that he's seven feet tall. I mean I can't even fathom that!  I'm just shy of 6'5" and I have a hard time finding pants that fit, imagine what a disaster buying pants must be for him?! Or traveling on a plane? "No Ma'am You cannot  recline Your seat." Or worse yet pulling into a hotel on the road and having to push the desk chair to the end of the bed to support the one third of Your body which the bed simply will not accommodate.

During his 12 year career, Jason Collins averaged under 4 points per game, half of both a steal & blocked shot per game, under one assist per game and about 4 rebounds (which for a 7 footer who played 20 minutes per game  is fairly average). An average basketball player among the best in the world, an accomplishment? Absolutely but not remarkable. Or sports magazine cover worthy.
So why are we talking about him?
Is it because he went to Stanford (the most interesting thing, to me, about a guy I don't know) and graduated with a degree in communications (broadcast & print media) - which for an All Pac 10 & All American basketball player is rather unheard of - I mean he completed school before going to the league. Stanford no less. Now that's impressive.
Jason Collins' achievements are incredible. None of them are because he's black. Or seven feet tall. Or gay. They are because he was blessed with a gift (his mind and secondly his physical talent) and because he applied himself and worked extremely hard to achieve what he desired to achieve. None of what makes Jason Collins exceptional is the fact that he is gay.

I get it though. To discount that him being black doesn't make his achievements greater is a lie. And to discount that him being gay and achieving would be as well - which is partly why I'm upset, but I'll get to that in a minute. Him being black is something that created challenges for him, just like him being seven feet tall. Being gay is something he kept to himself, and I've no judgement on that because it's his life and he should be able to love who he pleases without consequence.
This is the upsetting part for me - we still live in a society where being gay is considered a hindrance. Just like being black is. And with all the progress we've made the amount of coverage this story is getting shows us just how much farther we have to go. That we still heavily judge people by the shade of their skin and whether they love the same or opposite sex as opposed to for their character, merit and achievements. And that upsets me.
          (Aside - I could never quite understand how any one who deals with any ism (race, sex, age, gender etc... ) could condone homophobia. I mean it's a "don't hate me for what I am yet I hate so and so for that very same reason" stupidity that perpetuates hate. But that's for another time.)

My heart and prayers go out to all those who feel the need to 'hide', may You find the support and love You deserve in being unapologetically and wonderfully You.
And good luck Mr. Collins on Your, I pray, noble journey from here. And seriously, where do You buy Your pants?

No comments: