“Why is this news?”
This is a typical, go-to, response to news of both Jason Collins’ revelation of who he is, who he likes and loves, and who he has signed to play basketball with. Jason Collins is a basketball player, and it’s nobody’s business who he holds hands with off the court, so why is this news?
The issue here is that “why is this news?” is the new homophobia. And those that want the government out of our lives and freedoms without reasonable reservation away from what influences the choices we make with our friends and families and children and clients and considerations and … why is this news?
Because Jason Collins is gay. He likes who he likes and loves who he loves and he’s gay. And he also plays professional basketball and he moves his feet well and defends centers better than just about any big man this league has seen over the last 15 years and hey also he’s gay. Jason Collins is different.
Jason Collins is different because he has the chutzpah to admit as such, while still seeking NBA employment. Even though he knows, as we all do, that he’s not the first gay man to play NBA basketball. He’s different because he decided to be true to himself and anyone who wanted to judge him (including those that work on Sundays, and eat shellfish, and wear cotton-poly blends, and marry women who aren’t virgins – something I’m four for four with), last year. He’s different because, for a decade now, he’s allowed the advanced stats community to understand the difference between a no-stats All-Star and a big man that makes a difference when he moves his feet. The guy is different because, on the court, he makes a difference.
He’s also different because he is the first openly gay man to play basketball in the NBA. This is news.
What the “why is this news?” community tends to forget is that there are millions of children, teenagers who have nary a clue about what to do with themselves and don’t know how they fit in, that need to know that they’re just fine. That they’re normal. That liking who they like and eventually loving who they love is normal, and that these normal recognitions are not news. And that this is why it’s just fine that public figures – even a fringe NBA player on a 10-day contract – should be acknowledging their likes and loves. And why it’s just fine that this is “news.”
It’s not about influencing or showing off or pushing an agenda. It’s about letting conflicted, frustrated, bullied and potentially unhappy teenagers know that it gets better. So better. Please hang in there. It really will get better.
Jason Collins is living, screen-sliding, proof. This is news because we need it to be news. This is news because your children, or friends of your children, or children that your children know, or children that you might be coaching in a rec league, need to know that Jason Collins will become a productive player on a pro basketball team. While liking who he likes. While loving who he loves. Because conflicted teenagers need to know that it’s just fine for men to love other men. That while this stuff shouldn’t matter at all, in these early stages we should make “news” out of it.
This is news. This is wonderful, fabulous news. This is news, even if it will seem so damn silly some 20 years from now.
This is great, wonderful, news. If only for 10 days.
Good to see you back in uniform, Jason Collins. Keep on.
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