News No More –


Jallen Messersmith made college basketball history yesterday and nobody noticed.  Probably more to the point, nobody seemed to care, because the history he made stopped being a big deal a long time ago.  Messersmith plays for NAIA Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and yesterday he made a non startling revelation to the Associated Press, saying he revealed to his teammates prior to last season that he is gay, making him the first openly gay player in U.S. men’s college basketball.  Messersmith approached, a website that covers gay issues in sports, about telling his story, and he says the feedback since it was posted two days ago is all positive.  He said he hopes his action will help other athletes feel comfortable about who they are.  If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is, too familiar, and you know what they say about familiarity.  Stories about gay athletes “coming out” no longer create a sensation and that’s the best thing about them.  Gays in sports have gained at least as much acceptance as gays in society at large.  Alternative lifestyles are no longer viewed with the disdain they faced in the dark ages of the latter part of the last century.  Before the turn of the century we had already accepted announcements from tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova that they were gay, and at least one Major League Baseball player, former Dodger and Oakland A Glenn Burke, had revealed his sexual orientation.  By the time swimmer Greg Lougainis and former major league umpire Dave Pallone had “come out of the closet”, to use an archaic term, the lifestyle had reached a status that no longer required major headlines.  Earlier this month NBA player Jason Collins announced that he was gay and the story enjoyed barely more than a 24 hour news cycle and then only because it became the major topic of conversation at a presidential new conference, then primarily as a subject that allowed the president to avoid talking about the growing scandals plaguing his administration.  Rosa Parks is remembered for her contribution to the civil rights movement for refusing to move to the back of the bus.  Few, if any, remember who was the second person with the courage to do the same.  In fact, few remember a more famous black personality who more than a decade before Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and faced court martial for it.  Jackie Robinson’s stand against discrimination took place in the closed confines of the U.S.  Army.  Today no one would expect any person of any color to give up a seat on any public transportation other than voluntarily, as an act of courtesy.  Such discrimination long ago was erradicated from our culture.  Sports, it has long been said, mirrors society.  It is no longer a big deal in sports when someone announces their homosexuality because it is no longer a big deal in our much more open, much more accepting society.  And sports is no longer a closed society unto itself, nothing is more public today than sports, even Little League Baseball enjoying national exposure on ESPN.  Is that what we can expect next, a Little Leaguer announcing he is gay?  I hope not.  I think with Jason Collins earlier this month we learned there is no longer anything sensational about an alternative lifestyle announcement and it’s no longer newsworthy.  I look at Jallen Messersmith’s announcement as a step too far.  With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.



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