VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – After me, the deluge.
For some reason, when NBA center Jason Collins recently became the first active player in any of the big four American sports to announce he was gay, that famous line uttered by France’s King Louis XV immediately popped into MAS’ mind.
His Majesty was referring to all hell being ready to break loose in his country in the 1770s. He could sense serious trouble was coming, not in his reign but during the next ruler’s time for sure.
Sure enough, the French Revolution took place shortly thereafter, costing his heir, Louis XVI, and his gal, Marie Antoinette, their heads.
Yes, the expression is different in context, but the deluge part retains its metaphorical meaning — as in a raining down of other gay pros coming forward with similar “pro”-nouncements.
MAS has a premonition, like Louie, that some big, but this time positive change is about to take place.
As far back as 1970, when MAS read “Out of Their League”, a book on the hypocrisy of the NFL by Dave Meggyesy — a so-called “maverick” linebacker for the NFL’s then-St. Louis Cardinals, MAS suspected the hushed-up presence of gays in pro sports.
Meggyesy’s book was an enlightening expose on various unsavory NFL issues that existed but were never allowed to come to light: the shooting up of players with painkillers that would lead to permanent damage; the tricks used by players to “get” opponents (inflict serious injury upon them); racism.
And, of course, homophobia.
A free thinker, Meggyesy was allowed entrance by gays into their secret inner circle, even though he was straight.
Meggyesy wrote of gays on his team holding clandestine meetings and how fearful they were of being exposed. The league, of course, tried to portray Meggyesy as a delusional malcontent.
Every team, said Meggyesy, had gays — a star quarterback on one team, among them. Meggyesy, of course, would not name him.
Now, MAS had attended a college that had a renowned art program (Kutztown University in Pennsylvania) that attracted a lot of gays. So, he was very comfortable with and accepting of gays at a relatively early age.
Still, in his innocent ignorance at the time, MAS — in an attempt to figure out who that gay star quarterback was — immediately began to think “Hmmm, which NFL QBs are a little ‘swishy.’ “
Clueless MAS didn’t realize at the time that all gays do not exhibit strong secondary sex characteristics.
It wasn’t until MAS read “The David Kopay Story”, a coming-out book by Dave Kopay, did he understand how horribly guilty of stereotyping he was — even as MAS considered himself open-minded.
Kopay was probably the most brawny, punishing fullback MAS has EVER seen. He played for some great University of Washington teams in the 1960s before putting in a number of solid seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
Rather than trying to avoid contact as a ball carrier, Kopay seemed to relish running over foes.
If they kept records for headaches administered, Kopay would hold the mark for sure.
Kopay, of course, waited until he was retired to announce his sexuality.
From that point on, a much wiser MAS knew even the most macho guy could be gay. MAS didn’t need to learn it later from The Village People.
Thus, for 40 years, MAS has carried his strong suspicion that gays have always been there in the American Big Four.
Coming out, though, would have been financial suicide.
That’s why the guys who have done so always did it AFTER their careers were over.
There was Oakland A’s outfielder Glenn Burke, Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo and the NBA’s John Amaechi.
All, of course, adhered to a vow of silence regarding others still active.
That’s why Jason Collins, a current free agent, is now being lauded as the Jackie Robinson of his era. He is to the gay rights movement what Robinson was to the Civil Rights Movement.
Perhaps, though, MAS should temper his strong feeling that we will soon see a flood of active gays coming forth.
Collins, while very brave, waited 10 years — and became financially independent — before breaking his news.
What of the rookie on the bubble?
Or the free agent vet whose contract is up — like, ahem, Collins.
Will choice of sexuality be the factor that tips the scales against gays making or joining a team?
In this day and age, I strongly doubt it. But you never know.
Unaccepting straights in a position of authority may seek to undermine continued gay rights progress through despicable behind-the-scenes collusion.
It’s happened before in other aspects of pro sports — keeping salaries down, developing racial quotas, etc. MAS is optimistic, though, that will not be the case this time,
Over the years, Americans have become much more accepting of alternative lifestyles.
MLB, the NFL, NBA and NHL, may have long been bastions of ignorance and intolerance — testosterone temples, if you will. But they will soon fall.
Hopefully, with Collins leading the way, a large number of gay athletes will now storm the walls of the Homophobia Bastille that imprisons their brothers — much like the downtrodden French populace did to that hated Paris Prison in 1789.
Alas, there will always be, unfortunately, holdout bigots in the world that would deny gays their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But that number, MAS senses, is shrinking greatly by the minute. To those still digging in their heels against change, I say: “Let them eat cake.”
Or better yet, quiche — they may like it and finally see the light.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org