Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered Nite at the Old Ball Game

We’ve established here that it doesn’t usually make much sense to be devoted to a particular professional sports team. The players are mercenaries who in most cases come from somewhere else entirely, more and more from abroad. The owners are capitalists trying to maximize their own wealth, and are not above relocating their franchises in the dead of night if they think more riches await them in a different locale.

We shouldn’t be rooting for our “local” teams, but for teams that do something noble.
I’d have rooted in the late 1940s for the baseball teams that signed black players. And I’d root in 2010 for any team that facilitated a gay player’s coming out.

When Gareth Thomas, the celebrated Welsh rugby player, admitted his homosexuality, his teammates — and most fans — embraced him. I’d very much like to see something similar happen in my own country. We’ve become accustomed to such sights as major league baseball teams using pink bats and NBA teams playing in pink pinafores and even NFL teams wearing pink shoes to demonstrate their support of the fight against breast cancer. God forbid, though, that, for instance, a left fielder should give his teammate in center field a congratulatory peck on the cheek after a highlights-show catch, or that a quarterback should embrace for longer than the prescribed eight milliseconds a wide receiver who’s just turned a poorly thrown pass into a long gain or even touchdown.

Yes, I’m being a little flippant. But look: I’ve stopped now.

I applaud everyone’s being so interested in beating breast cancer, as it causes widespread suffering, but so does homophobia. I’d like to see my “local” New York Jets, for instance, have a special Gay Day during the upcoming season, on which same-sex couples holding hands would get a free bobblehead doll or program as they pass through the turnstiles. Naturally, a lot of straight fans would bite the bullet and pretend to be gay only as long as it took to bag the swag, but wouldn’t that still be a step in the right direction?

I know a lot of teams would say in response that they’re all for greater tolerance (especially when it means more tickets sold), but that they wouldn’t feel right compelling their players to appear to endorse something they found immoral. Baloney. I believe the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 should have told the Southerners on their team either to get with the program of supporting Jackie Robinson’s being their second basemen, or get lost, and I believe the professional sports teams of 2010 could and should do likewise. A player can on his own time be as much a redneck homophobe as he chooses, but when he puts on the uniform furnished by his employer, he must be seen to support the employer’s ideals.

On every MLB uniform’s left shoulder, a rainbow flag. I have a dream.

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