Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins & My Two Sons
Posted on May 2nd, 2013
t wasn’t until we were driving home from school on Monday afternoon that I remembered our subscription to Sports Illustrated.
It has been one of the more unexpected detours in my parenting adventure, watching my sons evolve into sports fans. Aside from the requisite time spent as a fan of my own university’s football team, a period marked by attendance at games that were reliably loud and occasionally downright rowdy (I was once lifted up and out of my stadium seat to safety by a larger and sturdier friend when two drunken boneheads began fighting with each other over my head), I have never followed a single franchise in any sport.
The same cannot be said for my boys. At ages 10 and 12, they have been known to listen to sports talk radio and to try to best each other in their working knowledge of whose team went for which player first in the NFL draft. These conversations are always awkward and, I feel fairly certain, fabricated from the boldfaced names that they can produce on the spot and their vague idea of the sorts of things people say in grown-up talks in the same vein, but they’re really putting their heart into them.
This is why Scott subscribed to Sports Illustrated on Marcel’s behalf at the beginning of the year. Aside from the ubiquitous ads for male enhancement products and the swimsuit issue—which Sports Illustrated manages like a champ, by the way; you can opt out quickly and easily of having your preteen boy get an eyeful of topless Kate Upton with a quick phone call or by returning a postcard that comes with the magazine—the content has been perfectly fine. I even pulled the Boston Marathon issue before Marcel could get his hands on it and, with the exception of one questionable photo, it was all information and imagery that he could digest.
Then, on Monday, SI broke the Jason Collins story. The NBA player became the first athlete in a professional sports league to come out as gay during the course of his active career and it was a big deal. Well, let me clarify: it was being touted as a way big deal in the media—surely by the outlet that secured the scoop—and it resonated that way with me, too.
But was it? As a forty-something, middle class, white woman, I’m carrying around a lot more past than even gossip blogger Michael K who wrote in his Williams post on Monday that “typing (that Collins is the first openly gay professional athlete in America’s four major sports leagues) in 2013 feels weird, because there should be openly gay pro athletes everywhere.” I began to wonder how Collins’ announcement would be received by my own, next generation sports fans, boys with gay loved ones being brought along 30 years after I was.
“Hey, Marcel,” says I, “your Sports Illustrated comes tomorrow, right? There’s going to be a big story on the cover. It’s everywhere today. Jason Collins of the NBA became the first openly gay athlete in professional sports.”
“Oooh, that is a big deal,” Roy piped up from the back seat, “because they’re going to make a movie about him!”
This in reference to a previous SI article about a team of documentarians waiting for a Jason Collins-type announcement in the hopes of making a film about the first gay professional athlete.
“That’s not why it’s a big deal,” Marcel began to explain to Roy, but I’m not sure if Roy could hear him over my laughter.
Collins’ potential film deal and not the fact that he dates other men, that was the big news? I loved that it was for my boys, that for some of us in 2013, it really is weird that there aren’t openly gay athletes everywhere.∗