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OPINION - Sports are already in a 'post-sexual' era

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  I remember when my family got cable TV. We were living in the suburbs then, and now the coveted Madison Square Garden channel was beaming into our home. (ESPN didn’t have contracts with the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball yet. The MSG channel had the Knicks and Rangers home games… only their road games were available on regular broadcast TV.) Suddenly I was watching a lot of Knicks basketball.

The Knicks were a good, but not great, team. Patrick Ewing was their center. Bernard King, a high-scoring yet under-rated forward, was having a phenomenal season. The Knicks would regularly lose to the hated Larry Bird and his Celtics. They were competitive against everyone else in the league.

And then I remembered a TV news report about the Knicks. They were the “blackest” team in the NBA. Of the 15 players on the roster, 14 were black. Their only while player was reserve Ernie Grunfeld, who almost never played. Grunfeld would later become a respected basketball GM after retiring as a player.

My point in bringing all this up is that I wasn’t aware. When it came to basketball, I was truly colorblind. I liked the Knicks, they were my team, and the racial make-up of their roster didn’t matter to me. I never once thought, ‘wow, they're all black.

And it's not unusual that didn’t notice. Most fans watch their favorite teams the same way. Until writing this blog, I hadn’t thought for a about the racial make-up of the Brewers line-up, yet I watch them every day. The white vs. black on the Packers roster is irrelevant to me, and I never miss a game. In sports, we’ve achieved what we’re supposed to be moving towards: a true color-blind society.

This is why the Jason Collins story is a yawn to me. When watching a game, I have no way of knowing which players are and aren’t gay. Outwardly, people’s sexuality isn’t known unless they reveal it. It’s different than one’s race or ethnicity which is often visible. For a fan, this is the ultimate ‘who cares’. At arenas and ballparks, fans who heckle a gay player would be told to shut up or leave. Race-based heckling is already (generally) unacceptable in the stands, even with allowances made for drunkenness. The situation may be different in a team’s locker room, but fans aren’t privy to that part of the game.

Common sense tells us there have already been gay athletes in the pros, they just kept silent about their sexual preferences. Sports are already in a post-racial era. Surely, by definition, we were already in a post-sexual era too.

Chris Conley
5.1.13