Sports: Cowards and Champions

I balked at first when the editor of this magazine asked if I’d be interested in writing on sports-related topics.  After ten seconds of soul searching, I decided that I’m probably uniquely qualified for this role, seeing as how I:

  1. Watch Sportscenter
  2. Regularly procrastinate completing household chores by reading football blogs
  3. Have frequent Packers/Vikings debates with my 6 year old nephew
  4. Sometimes get on the old treadmill in my office/guest room, which makes me an athlete
  5. Am a lesbian

All kidding aside, I’m thrilled to be able to explore the interests of the community, and maybe incite conversation around important sports issues of the moment.  For instance, did anyone really believe Aaron Rodgers was gay?  Feeble attempt at a playoff game distraction, if you ask me.  I mean, Clay Matthews, maybe, but…  Rodgers, of course, issued a quick denial though I remain hopeful that the NFL will see its first openly gay player in 2014.  It was quietly rumored throughout this past offseason that a group of NFL athletes would come out, prompted by support from allies such as former Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo and former Viking Chris Kluwe.

Speaking of, Kluwe’s back!  Not in the NFL, but in the headlines.  One of the GLBT community’s strongest supporters was unceremoniously released from the Vikings prior to their head-scratching season.  They state it was a business decision, though in a recent Deadspin.com article titled “I Was an NFL Player until I Was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot” Kluwe says that his outspoken support of marriage equality cost him his job.  Other notable Vikings business decisions include hiring backup, backup quarterback Josh Freeman for 2 million dollars.  Let’s pause to think about that for a moment.

Some internet commenters are complaining that Kluwe is spiteful, with a vendetta against his former special teams coach in particular.  I disagree, as Kluwe is one of the most well-informed and articulate allies in recent memory, but regardless of his reasons, he is continuing the conversation about changing the culture of America’s favorite sport.

So, Peter King over at Sports Illustrated has a column called 10 Things I Think I Think.  I don’t do nearly as much thinking, but something I do find interesting this year is LGBT issues are front and center in the media, even dominating Olympic coverage.  The Winter Olympics have always been a particular favorite of mine, maybe due to repeat viewings of The Cutting Edge and childhood crushes on Nancy Kerrigan and Katarina Witt.  (Side note: I just google image searched them, and now have adulthood crushes on Nancy Kerrigan and Katarina Witt.)

I initially found my enthusiasm dampened for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (February 7 – 23) due to Russia’s recent passage of anti-gay laws and subsequent rise in hate crimes, especially with the number of out GLBT athletes competing in the Olympics.  For those unaware, in June, Putin signed into law gay “propaganda” legislation that bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, which includes bans on gay pride parades in numerous Russian cities.  The rest of the world has reacted accordingly, with many celebs and Olympic athletes from many countries speaking out against the law.

President Obama sent a clear message when he selected several openly gay athletes for the U.S. Delegation to Sochi, including former tennis player Billie Jean King, former figure skater Brian Boitano and women’s hockey player Caitlin Cahow.  Snap!  This marks the first time in over ten years that the United States is not sending a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Olympics.  All these happenings have renewed my anticipation for the Games, though I do wonder, would we be as concerned about the anti-gay laws in Russia if the Olympics weren’t being held there?  Why should it take a popular sporting event to shine a light on one country, when there are 70+ other countries with similar or much worse laws worldwide?

So there you have it.  Suddenly it seems like there’s much more to write about than I first expected.  It’s a fabulous world of sports out there – worldwide, nationally and locally…and we’re a huge part of it.  I’m hoping to highlight some issues I find important, people who are interesting, local teams worthwhile to join, and also hoping not to lose in fantasy football to my fiancé again next year, considering she can’t remember the names of the people on her team (Ron Gronkowski? Kevin Rudolph?  I’m thoroughly embarrassed).

I’ll end with my Gay Athlete of the Week.  I’m picking British Olympic diver Tom Daley because, look at that cute face!  And, he’s dating Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, so it’s a new gay power couple alert!

Until next time, back to Sportscenter laundry.

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