Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Few (More) Random Thoughts About Jason Collins, Homosexuality, And The Association.

I've had a lot of people hit me up for some extended thoughts on the whole Jason Collins "coming out" story the past few days, presumably because I'm one of the few living, breathing human beings that actually publicly professes to a fan of the Washington Wizards, the last team Collins played on. So yeah, here's some random thoughts.

Collins' Announcement Isn't About Money. At All. - One thing that puzzles me is the insistence of many that Jason Collins is coming out now because he wants to pseudo-blackmail some NBA team into paying him next year. That's borderline comical. Collins is a Stanford grad who has played over a decade in the NBA and was once a mid-first round pick. He has made roughly $33M over the course of his career already. He has played for the league minimum (about $1M) the past 3 seasons. There's no "big new contract" on the line here, just the prospect of another one year minimum deal. And I doubt dude's in financial turmoil. He doesn't have an ex-wife about to take him to the cleaners, nor child support on a gang of stray kids. Those two factors are usually what land pro athletes in finacial straits. He also has the West Coast equivalent of an Ivy League degree and lots of political and professional connections to fall back on. This isn't about wringing some team for another million dollars to add to his stash. He is simply a free agent who wants to play again.

Collins Definitely Isn't Coming Back To The Wizards. - Collins started the season on a playoff contender, serving as the 15th man for the Celtics. His job was to play hard in practice, not cause ripples in the locker room, and set screens/use all 6 fouls when he actually got in a game. He barely played for the Celtics, and around mid-season was traded to Washington, essentially as nothing more than a salary to make the deal work financially. Once here, he hardly ever got in a game, only reaching the court 6 times, when the coach had no other options. He wasn't in the team's plans for next season, and this announcement changes nothing in that regard. Oddly, since his last team was the Wizards, there have been a flurry of fans buying custom jerseys with his name on it. This strikes me as very odd. How many fans do you see wearing those Rasheed Wallace Atlanta Hawks jerseys? Anyways, that brings me to my next point...

Collins Will Absolutely Land An NBA Job Somewhere Next Season. - Reality is, he was probably going to land a gig before his announcement anyway. He hasn't been a rotation quality player since George Bush was still in office (the second Bush, not the first one) yet he still lands a job every season because of the aforementioned reasons. He is a great practice player, sets hard screens, and fouls opposing centers very hard. Some coach will certainly want this, if only for the occasional 5-7 minutes a night. And yes, in some odd way, the cynic in me says Collins being "out" will probably help his cause. Some franchise will undoubtedly utilize him to shamelessly hawk jerseys (for a guy who doesn't play), and to unshamelessly represent them offcourt in community outreach functions. Collins will undoubtedly be used as a prop/political football, and I'm sure he's wise enough to understand and accept this in exchange for playing another year.

Collins Is Set For Life, Whether Or Not He Plays Again. - There will most certainly be a book deal, and should he not play, a high profile position somewhere in sports, or public/private sector. What I really hope there isn't is some hamhanded debate about whether or not Collins didn't get signed by an NBA team because he "came out". Again, there are only 15 slots on an NBA team. It's entirely possible (but unlikely) that no team needs a guy who can't really contribute to take up a spot on their bench next season. NBA teams are also evolving quickly toward positionless lineups, which diminishes the importance of having a lumbering 7 footer on the roster. So if Collins is out of the league next year, it won't be because he's gay, it'll be because (finally) no team needed him. But trust me, he'll be fine either way.

The Locker Room/Shower Thing Really Isn't That Big A Deal. - I've been in an NBA locker room (it was mostly empty) and while there, just happened to peer into the shower area (entirely empty). When people discuss the potential negative impact of having a gay player showering around straight players, I wonder what they're logistically imagining in their heads. This isn't like my HBCU bathroom prison where the showers are wide open and the danger of dropping the soap/getting annally raped is omnipresent. NBA locker rooms are pretty much like every other locker room in every Gold's Gym you've ever been to. The showers are partitioned and have rubber curtains. And I'm assuming NBA players use the same code of locker room ettiquette as regular guys: wrap a towel around your waist, then disrobe/dress yourself by repeating the process in reverse. Sure, there's prolly the random dude who walks around junk-out and makes everyone else feel awkward and uncomfortable (just as at my Gold's Gym) but I'm thinking this isn't gonna be a big deal. Maybe his teammates will be a little more modest now, but hey, that's a good thing. Again, basic ettiquette.

Collins' Is (Emphatically) Not Jackie Robinson!!! Sorry. - Among the hyperbole tossed around after his announcment was the insistence of some that Collins is a "hero" on par with Jackie Robinson for coming out now. I'm sorry, but I beg to differ. Had Collins come out in the mid-80's, during the prime of his career, maybe so. But he isn't. He's coming out at a time when society has changed dramatically and his announcement is being greeted with near universal praise. He also isn't being asked to out go out and carry some team to an NBA championship. So please, please, please knock it off! The scrutiny Collins is going to face in no way mirrors what Robinson experienced. All "firsts" are not created equal, and everyone insisting there is a parallel needs to have a several seats and real a freakin' history book.

Question: What are your thoughts on this development?!?

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