Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The First Openly Gay Team Athlete Will Go Through Hell and Come Out a Hero

It's common knowledge that when Branch Rickey chose Jackie Robinson to be the first African American in Major League Baseball Rickey did not choose Robinson because Robinson was the best Negro Leagues player. Robinson wasn't, and Rickey knew it. What Robinson had was the strength of character to not fight back. That is, Rickey understood that the first African American in the Major League baseball would face horrible taunts, and that the worst thing he could do was fight back. Robinson was an extraordinary human being who faced the worst of humanity in an attempt to live his dream.
Thinking about Robinson and all he went through reminds me that the most important things that people do are not easy. In any path that life takes, there are going to be difficulties and it is just a matter of being willing to overcome them. Athletes face enormous troubles just to make it to the pinnacle of their sport, whatever it may be. At the very least they've dealt with many people telling them they can't do it. Which makes it so curious why people that have to be so mentally tough that there is such a fear of coming out as gay.
I started with Robinson because he knew that breaking into the Majors would not be easy, yet it seems like all the conversation about someone coming out as gay is centered on how difficult it would be. That is a very strange thought because if someone is waiting for the perfect time when he will be perfectly accepted, well, to be perfectly frank, that a'int going to happen. Someone is going to need to take it on himself and know that he's going to put up with taunts both within his team, and from other places. It's not going to be fun, but then again I doubt that Jackie Robinson had much fun his first year either. At the same time, whenever it happens this person will be a hero. It is not a word that I use lightly, but one that is apt here. In a time where we're becoming more accepting of homosexuality, athletics remain a bastion of homophobia. Whoever this is will be a role model who may well save someone's life. Surely someone finds this a worthy goal. For all the talk about athletes giving back to their community, this would be a chance to do some real good.
Some might say that the reason that Robinson put up with it was that it was the only way he could play, and that anyone who is gay does not have to put up with it because they can already play. That's valid, and it is certainly likely that he was more willing to put up with it because it was the only way that he'd play in the majors. At the same time, I think that is not fair to Robinson or the principal of the issue that what Robinson did was not easy. Someone can play sure, but he's not being true to himself while playing. There are other intricacies involved that we cannot appreciate, but they matter as much as putting up with the taunts is the only way that he could play.
In the end it will take a man who is stronger than even Jackie Robinson was to be the first male athlete to come out as gay. It will be difficult. For at least a season, probably more, it will be miserable. At the same time, once the person weathers the storm he will be a hero. He'll be remembered in the same breath as Jackie Robinson, and will represent a major cultural shift. He's someone we need, and I look forward to him.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Useless reporting

Sometimes the media is just dumb. Not malevolent, or even incompetent, but merely dumb. I think of this because of the story that Buster Olney, who does fine work covering baseball it must be said, decided that it was worth reporting that the Phillies were having internal talks about trading Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols. I simply must ask: why is this news? Seriously, Olney did not report that the Cardinals were considering accepting the offer, heck on TV he went out of his way to say that they weren't. So what he actually reported was that the Philadelphia Phillies were talking INTERNALLY about trying to trade for Albert Pujols. Excuse me for saying this, but NO SHIT the Phillies were talking about trading for Pujols. He's the best in the game, and Howard does present a decent alternative. It isn't news that ANYONE needs to hear because there was absolutely no indication that the Cardinals wanted the deal. So really, what happened was there was a slow news day for baseball and Olney wanted to get his name on ESPN with something. Thus we got dumb reporting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Michael Jordan

To say that Michael Jordan was a sports god is an understatement of such monumental proportions it is not even funny. A lot has been written about WHY he was the greatest basketball player of all time, but not a lot has been written about the way he towered over every other athelete in existence to children who grew up in the ninties like myself.

His aura for children of my generation cannot be overstated. Bear in mind, for my entire childhood I probably watched one or two pro basketball games on TV in my life. St. Louis didn't have a basketball team, so I really didn't care about basketball. Well let me amend that, I didn't care about basketball except for Michael Jordan. I didn't know much about basketball, but I knew MJ. I knew MJ was better than any other basketball player in existence (and, in my mind at least, it was not even close). He was the gold standard of sports godhood to me, and I didn't even care about basketball.

To put it another way, when I was a kid I had two posters of atheletes in my room. One was of Brett Hull, the man who is probably my favorite athelete in any sport, and the other was of MJ. There was no Ozzie Smith or Cardinals posters in my room, yet my parents got me MJ's poster. It was as beloved as my Brett Hull poster, even though it represented a sport I didn't care about.

That, is what defined Michael Jordan. His greatness was so obvious. His persona was so likeable that one didn't even have to know his sport to find him beloved. That is true sports godhood, and that is why there will never be another MJ.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Baseball

Baseball is my favorite sport. At first it does not seem to be that profound of a statement except... well let me explain. I love Sundays during football season. I can watch any hockey team play and enjoy the game, which cannot be said of baseball, and nothing can equal the visceral thrill of a good boxing match. Yet in spite of these facts, baseball is my favorite sport.

The reasons are as corny as it gets, but still worth noting. My love of baseball starts with the stereotype of the young boy going to the games with his father. A lot of my earliest memories are of going to games with my parents at my grandfather's seats down the first base line of the second Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Not even seeing Pavlik/Taylor II could equal the fun and excitement I used to have as a kid during opening day. I remember it seeming so special that I was at the first game of the season. It was as if no one else had ever done it before, and this was the most amazing thing in the world. I was at Ozzie Smith's last game in uniform. These are just a couple of examples of the memories of baseball from childhood and how much I enjoyed it. If I wanted, I could probably list a dozen more examples of it.

I guess my point is that even if I will never enjoy a baseball game as much as I enjoy matches in other sports, baseball will always be my favorite sport. It is what I grew up on, and what I shared most with my family. I can never love a sport like I LOVE baseball, and that is a simple truth.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Short Sighted NBC

I'm watching the USA/Canada game on MSNBC right now because NBC has Ice Dancing on regular NBC. This makes sense in the short time. It is undoubtedly true that Ice Dancing will likely get better ratings then the hockey game on NBC. The problem is that that is incredibly short sighted. The issue here is that NBC has a deal to nationally broadcast NHL games. If the people who were running NBC were intelligent, they would put the hockey game on regular NBC and use it to promote the heck out of the NHL. Indeed, it seems like common sense to use the increased viewership in hockey to promote future games and try to increase ratings for their NHL telecasts. That would, obviously, lead to increased add revenue in the long run. Of course that would involve thinking in the long term, which apparently NBC execs are incapable of doing.

If you are wondering why I refuse to give the NBC executives the benefit of the doubt, the simple truth is these are the same people who are having the best ratings they've had in a long time, and are still losing $200 million on the Olympics. Not to mention the whole Conan-Leno fiasco earlier in the year and consistently bad ratings in the last year. My point is that the people in charge of NBC have consistently proven themselves to be less than intelligent, and this is just another example of it.

I vow

As a general rule, I don't like personal blogs. I don't read 'em, don't care for, and, to be perfectly honest, don't really want to be associated with them. Why? The vast majority of them are horribly self indulgent. What people share are not insightful thoughts about life, the Universe, and Everything. Rather they talk about their day, which, quite frankly NO ONE, cares about. Not their friends, not their family, not anyone.

Thus, this vow I make: I will never blog about my day to day life, and only blog if I feel that I have something worthwhile to say. If this means that I blog less than once a day, so be it. I would rather blog sparingly and insightfully, then incessently and inanely.

First Post, or "Why Skald's Inn"

To answer that question the first thing that must be explained is what a skald is. Simply put a skald is a Norse bard. In the viking age, and after, skalds were revered for their abilities to tell stories. After all, in the norse culture, the truest sort of immortality is that of having your name remembered for ages.

I'd like to consider myself a bit of a skald too, sharing stories, thoughts and feelings. So please take a seat in this Inn, listen to the song and enjoy yourself.