There's an excellent piece by Mike Freeman at bleacherreport.com called "The Inside Story of How the NFL's Plan for its 1st Openly Gay Player Fell Apart." It's about a closeted gay free agent in the NFL who was considering going public. With the help of a small group of friends and colleagues, he sent feelers out to several teams to see if any would be agreeable to signing a soon-to-be-openly-gay football player. And lo, several teams actually said they were open to the idea. One team was even enthusiastic: Talks ensued, hands were shook and it looked as though history was about to be made—the NFL was about to have its first openly gay player.
Then it all fell apart. And the reason, in a nutshell, was the concern over how other players would react. Management was afraid that, at best, a gay player in the locker room would disrupt team cohesiveness and, at worst, would be the victim of extreme hazing and outright gay bashing.
And the sad part is, they're probably right. As a football enthusiast, I have long abhorred how professional sports culture remains mired in the dark ages of homophobia. So medieval is this institution that I often wonder if, when a gay player finally does come out, the team doctor will put leeches on his gonads to suck the fag out of him.
Of course, not all jocks are homophobes, but a relatively high percentage are. Like that nimrod 'Niner cornerback, Chris Culliver, who told Artie Lange during last year's Super Bowl media day that if there were any gays on his team, they "can't be in the locker room" and that they need to "get up outta here" because they, um, "can't be with that sweet stuff"—meaning they can't be with Culliver, who's apparently unaware that referring to yourself as "sweet stuff" is way more gay than literally being gay.
My favorite part of that interview was when Lange asked if active gay players should keep their sexuality a secret. Culliver responded by saying that they shouldn't come out of the closet until 10 years after that player leaves the NFL, which is like—wow, I'm speechless.
Just think about that for a moment. Sweet Stuff is not only horrified to be around gay guys, he can't even stomach the thought of having been around them in the recent past, and in order for him to wrap his homophobic little head around the idea of a gay teammate, he needs a full decade between when that person leaves the NFL and when he comes out of the closet. I've heard some dumbass shit in my day, but that is the dumbassiest.
Guys like this, and these things they say, it's like they're posturing to make sure everyone knows—especially the other manly men on the team—that they're not down in any way with the gays because being down in any way with the gays could be construed as gay.
If you read between the lines, what Sweetie is saying is, "Look, man, I'm no homo. And the way you know I'm no homo is because I'm so repulsed and fearful of gays that I need a full 10 years before I can even cope with the idea of one being in my on my team—that's how not gay I am!" (To which his teammate, Mongo "QueerCrusher" Jones, says, "Oh yeah, well I need 15 years before I could accept the idea of a former gay teammate, so I am way not gayer than you!")
And while it's true that definitions of "manhood" differ from person to person, and nobody's definition is more right than anyone else's because every man defines manhood for himself and—blah, blah, blah, bullchips! The fact is, my definition is the most-right definition.
To me—and therefore, to everyone (because I'm the most right about this)—being a man means not feeling threatened by people who are different than you. It means not threatening them because you feel threatened. Being a man is having the confidence to allow those you don't agree with to coexist. That's why I think there's nothing manly about the homophobic nature of sports culture. What it is, is cowardice. I hear about these big, badass football players being skeeved-out by the idea of a queer in their midst, and all I can think of is a 350-pound lineman standing tiptoe on the locker-room bench screaming "Eek! A mouse!" and frantically swatting them with a broom.
Whether it's gays in the NFL, the military or the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse—you always hear the same concerns from the macho men who don't want them there: "But what if he looks at me all googy-eyed in the shower?"
"Well, what if he shows his aroused wiener to me?"
"What if I like it?"
"Ah. Now I understand the problem."
Look, I don't care how yoked any of you NFL jocksuckers are; I don't care how many career tackles you have or how many plates you can bench. If you're afraid of gay people, then you are a straight-up pussy. Manhood is in the heart, not the heavy bag. I'm not all that manly of a man, but I'm a thousand times more-so than guys like Chris Culliver, because if a gay guy ever flashed his hot dog d'amour at me, I'd just chuckle and say, "I'm flattered, honey, but I like seafood." And if I liked it—well, sheeit! I guess I'd have to shrug my shoulders and follow him to the equipment locker. How's that for a definition of manhood?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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