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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hero Status

Hawking his new book, and enjoying the sudden celebrity of gay superhero, John Amaechi is making his rounds on the cable news channels. Known previously as a talented basketball player who never lived up to his potential, Amaechi's good looks, sexy accent and surprisingly articulate vocabulary are sure to provide him with another 15 minutes of fame as a gay athlete spokesman.

I caught him last week talking about how Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan benched him because Sloan thought he seemed anti-American. Watching John speak during an MSNBC interview, I can see why. He actually dared to suggest that criticism levied by NBA wunderkind Lebron James wasn't meaningful because Lebron "lacks experience" and "may or may not even have a passport." Once again, global citizens are suggesting that Americans need to travel the world before shooting off their mouths. Outrageous!

Many will be disappointed with Amaechi for waiting until he retired to come out of the closet... after all, several professional athletes (though none from the NBA) have done that already. People want a hero... a gay version of Jackie Robinson. It seems like the timing is just about right. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even thinks it could be a profitable move for some brave soul. America wants an active player to make the announcement, suffer the slings and arrows of a homophobic society, and show grace under fire in order to help effect change.

I don't know. I think the fact that this guy played two full seasons in a state like Utah shows some heroic fortitude. Plus, it's just amazing to see an articulate basketball player (who even made it through an entire interview without thanking Jesus.) I thought former Knicks player and presidential candidate Bill Bradley would be the only cagey cager I would ever hear speak. It's a lot of pressure to dump on a guy, and I think the criticism is unfair. Amaechi has said that he isn't a hero. But when told by the interviewer that his actions kept others in the closet, he said (with conviction) "No, I'm not keeping people in the closet. American society is keeping people in the closet." I think that's well-stated, and statesmanship is something we lack almost as much as leadership.

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At 2/15/2007 05:20:00 PM, Anonymous Jimmimoose said...

Amaechi's wrong too. The Bible's right. Tim Hardaway says so.

At 2/16/2007 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Well now.

I always remember Jackie Robinson saying that he didn't break the color barrier in baseball, Branch Rickey did. Of course, he was being self-effacing, but Robinson was a man of grace on and off the field.

But there was more truth in his statement than not.

As Sports in the Modern Era is more about Money than accomplishment(*harrumph*), I don't think any real change is going to occur in THIS arena until an owner reveals himself to be gay...and sometime before retirement.

Then all these loons with big mouths and small opinions will have to shut up or face a hit in the wallet. In sports, change will come when the economics allow it. If Jackie Robinson was a mediocre player (and he wouldn't have allowed himself to be, another reason Rickey asked him to be point man), or the Dodgers receipts had dropped..at all..I don't think change would have been so accepted.

At 2/20/2007 10:12:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Branch Rickey certainly had the courage to make it happen on his watch... and Peewee Reese had the courage to go over and hug his double-play partner on the field in front of a stadium full of unsure fans.

But Robinson was the one who had to suffer and suffer silently. Amaechi said in his interview that America wants its "pound of flesh". He can feel the public desire to carve a person up just to see if he can take it.

I guess hero status doesn't come easy.

At 2/22/2007 04:50:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Hero status never comes easy. Fame does. But woe to those who get it. The public won't let you keep it...or attack you for keeping it.

Robinson knew what he was in for. He made the agreement to "turn the other cheek," despite having a history of putting up a fight. He knew it down to his bones. Probably what turned Peewee, Red Barber, and the others in the organization to change their minds. Robinson was a target, but they all could feel the shock-wave and they saw the Man stand up to it, and put up with it. They could see the jaw clench. They would see him in the club-house after a game. They saw the fight and they saw the fighter, and they closed ranks around him.

The public saw a great player. But they would have been as quick to join in the abuse if he'd failed. Ask any umpire about fan-love. Or any pitcher in an "off" season. You have to earn it, and keep earning it for Joe Six-Pack.

But that's what you get for entering Teddy Roosevelt's "arena."

Do you remember Ken Burns' "Baseball" and the interview with Rachel Robinson? She said she'd will herself to be bigger to keep the insults behind her from reaching Jackie. Gets me every time (And I'll be watching that in a couple days time...I'm at Ruth right now).


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