Friday, April 29, 2005
Probably not so much with the homophobia, on the Red Sox.
Very interesting article in the Weekend section of the Globe today about the play "Take Me Out", which is coming to New England. It's the story of a gay baseball player who comes out of the closet and "throws his team into turmoil".
The Globe piece is interesting, as they talk more about the actor than the actual play, really... and let me note that the actor was specifically selected to be "a biracial superstar who is cocky but lovable and who, by the way, looks great". The photo they provide shows the guy's baseball uniform, which is, uh, black and white pinstripes. The team name appears to be 'Empires'. Gee whiz, insinuating much?
The most interesting bit, though, is that they interviewed a bunch of players and writers about what would happen if a gay baseball player really did come out of the closet.
Jim Bouton: "I would say that the better a player you are, the more gay you would be allowed to be. I would say you could be quietly gay if you hit between .275 and .300 or won 10 to 15 games. You could be flamboyantly gay if you hit anywhere over .330, drive in 100 runs, win 20 games. Because winning is more important than anything else."
David Halberstam (author of The Teammates and Summer of '49): "If he was really good, the local fans would cheer and his teammates would appreciate him, and other fans would be incredibly cruel. If he was not good, his teammates and local fans won't be very good. Everyone eventually gets over it. The key to Jackie Robinson-- and this is an apples-and-oranges situation and a different kind of prejudice and a not-so-insidious prejudice-- was that he was not only the first, but very, very good."
Johnny Damon: "If he came out years ago, there definitely would be some harassing or whatnot, but I think in today's day and age, it's normal-- not so much normal in the baseball aspect but normal as in life. If someone came out on the baseball field I don't think it would be a big deal, just as long as there was respect on both ends... If I had a gay teammate I'm sure we'd keep slapping each other on the butt."
Bronson Arroyo: "I don't think it would be accepted that much. Most of the teams I've played with, probably half the team are pretty religious guys. For me personally, I couldn't care less.... It would matter [how good a player he was]. If it was a guy who was young in the league and kind of like a rookie, I'm sure it would be a lot harsher than if Manny Ramirez came out. If Manny Ramirez came out today and said, 'I'm gay,' you know what? Most people probably would accept it and it would be like, 'Well, that's just Manny'."
Jason Varitek: "It probably would be tougher if you found out afterward rather than if you found out while they were playing. I think that honestly in that situation is key. I can't really say how I'd react unless it actually happens."
Seems to be quite a bit of agreement on the fact that the better you are, the easier it would be for you to come out of the closet. So if we had, say, Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez announcing to the world that they were gay (just to throw some names out there completely at random) it would of course be a big deal, gasp gasp, gayness in baseball, o woe is me. But it wouldn't be half so bad for Jeter as it would be for, uh, let's say Bubba Crosby, to stick with the Yankee theme, if he decided to say he was gay.
It's not entirely unlike how you're allowed to be an ornery old fat man who wants to stay at home and keeps threatening to leave the team if you happen to be Roger Clemens. The fourth and fifth starters of the world can demand treatment like old Rog gets, but they'll be called insane and lazy and self-absorbed and all that. But if you've managed to go 21 seasons with a lifetime ERA of 3.18 and a lifetime winning percentage of 66.67%, you're allowed lots of things. Rogers Clemens is probably the least gay fat old man to wear a salmon jersey with a big star on it, but, theoretically, if he announced one day that he was gay, I somehow don't think too many of his Houston teammates would have a problem with it.
As for the responses of the Red Sox players here, hmmmm. I'm not at all surprised that Johnny couldn't care less-- if someone put a pygmy hippopotamus in a Red Sox hat and stuck it in the lockerroom, I'm pretty sure he'd slap it on the ass and call it a great teammate. Yes, I too am getting annoyed by his 'lookit me, I'm a celebrity and an athlete too!' schtick, but whatever you say about the guy, he is not in the least way judgemental of his teammates.
Bronson seems to have a slightly more realistic and wider view of the thing. He doesn't care, but he recognizes that the Holy Roller contingent probably would. Note one very loud voice missing from the people interviewed here... what's Schilling's take? Lord knows he's got an opinion on every other issue in the news today, and he's usually pretty willing to share them. Perhaps the Globe had a sneaking suspicion of the attitude he'd take, though, and didn't even try to ask. You'll note that they didn't interview any of the other well-publicized Christians either: no Mike Timlin, no Bill Mueller, no Trot Nixon (or am I imagining that one? Why do I have Trotter in the 'Jesus huggers' category of my brain?).
Of course, they interviewed 3 players on the entire team, so it's possible (probable) that I'm reading too much into that.
Upon reflection, it would be very interesting to see the reaction of a guy like Pudge Rodriguez, who is very, very Catholic but is also very, erm, secure. I don't think I've ever heard him asked about what would happen if a gay ballplayer came out of the closet, but I'd be rather interested to see his take on it.
Hard to make much of what 'Tek said, although of course he would be more concerned about honesty than anything else. The 'I'm not sure how I'd react unless it actually happened' thing is probably a very honest response, for which you can't fault him. I just wish he'd been able to say, 'You know, if that happened, it wouldn't matter to me at all.' If one of his teammates did come out that probably would be his ultimate reaction, because 'Tek's nothing if not professional, but I do sort of wish he'd been able to say it now. You know what I mean here.
Oh, and can we all just take a moment to reflect on how awesome it is that the name Bronson used for an example was Manny Ramirez? Hee hee. Seriously, I wouldn't read anything into that at all, because if you're looking for a player whose quirks have already been embraced by the public due to his immense skill on the field, Manny Ramirez is it. And Manny's probably one of the few guys in that clubhouse who honestly wouldn't get upset about their name being used in such a way. But, with the manhugging and all (see photo at top of entry for example), it's still giggle-worthy.
I think I probably used the word 'interesting' about 500 times in this one blog entry, but oh well. Too bad. Red Sox baseball recommences tonight, but I must admit I'm just shaking with excitement for Monday and the Red Sox/Tigers series. As I'll probably be a wreck during that entire series, you guys should have some entertaining blogs to look forward to.