So far in 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers are a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then enclosed by a tesseract. (Yes, they are just that frustrating.)
Before you ask me how a riddle can be wrapped in an enigma, much less be enclosed by a tesseract, think about Jean Segura. Think about how this young man has been among the National League’s top hitters thus far, and currently leads the league with a .355 average. Then think about his main claim to fame — running the bases in reverse.
Then think about Carlos Gomez, a guy who’s never met a low, outside fastball he didn’t like to wave at. He, too, is among the NL’s league letters in hitting, something that is astonishing enough to perplex. This is a guy with a career .253 average, folks . . . yet he’s currently hitting .329. (Go figure.)
Then consider that not one, not two, but five Brewers in the starting lineup — Segura, Gomez, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez (in a limited sample) and Norichika Aoki — are currently hitting over .300 — which is astonishing. (Also, reserve infielder Jeff Bianchi, who just came off the DL, is hitting .357 thus far.)
But the rest of the team doesn’t have even a .250 hitter among them, as Yuniesky Betancourt continues to slump from his extremely fast start, Rickie Weeks’ woes continue, and Jonathan Lucroy’s bat has gone ominously silent.
Still, despite all that, the biggest problems with the current Brewers squad lies more with the starting pitching than it does their inconsistent hitting. The starting rotation consists of Kyle Lohse (1-5, 3.76 ERA), who’s pitched decently to better but has had little run support, Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50), who’s had some good outings and some bad ones, Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44), who’s had the run support Lohse has lacked with a mostly subpar effort, and two rookies — Hiram Burgos (1-2, 6.58) and Wily Peralta (3-4, 5.94) — who’ve mostly proven that they deserve to be sent back to AAA forthwith.
Look. The 2013 Brewers have a decent bullpen, even though John Axford hasn’t truly been up to snuff. (Looking better lately, though, and he pitched a fine inning in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.) Guys like Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny (currently on the DL), Mike Gonzalez, and even the recently brought up Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) have done well, while closer Jim Henderson has saved eight games in eight chances, which is quite good.
But the 2013 Brewers only have two legitimate starters in Lohse and Gallardo. Estrada would be better off as the Brewers long man and spot starter, but as he’s the third-best healthy starter the Brewers currently have, he’s in the rotation to stay. And really, while Burgos and Peralta have both shown flashes of competence, they’ve mostly shown that neither one is ready to be a big league pitcher, day in and day out.
Complicating matters is the lack of healthy players Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has to call upon. Roenicke still awaits first baseman and power hitter Corey Hart, who is now slated to return sometime in June according to Adam McCalvy. Roenicke also awaits the return of pitcher Chris Narveson, who’s certainly a much better option even coming off major shoulder surgery than either Peralta or Burgos. (Perhaps better than both put together.)
And both Braun and Lucroy are playing despite persistent neck stiffness because there really isn’t anyone else to put in their slots. Mind you, it’s very difficult to replace someone who’s won the Most Valuable Player Award like Braun. But when no one can out-hit the currently light-hitting Lucroy, you have major problems.
Basically, I see the Brewers’ problems as threefold.
- They need two more good starters before they’re going to be able to be consistently competitive.
- They need the return of both Hart and Narveson, even if the Brewers “brain trust” of General Manager Doug Melvin and Assistant GM Gord Ash decides to keep Narveson in the bullpen.
- They need far better situational hitting than they’ve shown thus far, as it’s inexcusable to have someone hit a triple (like Lucroy did the other day) to lead off an inning but have him still standing on third base at the end of the inning because no one can figure out how to hit a long fly ball to get him home.
If the Brewers can fix all of these things within the next three weeks, they may manage to salvage their season . . . and, not so incidentally, their manager’s job.
But if they can’t fix it, someone’s head is going to roll. And that person is most likely to be Ron Roenicke, even though he’s obviously not to blame for the Brewers total inability to bunt, hit sacrifice flies, or do whatever it takes to score runs, nor is he to blame for Peralta and Burgos not being quite ready for prime time just yet.
For the latter, I blame Doug Melvin and Gord Ash. They had to know that it’s risky to start out a season with not one, but two rookie pitchers, no matter how well Peralta pitched at the end of last season and no matter how good Burgos looked in the World Baseball Classic, yet they were actually prepared to go with three rookies if they couldn’t come to a deal with Lohse or another veteran starter.
Anyway, my hope is that the Brewers will start to remember their situational hitting skills and use them more frequently. (They did a good job scratching and clawing for a run tonight, but then again, the guy hitting the RBI groundout was Nori Aoki, who happens to be the best situational hitter on the club.) That, along with some more run support for Lohse and two additional quality starters if the Brewers can somehow acquire them, can turn around the 2013 season and save Roenicke’s job.
But that’s a tall order, as every team in the league knows that the Brewers need pitching — and will make them pay high to get it.
Note: Stats had not yet been updated as that sometimes takes a few hours after a loss when I’d originally composed this blog. The records, averages, etc., have been fixed, as has the information about Corey Hart’s proposed return. (That Hart’s rehab goes slowly isn’t entirely a surprise, but as many fans have hoped Hart would return sooner rather than later — and as I’m assuredly among that particular group of fans — I’d said that I believed Hart would return on the first available date as I hadn’t yet checked out McCalvy’s blog post.)
This week, I obviously haven’t blogged very much, and there’s a reason for that.
You see, even though I’m still far more “off” than “on” and have little energy due to being sick for nearly three months in a row, I was asked months ago to play a concert tomorrow evening at the Case High School theatre in Racine, Wisconsin with the Racine Concert Band. (I regularly play with the RCB, but mostly in the summer months.)
And of course, at the time, I said yes.
When this concert’s first rehearsal came up a few weeks ago, I told them that I was still recovering from bronchitis and that a new therapy had been started. (True.) I had hopes the new therapy would help, but I didn’t know how long that it would take to restore my energy level to the point where I could play. So I said at that point that I’d prefer not to play this concert — not because I didn’t want to play, but because I feared I would be completely and totally unable to play.
An aside: My degrees are in music performance, mostly. (My Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside had enough credits that I could’ve taken a degree beyond music, had I wished, and I certainly had enough credits for both an English and history minor, if Parkside did minors. But I didn’t.) So performing music in front of people, no matter how terribly I feel at the time, is what I’ve trained for my entire life.
This is why, when the RCB wasn’t able to get a substitute clarinet player — they thought they had one, but that person backed out — I decided to play the concert and the subsequent rehearsals, even knowing that the rehearsals would take a good deal of my available energy along with my available concentration, and also would keep me from blogging very much or doing much in the way of editing, either.
Of course, there’s no guarantee even without playing this concert, as lousy as I’ve felt, that I’d have been able to do that much more. I’ve been told that I’m exhausted for the past five or six months, including before I was diagnosed in mid-April with acute bronchitis. And while for a time I was able to keep “bulling through” and accomplishing what I needed to accomplish as a writer, editor and musician, after that bronchitis hit me I had nothing left to “bull through” with.
What I’m trying to do now is to manage the exhaustion, get as much rest as I possibly can, and to limit stress. These are not easy things for me to do at all, but because I was able to do some of them, plus that medical therapy I discussed before (basically I’m taking twice as much of one type of medicine as before in order to limit acid reflux, as reflux plays into both bronchitis and asthma), I’ve been able to play the rehearsals and will play tomorrow’s concert. (Well, tonight‘s concert, as it’s clicked over past midnight as I’ve been editing this.)
Now, am I playing very well right now? In my own personal (and professional) estimation, no, I’m not. I’m at about fifty, maybe sixty percent of what I’m capable of when I’m healthy. (And that’s not what I’m capable of when I’m at the top of my game, mind you — that’s just when I’m healthy and able to play.) So I’ve been able to completely learn the parts, which is good, but I’m not able to fully play them, which isn’t.
What I’m doing to compensate for the areas I can’t play is to take longer breathing breaks than normal, so I don’t get too tired out to play. (I’ve also been smart about taking my asthma inhaler and such, as there’s no need to be any more stupid than I must.) And if I have to, I take things in two- or four-measure chunks . . . whatever it takes in order to play the music as written, at least as much of it as I’m able to play at this time.
But the band knew this. The conductor knew this. And they still wanted me to play.
Which is why I will take the stage and do my best on May 16, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. out at Case High School in Racine. The RCB has one “combined piece” with the Case High School’s best and/or senior class musicians, plus four other pieces by Robert Ward, Germaine Tailleferre, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Percy Grainger. The “big piece” is Tailleferre’s “Suite Divertimento,” written in 1977. It’s a mixture of 20th century French and Renaissance idioms, and if we play it as well as we’re capable of, it should be most impressive.
However, the piece I actually enjoy the most is “Prairie Overture” by Robert Ward. Ward is an underrated American composer who died in April at the age of 95, and his piece was written in 1957 for concert band and was only later transcribed by Ward for the orchestra. (Usually a composer writes for orchestra first and band later, if at all, which is why the concert band repertoire consists of so many arrangements.) This piece sounds both American and Western in flavor and style, but has some unique orchestration throughout that was Ward’s trademark.
I’m uncertain how many people in Racine even know about my blog, much less read it regularly. But if you live in Racine and you enjoy real, live music played by real, live musicians, you owe it to yourself to get yourself out to Case High School on Thursday night and hear these pieces for yourself.
As for my plans for after the concert, I plan to take it very slowly until I regain some more energy or strength, even though I really hate having to do so. The medical people I’ve consulted have all told me that since it took months to wreck my health, it’ll take months for me to regain the energy I no longer have. And the only way to regain that energy is to be smart, stay within myself, and try not to push myself overmuch.
All I can do right now is promise that I’ll do things as I’m able, as my health allows. This wasn’t a situation I’d expected to get into by any means, so I have no “playbook” in order to help me get back out of it.
That’s why you may, or may not, see regular blogs from me over the summer months as I do my best to slowly regain my health, strength and stamina. But if I’m able, I’ll continue to comment on whatever strikes my fancy, just as I’ve always done, in the hopes that it’ll intrigue you. Inflame you.
Or at least keep you amused. (Whatever works.)
Folks, regardless of how poor my health is right now, there are some things that make me sit up and take notice.
Take this article from Yahoo Sports’ columnist Jeff Passan, which discusses major league baseball’s stalwart refusal to allow any pink bats with logos on them unless they’ve been acquired from Louisville Slugger itself, which has paid MLB a premium to be the only bat company allowed to put logos on them.
Mind you, the pink bats are to show support for breast cancer awareness, and are to be used this coming Sunday — Mother’s Day. Players started using pink bats back in 2006 to show their support for their mothers, wives, sisters, etc., who’ve had breast cancer. And while these bats back in 2006 were made by Louisville Slugger, there was nothing initially in the rules that said players couldn’t use bats made by other makers — which makes perfect sense.
Because this wasn’t supposed to be about the bats. It’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.
As Passan says (from the above-mentioned article):
Raising money for charity is often a painful process, and if a company like Louisville is willing to donate money – more than $500,000 since the inception of the program, it claimed on its Twitter feed – that is a great victory. At the same time, Louisville’s insistence on including the no-label clause for its competitors does more harm to the point of the day – increasing awareness – than its donation does good. The money is simply not worth the aggravation for any of the parties involved, particularly Louisville, which used its Twitter account to spin corporate gobbledygook about all the good it has done.
From a business sense, of course Louisville doesn’t want its competitors putting labeled pink bats in stores and claiming they’re just like the ones major leaguers swung. Then again, for such good friends of cancer research, Louisville seems far more concerned with ensuring a monopoly on that market than painting the batter’s box pink with every bat possible, manufacturer and label be damned.
The main reason this issue has come to a head a day before Mother’s Day (and the usage of the pink breast cancer awareness bats) is because Max Bat sent some pink bats to Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis (among others). And when Plouffe found out he wouldn’t be allowed to use his pink breast cancer awareness bat because it has the Max Bat logo prominently displayed (in pink), he quite rightfully got upset and said something on Twitter that he later deleted. (Mind you, Plouffe was not rude; he was just being honest, and Passan’s article has the screen captures to prove it.)
Look. This may seem like an extremely obvious thing to say, but here goes: These special pink bats are for breast cancer awareness. So why should anyone care about what specific company makes them?
Isn’t the fact that Plouffe and Markakis want to honor their mothers, both of whom are breast cancer survivors, by using pink bats in a baseball game far more important than whether or not Max Bat makes their bats?
There is no excuse for MLB to allow corporate greed to rear its ugly head on a day that’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.
Which is why as a concerned baseball fan, and as the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I call upon MLB to allow any and all of its players to use whatever regulation pink bats they have — whether they’re Louisville Sluggers or not, whether Louisville Slugger paid for the “exclusive use” of the LS pink bats or not, and whether they have logos prominently displayed or not — in order to support the cause of breast cancer awareness.
Because refusing to do so is not just cowardly. It’s downright shameful.
Folks, some things just should not ever happen. Period.
Take the case of the recent death of youth soccer league referee Ricardo Portillo, 46. He gave a yellow card — a caution — to a seventeen-year-old goalie playing in a game on April 27, 2013, in a Utah recreational soccer league. The goalie was so incensed at getting a yellow card, he punched Portillo in the head. Portillo initially thought everything was OK, but then needed assistance to stand. After that, according to this article from Yahoo Sports’ blog Prep Rally, written by Cameron Smith:
Portillo then sat down on the field and began vomiting blood, eliciting panicked calls for an emergency ambulance at the field.
This article from the Christian Science Monitor goes into a few more details:
When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. Through translators, Portillo told EMTs that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.
But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.
Worse yet, Portillo had previously been attacked by doing what he loved — refereeing soccer. Even though Portillo’s family “begged” him to quit refereeing, he refused. According to Portillo’s daughter, as quoted by the article in the Christian Science Monitor:
“It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”
The article from Prep Rally explains what’s happened to the seventeen-year-old goalie thus far:
The goalie in question has since been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault, though he could face additional charges now that Portillo has died. There has also been an ongoing debate about whether to charge the teen as an adult, despite the fact that he is 17 and not 18-years-old.
But lest you think this is an isolated incident, think again. The Prep Rally article — truly a must read — goes further, discussing the instances of violence against referees at youth games of all sorts, including attacks by parents, players, and most disturbingly of all, coaches.
Deaths like Portillo’s are incredibly distressing. Here’s a guy just trying to do the best job he can, refereeing a youth soccer game in a recreational game. Yet he gets punched in the head by a player, slips into a coma, and dies in a week.
All because Portillo was doing what he loved.
Look. If you have anger management problems, go see a counselor and discuss it. But do not — do not — take them onto the field with you. Your anger should not result in the death of an innocent man.
And while the seventeen-year-old didn’t intend to kill Portillo, he should be charged with Portillo’s death and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That won’t bring Portillo back, of course. But it may give some comfort to Portillo’s family, all while reminding players, parents and coaches the world over that life and death are far more important than any mere game.
Bare minimum, everyone who has children in any youth league needs to read Cameron Smith’s last paragraph from today’s Prep Rally column:
One can only hope that the lessons from this attack — and the subsequent jail time that the teen in question is likely to serve — will provide ample deterrent for future athletes and parents who struggle to contain their emotions in the midst of what is just a game, even if similar incidents in the past haven’t succeeded in doing so.
Smith’s words cannot be improved upon. But I wish they’d not have had to be written.
Folks, there’s a number of things to cover, but I have only a limited amount of time to cover ‘em all. So let’s get started with a shameless plug, shall we?
Since you already know about HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, please check it out. I would really appreciate it. (Links available in the prior post.)
Next, due to my health continuing to be problematic at best, I won’t be reviewing anything at Shiny Book Review this week. I do hope to review two books by Karen Myers — good, solid fantasies about fox-hunting, dogs, and just a bit of the Wild Hunt for good measure — very soon. I also have books by Ash Krafton and Chris Nuttall that I’ve read and am pondering, but am not quite ready to review . . . anyway, I plan to review these four books as soon as I can, starting with at least one book by Karen Myers next week over at SBR. So please, stay tuned.
As for everything else . . . my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, lost a heartbreaker at home this afternoon to the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6. The Brewers had tied the game in the bottom of the 8th on a suicide squeeze, perfectly executed by Nori Aoki, so things looked as if the Brewers might actually be able to win against the Cardinals at home. Unfortunately, when Brewers closer Jim Henderson entered in the top of the ninth, he ended up giving up a run partly because he didn’t hold his runners on base very well. Had he done a bit better at that, the Brewers and Cardinals might still be in extras right now, tied with a score of 6-6, because Henderson pitched well aside from that.
A health update: I continue to have problems with what I’ve been told are “the remnants of bronchitis.” Because I have asthma, these remnants continue to cause me to feel completely wiped out. I’m able to concentrate better, providing I continue to rest much more than usual, and I have been able to resume work on a difficult edit in progress. I’m also thinking about various stories and worked on one of them, albeit in prose notes form only (no dialogue, a couple of brief character sketches, and scene setting), earlier today.
So that’s progress, of a sort. But it is slow.
I just have to remember that even incremental progress is still progress. And that it’s important that I keep trying . . . as if I could ever forget.
Anyway, there were a number of other stories that caught my eye this week — Howard Kurtz getting fired from the Daily Beast due to a factual inaccuracy in an article Kurtz wrote about NBA basketball player Jason Collins (Kurtz said initially that Collins didn’t explain that he’d actually been engaged to a woman for eight years, which wasn’t true — in Collins’ first-person Sports Illustrated piece, Collins clearly says that he was engaged to a woman. Kurtz’s newspaper made a correction later, saying that Collins had “downplayed” his engagement instead, which makes more sense, but apparently Kurtz himself did not make this correction.), Harper Lee suing to regain her own copyright for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD due to what appears to be an unscrupulous agent giving her bad advice in order to profit himself, and, of all things, a second grade teacher in Colorado who taped the mouths of her twenty-eight students shut. She’s currently on paid administrative leave as, apparently, doing this to her twenty-eight students is not considered a crime in Colorado.
I’d love to write about those three things — any, or better yet, all. But right now is not the time, as I continue to have problems drawing a full breath. As long as this condition persists, my energy level is just not going to be what it should no matter how strong my will is that wishes it otherwise.
At any rate, all I can do is to get up every day and try my best. I’m doing that.
My hope is that I’ll be able to feel better soon and do much more of what I’m accustomed to doing — writing, editing, and playing music (I can’t do the last at all, and it’ll probably be at least a few more weeks before I can even make an attempt, considering) — rather than how I feel right now: more than a tad guilty for leaving three juicy blog subjects on the cutting room floor, all because my health just won’t allow me to do them justice right now.
Folks, a few months ago I got the delightful news that my science fiction short story “On the Making of Veffen” had sold to editor Phyllis Irene Radford’s HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD anthology. But, as per usual in this business, I couldn’t mention it until the anthology was officially either “on the schedule” at Sky Warrior Book Publishing with a definite release date, or when it was listed at Amazon. (UPDATE: It’s also listed at Smashwords, if you’d prefer to buy it there. Several overseas friends have already written to me and let me know that the first link, to Amazon, is “United States only,” so I really hope the Smashwords link will work for anyone who wishes to buy the anthology but does not live in the U.S.)
As of April 27, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD has been available at Amazon as an e-book. Which is why I’m now free to discuss my story and the whole idea behind this fourteen-story anthology. Containing stories by Ms. Radford, Brenda Clough, Nancy Jane Moore, and many others, it’s described over at Book View Cafe as:
Here’s a book that takes issue with the popular image of beer as the drink of sports-watching couch potatoes: How Beer Saved the World, an anthology of quirky short stories celebrating beer. Edited by Book View Cafe’s Phyllis Irene Radford, and including stories by BVC members Brenda Clough and Nancy Jane Moore, this is a collection of 14 different takes on positive outcomes brought on by beer.
Beer goes back to the early days of the human race. As it says in the introduction, “Fermented grains have been a mainstay of the human diet almost as long as we have been human.” So pour yourself a cold one and sit down with these stories.
Or, if you’d rather see the official press release put out by Maggie Bonham of Sky Warrior Books, here you go:
And on the Eighth Day God Created Beer.
Beer is what separates humans from animals… unless you have too much.
Seriously, anthropologists, archeologists, and sociologists seem to think that when humans first emerged on earth as human, they possessed fire, language, a sense of spirituality, and beer.
Within these pages are quirky, silly, and downright strange stories sure to delight and entertain the ardent beer lover by authors such as Brenda Clough, Irene Radford, Mark J. Ferrari, Shannon Page, Nancy Jane Moore, Frog and Esther Jones, G. David Nordley, and many more!
(Obviously, as a lesser-known author, I’m among the “many more” here.)
My story, “On the Making of Veffen,” concerns Terran Ambassador Betsy Carroll and her N’Ferran friend, the N’Ferran Scholar (and Fearless One), Asayana. (Or as I call him, Scholar Asa for short.) Asa is avian, but he loves veffen — every N’Ferran drinks veffen every day, including the infants — and he and Betsy have bonded over the years due to their mutual love of fermented beverages (among other things). This story starts out with the two of them drinking a tall glass of veffen in the local tavern — veffen, of course, was described in the story as “…akin to a rich Irish stout, even though it had a taste all its own that was rich, nutty and bitter as all dark beer, yet with a hint of entrancing sweetness.” (Do I know my beer, or what?)
Anyway, this meeting is bittersweet, because it’s the last time Betsy sees the elderly Asa alive. Yet Asa’s disappearance and eventual death are mysterious. So the questions aren’t so much as “whodunnit?” as “why did they do it?” as it’s obvious that the N’Ferrans as a whole want to keep something quiet — and that secret has a great deal to do with veffen.
Now, as the anthology is very upfront that beer saves the world, you can assume that what Asa does — which I refuse to spoil (go buy the book already in e-book format; it’s a steal at $4.99, truly) — is of vital importance, and that it, too, has a great deal to do with the nature of veffen. And that it will, indeed, save his world of N’Ferra.**
The other authors here have stories that range from satirical to serious, from the ridiculous to the sublime. All feature some form of beer. And in some way, shape or form, beer saves the world. Which is why it’s a truly different and special anthology, one that should be of interest to beer drinkers everywhere — most especially in my home state of Wisconsin, home of beer, cheese, and brats.
In my opinion, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD has a story to please every palate. So if my story doesn’t interest you — though I really hope it does — go check out the anthology anyway, because something else probably will.
** A lengthy aside: “On the Making of Veffen” was written in memory of my late best friend, writer Jefferson A. Wilson (1963-2011). Jeff never managed to get a story published, but he kept trying, and his work had worth and value. Unfortunately, his life was cut short before he could completely deliver on his promise.
As my story is about unusual best friends and the enduring nature of friendship as much as anything else, I couldn’t help but think of Jeff. But I couldn’t figure out how to dedicate the story officially to Jeff as the words refused to come.
Still, I dedicated this story to Jeff inside my head and heart, which is far more important.
Without knowing my friend Jeff, I doubt I would’ve written a story remotely close to this one. And I have to admit that the reason my N’Ferrans are avian is because Jeff liked sauroids nearly as much as dragons (God/dess, did Jeff love dragons), and yet Jeff never wrote a story about avians as far as I know. Which is why I wrote one instead, as it seemed remarkably appropriate.
Today was a watershed moment in American sports history, because today was the day that Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran center in the National Basketball Association, came out as gay. Collins is the first-ever professional athlete in any of the four major professional sports — hockey, baseball, basketball, or football — to come out while he’s still playing.
My first reaction: Hallelujah!
Then I read Jason Collins’ three-page, first-person story in Sports Illustrated (written with Franz Lidz). There are many relevant things here, including why Collins felt the need to come out, what his background is (he’s Christian and believes in Jesus, who promoted tolerance and mutual understanding), and why being gay is not a choice.
Instead, it’s just who Collins is, right along with his basketball ability, his love for history and the civil rights struggle, and many other admirable qualities.
Here’s a relevant quote from the third page of the SI story:
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said “I hate gay people” (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He’s entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.
Speaking of Tim Hardaway, as Collins said, Hardaway has completely changed his opinion. Michael Rosenberg wrote at Sports Illustrated about how others have reacted to Jason Collins’ groundbreaking announcement — remember, Collins is the first-ever pro athlete to come out as gay in a major male American professional sport while he’s still an active player — and he included a quote from Hardaway:
Several years ago, (Tim) Hardaway made some harsh anti-gay comments, and the backlash was severe enough that Hardaway decided to educate himself about homosexuality. His views have changed radically. He told me he was wrong several years ago, and that gay people deserve the same rights that heterosexuals have.
Hardaway, who now works for the Miami Heat, also said this:
“If people on teams were to come out, people would get over it and accept it and move forward. I really do think that. Any sport. If one person or two people, whoever, comes out in any sport, that sport will accept it and go from there.”
My second reaction: Amen!
Then I read this story by openly lesbian professional tennis player Martina Navratilova, also at SI. Navratilova knows a great deal about professional pressure to remain closeted, as she was the first major pro sports player in any league to come out as lesbian back in 1981.
Navratilova praises Collins, which makes sense, and then gives a brief history of how difficult it’s been up until the past few years to get support in any professional sports league for gay rights, including the ability to be open about your sexuality rather than closeted. But she stumbles a bit, in my opinion at least, when she references the late, great Reggie White.
White, as any Packers fan knows, was one of the greatest defensive ends in the National Football League (see this link from Packers.com that summarizes White’s career nicely), and was enshrined in the NFL’s Hall of Fame in 2006. He was also a Christian minister, and had been raised with fundamentalist Southern Christian values. Because of this, while White loved everyone, he was not particularly tolerant of gays and lesbians and actually took part in a well-advertised TV campaign to try and get GLBT people to “cease” their homosexuality.
This was offensive, and both the NFL and the Green Bay Packers objected — but for the wrong reason as they were more upset that Reggie actually wore his football jersey in the ads than anything else.
White also could be verbally awkward, as when he went to address the Wisconsin Legislature in March of 1998. White said something about how Asians are endlessly inventive that sounded awful, like a racial stereotype, rather than the compliment he had intended. And his comments about other races, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were no better.
All of these things caused White to lose out on a professional announcing gig after he finished playing football. So White did suffer censure.
White died in 2004. And at the time, he was attempting to educate himself in ancient Aramaic, as he believed that certain scriptures of the Bible may have suffered by translation — which means that he had apparently had a consciousness raising of sorts. But he didn’t get the time he needed to learn more, as he died of sleep apnea. (Here’s a link to the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation, which is located in West Allis, Wisconsin.)
Now, whether this means White would’ve evolved on this issue is unknown. But I do know that in 2004, President Obama was against gay marriage. Hillary R. Clinton, while adamantly for gay rights in most senses, was also against gay marriage, as was her husband the former President. Tim Hardaway was still against gay rights (which, to be fair, Obama and the two Clintons were for), and hadn’t yet educated himself on this issue. And there were many, many people in all walks of life who said ignorant and bigoted things about GLBT Americans — so Reggie White was not alone.
Look. I met Reggie White in the summer of 1996. He was promoting one of his books, which was a Christian missive about how you need to make the most of every day you’re on this Earth and treat people with kindness and respect. I got to talk with him for fifteen or twenty minutes, without handlers of any sort, as I apparently impressed him because I didn’t ask for an autograph and just talked with him as a real, live human being. (Thank God/dess for book tours, eh?)
I related to White as a minister, and didn’t see him solely as a great football player. And White was a compassionate, caring man — he wanted to know what was going on in my life, and he gave me some advice that’s stuck with me to this day.
I truly believe that had White lived to see 2013, between his studies of Aramaic (he even was studying the Torah itself) and his knowledge of people and his love for everyone, he most likely would’ve changed his opinion. He may have even worked with Athlete Ally, which is a group of straight athletes supporting gay athletes — something that didn’t exist in 2004.
We all have to remember that when White died, he was only 43. He lived a good life. He loved God (who he couldn’t help but see as male, but also saw as all-inclusive — I know this from talking with him). He cared about everyone, and he loved everyone.
But he didn’t get to live another nine years. And in those nine years, anything could’ve happened.
That’s why I wish Navratilova had picked a still-living athlete with a homophobic stance. Because there are still quite a number of those, and with one of those she could’ve had a good, spirited and honest debate as to why whomever she’d picked is still so closed-minded in this day and age.
But as she didn’t — and as I’m a Packers fan who once got to speak with Reggie White at great length — I felt I should respond. Because it’s only right . . . White was a great man in many respects, but yes, he was flawed on this issue.
Still. He was a great man, and he is now deceased. It is time to let the dead rest, while we continue to support progress in all aspects of American life.