February 18, 2013
My brother-in-law Marcelo struggled mightily coming out of the closet. While I and a handful of his closest friends and relatives knew he was Gay, he kept his true self hidden until he was 31. The combination of Brazilian culture and a male-dominated family made coming out seem impossible to Marcelo.
A little more than two years ago, he had enough. With the support of those of us who knew his secret, he came out to everyone. And for a man who had lived in pure terror of his true self being public, the end result was glorious. Marcelo was embraced as the man he is, and congratulated for having the courage to come out.
“It was like a fart in the ocean,” Marcelo said.
Last week, American professional soccer player Robbie Rogers announced he was a Gay man. In doing so, Rogers became the rare athlete in a team sport to come out. And while the taboo of Gay male professional athletes in team sports may remain, the reaction by Rogers’ fellow players was quick and positive:
The reactions to Rogers’ announcement came fast and furious and showcased how far American sports have come. And while Rogers said he was retiring from soccer, his former coach made it clear he was welcome back whenever he was ready.
“Yesterday I thought he was a very good player, and I still think that today,” Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas said in a team statement. “Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being part of the Fire.”
I have written about the absence of openly gay male players in American team sports. It has long been groused upon that a Gay athlete would be a nuisance to the team and a divider in the locker room. The reactions to Rogers’ announcement shows that today’s athletes are more than ready to accept a Gay teammate.
For those who have complained about celebrities coming out of the closet, this should be proof of why it matters. Today’s athletes have known Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris and other LGBTs for their entire lives. They have grown up less ignorant and more accepting of the LGBT community. This has led to athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo openly and loudly supporting marriage equality. And it has led to the outpouring of support for Rogers.
The fight obviously continues. Aside from marriage equality, there are still too many rights the LGBT community do not receive. But with his teammates’ support and the general public treating his announcement like a fart in the ocean, Rogers has shown that Americans – especially younger Americans – are on the side of acceptance. And this is something to celebrate.
November 21, 2012
Jack Taylor of Grinnell College pumped in 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College, breaking all records for scoring in basketball ever. He was so good, the great Kevin Durant even had to tip his cap.
“Jack Taylor you deserve a shot of Jack Daniels after that performance lol…wow,” Durant tweeted.
October 4, 2012
Emile Griffith was one of the great boxers in the history of the game. Throughout his career, there were rumors regarding his sexuality. Those rumors came to a climax during Griffith’s third fight with Benny “Kid” Paret, who had spent the build-up of the fight taunting Griffith about these rumors.
“I got tired of people calling me faggot,” Griffith told Bob Hebert years later. “He called me a name. … So I did what I had to do.”
In the 12th round of the 1962 fight, Griffith hurt Paret, who slumped into a corner wounded. Griffith unleashed a flury of savage punches the likes of which boxing has rarely seen. Paret was knocked unconscious and suffered brain injuries he died from 10 days later.
In the years since, Griffith – his career long over – has admitted to being bisexual. Fifty years later, Puerto Rican fighter Orlando Cruz has done what Griffith or no other fighter ever imagined doing – he came out as a Gay man.
“I developed physically and mentally to take such a big step in my life and in my profession, which is boxing, knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho,” Cruz told Sports Illustrated. “I kept this hidden for many, many years.”
I have written several times about male athletes being unwilling or unable to come out of the closet. The law of averages states that there have been many gay athletes over the years, yet in the main U.S. sports – Major League Baseball, the NBA and NFL, no one has ever come out of the closet while an active athlete.
And no boxer had. Until the brave Orlando Cruz, who has – without a doubt – proven himself to be a champion.
Read more on Cruz and his decision to come out at Sports Illustrated.
August 2, 2012
Following the controversy of not including Olympian Gabby Douglas in the photo or the story of the U.S. women gymnastics team winning gold, the Washington Post already has released its photo to commemorate Douglas winning the all-around gold today:
Congratulations to Douglas and the entire U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team for an amazing performance in London.
July 30, 2012
With two games down in the London Olympics, Brazil’s men’s soccer team has looked strong, scoring six goals on its way to two victories. Brazil’s most famous player – young attacker Neymar – is showing why European clubs are drooling over him, scoring twice and setting up two other goals.
Neymar is currently Brazil’s great hope, as his style and passion have already garnered trophies (Copa Libertadores, Copa do Brasil, etc.) for his club Santos. In Brazil, however, there is on trophy that has eluded the Seleçao – an Olympics gold medal. Yes, in its great history, Brazil has never taken home the gold. This talented Brazil side is expected to fix that problem this year.
For Neymar, it would be another trophy as he works his way to be the star of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup team. Make no mistake, the kid is talented, stylish and seems to relish the spotlight. But he needs this Olympics win for multiple reasons. To me, the main one is to make up for making his silly hairstyle the most popular for Brazilian boys and young men:
July 23, 2012
Penn State just received a walloping from the NCAA for the Sandusky pedophilia ring. A penalty of $60 million, vacating all its wins from 1998 to 2011 and a ban from bowl games for four years.
And it’s not enough.
On its own, Penn State University needs to drop its football program for at least five years. Pulling Joe Paterno’s statue down and pretending like the last 40 years didn’t happen isn’t enough.
I feel for the young men who signed with Penn State to play football. I truly hope the NCAA helps them – and other students – transfer easily to other schools.
But make no mistake about it, these penalties by the NCAA will hurt. They’ll hurt State College and the surrounding area. They’ll hurt students. But we need to keep our eyes open to reality. We need to remember our priorities as civilized people.
Joe Paterno let Jerry Sandusky turn Penn State into a pedophilia camp. Let us not forget how heinous the crimes were at Penn State. And they were covered up because of football.
Penn State needs to dump the football program. And Americans need some time to think about how far we are willing to allow our love of sports take us off the path of basic humanity.
June 24, 2012
When Michael Jordan won his first NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls, he was 28 and defined his career. As much as that, however, he defined an entire era in the NBA. Because while Jordan and the Bulls went on to win five more titles, a plethora of other great players went on to search for other ways to define themselves.
Jordan’s prime coincided with the prime years of many other superstars, such as Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Dominique Wilikns and others. By the time Jordan was done, only a scant few got to taste NBA glory – Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler (who won two titles when Jordan went to play baseball) and David Robinson (who, along with Tim Duncan, won a title once Jordan’s prime was over.) For nearly a full decade, the NBA Championship Trophy was held by few.
When Lebron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title this week, James was 27 and defined his own career. Gone were the taunts of “choker.” In what can only be described as a Jordanesque performance, James took apart a marvelously talented Oklahoma City squad, dominating on all levels and playing with a ferocity rarely seen in any sport. After a career that has seen him win three MVP trophies, James finally added the word “Champion” to his resume.
Much like Jordan’s first title, James’ first ushers in a new age in the NBA. When Jordan’s Bulls won in 1991, it meant that legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas were done winning titles. It also meant that stars like Barkley and Ewing would never win a title.
Of course, even after James’ performance, it still doesn’t demand he be compared to Jordan on even ground. After all, Jordan won six NBA titles. James still has a long way to go to reach that standard, and it’s very likely he never will.
The last two years in the NBA, however, has introduced us to Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. On the young side of 25, and showing signs of being future Hall of Famers, it’s very hard to imagine those two players going through their careers without winning an NBA championship ring. For James to win more championships, the road seemingly will always go through those two, and their substantial potential for detours.
What does that mean for the rest of the NBA? It means another shutout. Kobe Bryant is done winning championships. As is Dirk Nowitzki. As is Paul Pierce. Of those who have never tasted NBA glory, Dwight Howard is the new Patrick Ewing, and Steve Nash the new John Stockton. And players such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin and others may light up the stat sheets and highlight reels, but they will likely never see their names in lights.
While it’s difficult to see Durant or Rose get shut out of Finals victories, one should not bet against James at this stage. A few years ago, Tiger Woods (who shares a birthday with James) shocked everyone by making a substantial run at Jack Nicklaus’ record for golf majors. While that run has been stalled, it continues. Now it is James’ turn to go head-to-head with a legend. Legends are made to be challenged.
Five more titles is difficult to visualize, but James should not be counted out. In 2012, he became the man he was always supposed to be. The 2011 loss to the Dallas Mavericks forced a sea change in James’ focus. While he still played with joy and maintained a jovial image, the maturing he went through was obvious to all. And his play was truly brilliant, even by his own lofty standards.
None of this means that James-led teams will sweep NBA titles for the next several years. But with James, Durant and Rose around, it means that many a great basketball player will now go through their NBA careers without a ring.
June 14, 2012
It has always been a no-brainer to me that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. The world of cycling is dominated by PEDs and has been for a long time. The idea that a guy who heroically recovered from cancer of the everything came back and completely dominated fields full of guys who cheated while not cheating himself is unreasonable. In 2009, I wrote this:
With the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in the world of cycling, it is starting to take an extraordinary act of intellectual dishonesty to believe that Armstrong has been clean his entire career. So while I have a lot of respect for Armstrong as a man and an athlete, I’m not willing to keep my head buried in the sand. My opinion is that Lance Armstrong has benefited from illegal performance enhancing drugs in the past, and may very well be using whatever he can in this latest comeback attempt.
My feelings remain the same, and as of yesterday, it appears those feelings may be validated.
The seven-time Tour de France winner who in February saw a two-year federal investigation into his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs dropped without charges being filed, is back in the spotlight of doping suspicions.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has accused Armstrong and five former members of his support staff — three doctors, a trainer and a team manager — of engaging in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011. Armstrong, 40, who retired from cycling last year, could see his Tour titles get stripped as a result.
USADA‘s letter to Armstrong dated June 12 includes previously unpublicized allegations against him, saying blood samples taken in 2009 and 2010 were “consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
Armstrong denies the charges and he always will. He has pointed to some type of conspiracy that wants his legacyt tarnished. But in the U.S., Armstrong is beloved. He is truly a great person.
Sadly, in the end, Armstrong’s legacy won’t be that of a great cycling champion or tireless philanthropist. He will be known as the guy who cheated and then spent the rest of his life lying about it.
April 28, 2012
As Floyd Mayweather prepares for his fight next week with Miguel Cotto, commentators are quick to point out that he will soon be serving time in jail. What they avoid talking about is why he will be incarcerated: Domestic Battery.
Mayweather – who should bank around $30 million for fighting Cotto – will soon be serving 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery charges in order to avoid felony charges. Has this set off a national discussion on athletes who abuse women? Hardly. A quick check of Google News shows these search results:
Mayweather, Cotto: 828 results.
Mayweather, domestic battery: 4 results.
In my search, I was able to find one story about Mayweather’s domestic battery: And in it, Mayweather says he isn’t guilty and compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
Mayweather’s domestic battery conviction is no one-time affair, either. In fact, one could strongly make a case that “Money” is an unapologetic serial woman abuser. Via Wikipedia:
- In 2002, Mayweather was charged with two counts of domestic violence and one count of misdemeanor battery. He received a 6 month suspended sentence, 2 days of house arrest and was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service.
- In 2004, he was given a one year suspended jail sentence, ordered to undergo counseling for “impulse control” and pay a $1000 fine or perform 100 hours of community service after being convicted of two counts of misdemeanor battery against two women.
- On September 9, 2010, it was reported that Mayweather was being sought by police for questioning after his former girlfriend, Josie Harris, filed a domestic battery report against him. Harris has accused Mayweather of battery in the past, but those charges were later dropped in July 2005 after Harris testified that she had lied and that Mayweather had not, in fact, assaulted her.
- On December 21, 2011, a judge sentenced Mayweather to serve 90 days in the county jail for battery upon his ex-girlfriend in September 2010. Mayweather reached a deal with prosecutors in which he pled guilty to misdemeanor battery in exchange for prosecutors dropping the felony battery charge. Mayweather also pled no contest to two counts of misdemeanor harrasment which stemmed from Mayweather threatening to beat his kids.
Mind you, Wikipedia is no authority on violence against women when it comes to professional athletes. A look at NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown’s page doesn’t even mention domestic abuse, despite the fact Brown is better known now for his violence against women than his playing or acting career.
Sure, sportswriters and the media are occasionally prone to brief, quickly forgotten moments of navel-gazing as to why the profession ignores violence against women:
“This is in no way meant to diminish Vick’s crime, but it seems fair to wonder why there’s a conspicuous lack of outrage when we hear about athletes torturing women,” wrote Barry Rozner. “And whether a battered woman today matters less than a dog.”
Yes, in the sports writing profession, a dog matters more than a woman. Take yesterday’s episode of Friday Night Fights, when the universally acclaimed Rick Reilly interviewed Mike Tyson, and didn’t once mention the fact that Tyson is a convicted rapist and well-known abuser of women.
I have written of this subject several times in the past and it is my opinion that American sportswriters either are cowards when it comes to violence against women, or they approve of it. Because Floyd Mayweather is going to jail for battering a woman and all they can talk about is fight predictions. Here’s a prediction that will assuredly come true – Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will physically hurt a woman again. And sportswriters around the nation will ignore it again.
Because American athletes better not cheat, or play too aggressively or use performance-enhancing drugs. But beat a woman? Forget about it.
April 23, 2012
If Kevin Love weren’t 6-foot-11 or so, he’d be a perfect fit in a boy band.
April 10, 2012
Breaking: Research shows that steroid use is down in all major sports, as UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem is now taking all of them himself.
April 9, 2012
I always appreciate the true love of the game when a fan gives memorabilia back to a player or event, as Wayne Mitchell did at the Masters. I also always think the fan in question is a moron. Maybe a nice moron, but a moron none the less.
January 16, 2012
It is a wonderful coincidence that Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday comes the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While the two essentially ran in different circles, as it were, both were amazing parts of a time that saw America change dramatically for the better.
While yesterday saw Americans look to King’s words and actions, all would be remiss to overlook what Ali did to change social and cultural norms in the United States.
In some ways, Ali was a direct link to Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion. Johnson was proud to be a Black man long before such an attitude would be accepted in the United States. And for that, he would pay a high price. For more than a half-century after Johnson rose to the top of the boxing world, Black fighters learned an important lesson – if you want to last in boxing, it is best to let your fists do the talking.
Ali, however, was not to be quieted. Not at all. But herein lies the difference between Johnson and Ali. While Johnson was loud and proud, his actions tended to be for the benefit of himself. Ali burst into the public consciousness in the turbulent 1960s and – with great humor and personality – was a man of his times. He was thoughtful and intelligent, and evolved into a man who understood and thrived on his place in changing times.
Much has been written of Ali’s journey and it is not necessary to recap his life and actions here. He was, without a doubt, a controversial figure during controversial times and he was an imperfect man. But he brought a pride to the African-American community like no other athlete before or since. He changed how many Americans – both Black and White – felt about themselves, their communities and their country. And as his career progressed, he became a man beloved and respected by nearly all.
Ali’s pride, strength and determination were the only things that spoke louder than himself. And his effect on the American psyche is still being felt today.
Happy 70th birthday, champ.
January 13, 2012
When Junior Dos Santos creamed Cain Velasquez to win the UFC Heavyweight belt, it codified something everyone knew – from top (Dos Santos) to bottom (Jose Aldo), Brazilians are a dominant force in the UFC and MMA.
But while UFC134 in Rio showed the world that Brazilians love MMA and their fighters, a simple fact remains – soccer is the No. sport in Brazil. By far. And American middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has shown he’s well aware of this in his effort to get middleweight champ Anderson Silva back into the ring. He showed as such in a recent video he put out, wearing a shirt from the famed Brazilian soccer club Palmeirias.
The story behind the video is this: Silva is sponsored by the soccer club Corinthians, the reigning Brazilian League champions. For this, Silva receives approximately $250,000 per year. Silva wore a Corinthians jersey into the ring with him in Rio prior to his obliteration of Yushin Okami.
This would seem a simple enough situation. One could imagine Jon Jones entering the ring wearing a Dallas Cowboys’ jersey without a risk of destroying his fan base. But this is Brazil. And while Corinthians has a large fan base, they are also easily one of the most hated teams in Brazil. So while the Spider has a good fan base in Brazil, he has also become a hated figure amongst those that despise Corinthians, especially amongst fans of Corinthians’ main rival, Palmeiras.
Sonnen – who has proven to be one of the smartest trash-talkers in all of sports – quickly glommed on to this and began talking up Palmeiras. The management at Palmeiras jumped into the fray, sending Sonnen some team jerseys and other team paraphernalia. This led to the video in which Sonnen – who obviously did his homework – promised a victory over Silva and that he’d dedicate the win to Palmeiras and hand the belt to recently retired goalkeeper Marcos – a Palmeiras legend.
This is by no means a desperate move by Sonnen. Should he get the chance to fight Silva again – a victory over Mark Munoz on Jan. 28 will give him that opportunity – he could walk into the ring with Brazilian supporters, even if the fight were held in Brazil. Such is the power of soccer in Brazil. A brash, trash-talking American could walk into the ring in Brazil against a Brazilian legend and have a fan base.
This should be a teaching moment for Brazilian fighters and fight teams – being supported by a soccer team, regardless of your support for them, should be avoided. Brazilian fighters such as Shogun Rua have avoided connection with soccer clubs and enjoy unanimous support amongst Brazilians. Not so with Silva. For a fighter with the ability and personality of Silva – who already has national sponsorships from non-sporting entities such as Burger King – the support from Corinthians will likely have a cost of much more than $250k.
Anderson Silva announces new injury
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who already has been on the shelf due to a shoulder injury, told the Brazilian TV Show “Good Morning Brazil” that he is now dealing with a back injury, as well.
“I’m not sure when I’ll come back,” said Silva. “I have the shoulder injury, and another injury arose recently in my lower back, so I’m dealing with that now.”
While the UFC has examined Silva and seen he has bursitis in his shoulder, the lower back injury has yet to be confirmed by doctors. Dan Henderson, who along with teammate Chael Sonnen are angling for rematches with the Spider, stated he’s not convinced the shoulder injury is real.
“All the ‘injuries’ that keep Anderson from a rematch with me or Chael will heal real fast if they offer Bisping to him,” said Henderson.
December 5, 2011
As of this very moment, there are two men that are dominating the news – and both of them are just awful at their chosen professions. But amazingly enough, we are all witnessing mediocrity rise to incredible heights as a lousy NFL quarterback is leading his team to victories while a lousy politician is leading the race for the GOP nomination for President.
Yes, my friends, with Newt Gingrich and Tim Tebow, America is putting its worst foot forward and getting a chance to enjoy the fruits of lousiness. And while the two are incredibly different in many ways, there are some striking similarities to their current runs of success.
Unexamined, both Tebow and Gingrich look like winners. Tebow has led the Denver Broncos to six victories in seven games, often pulling off miracle comebacks to get the job done. Gingrich has managed to become the consensus front-runner of the race to the GOP nomination, despite having his campaign all but die at birth.
There is one simple reason for the duo’s success, however – an incredible lack of competition. Tebow’s six victories have come against teams with a combined 29-42 record, with none of them resembling a playoff team.
For Gingrich, his race to the top of the GOP comes against an even worse field. Keep in mind, Herman Cain was the GOP front-runner only a scant few weeks ago. Donald Trump has spent time on top of the polls. For the most part, Gingrich has ascended to the top for one main reason – his name isn’t Mitt Romney.
Thus, the current successes of Gingrich and Tebow have mostly come in spite of themselves. Gingrich is no doubt an experienced politician, but his barrage of affairs and divorces make Kim Kardashian look like a spokesperson for successful marriage. Add to that the fact that he is more of a flip-flopper on issues than Romney, as well as his bizarre, angry white guy proclamations – such as his latest push of ending child labor laws because poor children have no one around them that has a work ethic – and it becomes clear that Gingrich is not just out of touch with modern America, he’s not even within shouting distance.
And while Tebow is obviously a very talented athlete, his quarterbacking abilities are abysmal. He has virtually no field vision and the passing game obviously moves far too fast for him to react. He often looks like a punter trying to make a throw on a trick play rather than a starting quarterback. And while it’s worked thus far against mediocre competition, an option quarterback just has no place in the modern NFL.
Keep in mind, the differences between the two are greater than the similarities. Tebow is a likable young man who is earnest in his religious beliefs. He has natural leadership skills – make no mistake, the Broncos have become a better football team solely due to him.
Gingrich, on the other hand, is about as unlikable a person as exists in America today. His religious beliefs – he’s a Catholic now, by the way – are completely transparent and self-serving. His leadership abilities have wrecked his own party and created political discourse that makes schoolyard taunting look like an MIT lecture. The GOP is a worse party, solely due to him.
In the end, we are currently watching a lousy quarterback win NFL games and a lousy politician lead the GOP field. But one thing can be said with the utmost certainty – both Gingrich and Tebow will see their seasons end in humiliating defeat.