Jallen Messersmith is a basketball player at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. He's also gay. He made that announcement on Wednesday on outsports.com, a Website that covers gay issues in men's sports.
Messersmith's announcement earned him five thick paragraphs in the "Briefly'' section on Page 2C of Wednesday's Star Tribune. Next to Mike Rand's mug shot, "Briefly'' could be the most-prominent portion of the pithy and informative daily effort on Page 2C, so getting five graphs makes it a fairly big deal in the view of our decision-makers.
For sure, if Messersmith had scored 50 points to lead Benedictine to a semifinal victory in the NAIA basketball tournament, he would have been lucky to get a sentence in "Briefly,'' but this is coming out time in male sports and there are a lot of fellows competing to be considered gay pioneers.
According to Associated Press, Messersmith "is believed to be the first openly gay player in U.S. men's basketball.''
I get confused here. The guy who was smooching with his 60-year-old boyfriend in a press box a few months ago ... that was football, JUCO football, right?
And then we have Jason Collins, the NBA free agent, who started this media extravaganza by announcing he was gay, which allowed to the Prez himself, Mr. Obama, to step away from the scandals for a few minutes to offer his heartiest congratulations.
Collins was advertised as the first openly gay male athlete in a major American professional team sport, even though he may never play a game in the full spotlight of his gayness, since he's old and not very effective and doesn't have a contract for the 2013-14 season.
No matter. Collins' revelation was such big news that Minnesota's own Carolyn Moos, Jason's female companion for a number of years, plans to write a book. As they say in Canada, "Eh?''
Collins was followed to the "I'm gay'' podium by a soccer player I've never heard of, who was rushed into the lineup of some MLS team, so that he could be first the openly gay male athlete to actually participate in a major American professional team sport, even if it is "major'' in title only.
I'm all for gay rights. I'm all for gay marriage -- both as a right of two human beings and as a boost to the economy. If the guys and gals do it right later this summer, the dinner the night before the wedding, the flowers, the reception ... that should run to 30 grand per nuptial, multiplied by maybe 2,000 weddings.
This could be the extra boost to the economy we need to pay off the public share of the Taj Ma Zygi, the new Vikings' palace.
Plus, I think there's a dang good chance I could sell my little house in Golden Valley to a gay couple if they have chosen not to be burdened with children.
Yes, sir, Marry up. I'm all for you.
The deal is, I don't give a hoot if Jallen Messersmith is gay. I didn't really give a hoot that Jason Collins is gay, or if Carolyn Moos is now puzzled as to her eight-year relationship with the big man. And the soccer guy ... Ricky, Ronnie, Riley, something like that, last name Rogers, the odds of me watching him play remain the same, gay or not.
I think what we need here is a summit with ESPN, a committee of the nation's sports editors and an organization with the power to speak for gay America. And what this summit would be asked to determine is when we have a sports pioneer in the area of male gayness, and when we don't.
Right now, the media is running amok, so determined to be on the cutting edge that an NAIA basketball player gets himself seven graphs of precious space because he tells a Website that he's gay.
If there aren't some firm guidelines, this "first openly gay male athlete in [fill in the blank]'' is going to get completely out of control. If Jallen Messersmith from an NAIA school qualifies, what happens when we get the first male basketball player in Division III, then Division II, and then Division I, and then in the NCAA tournament, and then in the Sweet Sixteen, and then in the Elite Eight, then in the Final Four, and then, my goodness, break out the huge headlines ... in the National Championship Game.
And then the NFL ... do you think if we don't get some control of this, that Outside the Lines is going to settle for merely the first openly gay player in the biggest, baddest league in the history of American sports. Heck, no, it's not.
We'll have the first gay player. And then we'll have the first quarterback, and then the first receiver, and then the first running back, and then the first left tackle, the first slot cornerback -- on and on, until we get to this:
"Barkevious Blutarsky of the Green Bay Packers announced today that he is gay, making him the first openly gay long snapper to hike in the National Football League.''
The American sports media has to get its ducks in a row on gay male team sports pioneers. I don't want five graphs of my morning "Briefly'' devoted to the future Jallen Messersmiths.
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