Yes, It Matters.
Jason Collins and the Brooklyn Nets made history last night. With 10:28 remaining in the second quarter, Collins checked into the Nets matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, marking the first time that an openly gay male athlete competed in a major American team sport. Collins’ stat line was relatively pedestrian: 10 minutes, 2 rebounds, 5 fouls, a steal, and zero points. All-in-all, nothing particularly special, and roughly in line with expectations for what he is able to contribute at 35-years-old.
Should we care? Does it matter? Absolutely.
Esteemed co-blogger extraordinaire discussed this very question earlier this month when NFL prospect Michael Sam came out, writing:
There are gay kids who, like vast numbers of their straight fellows, live and love and breathe team sports, America’s secular religion. I wasn’t that kid, but God knows they’re out there. And they have had nobody to show them that that kind of life was open to people like them.
And while those words were written about the potential career that Michael Sam was about to embark on, they are no less applicable to Collins.
Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal goes a step further, answering the question of why this matters and blasting those who ask whether it does so disingenuously:
Let’s assess the history here. I think the signing of Jason Collins is history. To be truthful, I’m not super-interested in hearing a crabby chorus from the Who Cares crowd—whenever you engage on a topic like Jason Collins, you inevitably hear from the Who Cares crowd. I know the people who chirp Who Cares like to position this Who Cares as evidence of some sort of ultra-detached free thinking, but saying Who Cares about something like Jason Collins signing with an NBA team sounds a lot more like a socially acceptable way of diminishing the news, stripping Collins of his due and a genuine moment of its joy. Who Cares doesn’t sound like an honest rendering of this event or its impact. It sounds like being a crank. This is not to say that everyone needs to be excited or jumping up and down because the Nets have signed Collins to a 10-day contract. But it is to say that some people will find true inspiration in this moment. Just because something is not meaningful to you doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful.
This is history. Some folks may not like it. Some folks may express a similar opinion that a caller did on this morning’s Robin Lundberg show when he asked why we should be celebrating immorality. Which is their right. But none of that diminishes that Jason Collins walking out onto that court Sunday night with a Brooklyn Nets jersey on made history. Who cares? Lots and lots and lots of people.