Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jason Collins: The Greatest Hero Who Has Ever Lived

The word “courage” used to mean something. No longer. The meaning of one of Antiquity’s cardinal virtues has been diluted to the point of nothingness.

Enter Jason Collins, the basketball player who announced that he was gay.

This was earthshattering news stealing front page headlines across the nation.

The news worthiness of the announcement is debatable. What is far more interesting to me is the implied and sometimes explicitly stated narrative that Jason Collins was somehow “courageous” for coming out.

ABC’s “World News” anchor, Diane Sawyer, led Monday night’s broadcast by gushing about an “an act of personal courage.”

She also referred to Jason Collins as “a powerhouse player in the NBA,” which is just not true.

President Obama declared  “I couldn't be prouder of Jason Collins,” and scores of other media personalities and celebrities are falling over themselves to offer their support and praise.

Let’s get something straight—no pun intended.  

Jason Collins is an aging basketball player on the tail end of an infinitely unspectacular career. His career scoring average is a highly unimpressive 3.6 points/game. He also averaged a meager 3.8 rebounds/game. He played 6 games this regular season, and is by no means guaranteed to be picked up by a team for the 2013-2014 season.

That puts him somewhere between role player and “who is Jason Collins?” and never earned him a sizable contract relative to other basketball players (He earned roughly $33 million over a 12 year career). 

His one obligatory endorsement was with Nike.   

By coming out, Collins goes from an obscure NBA player to a pop culture icon revered by the liberal news and entertainment media.

He is going to be on the cover of every national magazine, and he can potentially now make a lot of money.

He is going to attend all the fancy parties in Hollywood and New York, where he will be the guest of honor.

Leaving no mark on the basketball court, he now establishes an indelible legacy as the first openly gay athlete in one of the four major sports.

In other words, his “courageous” decision to come out will lead to fame, potential fortune, and a legacy.

Is there a potential downside of his coming out? I cannot think of one. Perhaps if he was just starting his career, he would be risking delving into the unknown. How would NBA veterans react to his homosexuality, would they treat him differently in the locker room, etc.

But the fact that he is on the verge of retiring renders his coming out completely risk-free. There are no downsides, only benefits.

So that brings us to the question of courage. If courage requires personal sacrifice, or taking a risk, or venturing into the unknown, then Jason Collins’ decision to come out cannot be possibly be considered an act of courage.

He is not going to be ostracized by the NBA; on the contrary, he will be publicly embraced and celebrated.         

He certainly will not be ostracized by our open, gay-friendly society. In short, he can only benefit. He cannot lose.

Jason Collins made the right decision to come out. But his is hardly an act of courage.         

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