Who is Jason Collins? If you were to have asked me two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue.
Given some more context, such as time, place and an example, I might have guessed that he was a basketball player. And after Googling his name I found out that he is a basketball player for the Washington Wizards.
He has been a backup center for his entire 11-year NBA career. He averaged 1.1 points per game, 1.6 rebounds per game and .3 blocks per game in the 2012-2013 season. He has done nothing to cause anyone to stand up and take notice for his entire NBA career, except be 7 feet tall — until now.
Now Jason Collins will go down in history as the first openly gay man to play in the NBA, except he hasn’t actually played the game since coming out a little over two weeks ago. In fact he may never play in the NBA because he is close to retirement age and will be a free agent next year.
So if he hadn’t gained notoriety for being gay would we have known who he was? I’m afraid not. The real question is this: Why does it matter?
Why should the sports nation be in such a tizzy over someone admitting they are gay?
There are hundreds, nay, thousands of people all over the world who admit they are gay and they don’t get heralded as pioneers.
It reminds me of the 1991 announcement by Magic Johnson about being HIV positive. Hundreds, nay, thousands of people before him had made the same announcement and hadn’t been called a hero by the president of the United States — George H. W. Bush called Magic a hero, just as President Obama called Collins a hero.
If they weren’t famous, those of us outside their circle of friends wouldn’t even care.
Unfortunately, the root of the problem stems from modern media. If we didn’t hype the golly-gee-whiz out of the littlest — and biggest — things, maybe people could live their own lives instead of vicariously living through the famous.
Who is Jason Collins?