Apr 18, 2012, 8:33 AM EDT
This comes up from time to time, and today it’s my friend Graham Womack who brings it up:
It’s one of the last remaining areas of bigotry in America, persecution of gays, and not surprisingly, baseball isn’t much evolved … With estimates that 10 percent of people are gay or lesbian, chances are good that a sport of 750 players (up to 1,200 after September call-ups) already has a gay All Star or two. I’ll celebrate when the day comes that he plays openly.
I’ll celebrate too, but I’m not exactly holding my breath, either, because as I’ve argued in the past (longtime readers will remember it, so feel free to skip to the next post), things other than bigotry prevent a ballplayer from coming out of the closet. Indeed, I think bigotry may not even be at the top of the list.
Yes, there will be idiots and bigots who say stupid hateful things if a player — let’s call him Johnny Robinson — comes out of the closet while on a major league roster.* Comments sections of blogs and other dark corners of the web will spew their usual garbage, but they’re gonna do that anyway. I’m more interested in what the public at large thinks, and I think the public at large will, on the surface anyway, be pretty accepting.
Why? Because — as I wrote a couple of years ago — there is an inverse relationship between the vehemence of anti-gay rhetoric and the specificity with which the gay target is identified. Bigoted jerks hate non-specific gay people to whom they can attribute the worst stereotypical behaviors and to whom they can ascribe an “agenda” with impunity. Put a name on the person, and the voices grow quieter (e.g. the gay neighbor down the street). Put a famous name on the person and they’re quieter still (e.g. the gay celebrity). Bigots are even more likely to accept gay family members. The point is that the more prominent any given gay person is, the less likely they are to receive an overt negative reaction. Mostly because bigots are cowards.
So if Johnny Robinson need not worry about overt public hatred and condemnation, why wouldn’t he come out? My guess: it would be a gigantic distraction and overall pain in the ass for him.
While the tone of the reaction would be generally OK, the volume of the reaction would be overwhelming. Johnny Robinson would have 100 interview requests on Day One. He’d immediately be descended upon by a million baseball writers and, way worse, a million non-baseball writers, all trying to talk to him. Since they couldn’t all be in the clubhouse, they’d have to set up special press conferences. That would take away from Johnny Robinson’s pregame or postgame routine and one thing ballplayers hate is to have their routines disrupted.
It would be even worse in the offseason. Being a pioneer is inspirational, but it’s also really hard on the schedule in the 21st century. There are a lot of dinners, photo ops, guest appearances on talk shows, meta/cute playing oneself on progressive sitcoms, parades to grand marshal and all of the rest. At what point does Robinson get to take that postseason vacation? When does he slip back into is offseason workout regimen? When does he get to spend some quiet time with his boyfriend who, by the way, is probably going to become a minor celebrity himself, which makes it all even more complicated.
I can’t imagine Robinson wouldn’t be utterly crushed by that, and because of it, I can’t imagine the player who would want to subject himself to it, even if it presented itself to him with open, loving and accepting arms as opposed to bigotry.
My guess: the first openly gay ballplayer will wait until retirement. Which, while not the most inspirational thing possible, is totally understandable because baseball is hard enough as it is.
*People always mention Glen Burke here, but whether he was truly out while playing in the late 70s is an open question. Teammates knew and ownership reportedly knew, but it wasn’t generally known by the public. Heck, it’s probably the case that most people had no idea who Glen Burke was at the time.
Aug 29, 2015, 11:36 AM EDT
Morneau has been out since May 13 with a concussion symptoms and a cervical neck strain.
Aug 29, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
The catwalk at Tropicana Field strikes again. After it robbed Twins rookie Miguel Sano of a home run on Thursday night, it fooled Rays outfield Kevin Kiermaier on this two-run homer from Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales last night.
Aug 29, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT
Teixeira fouled a ball of his right leg on August 17 and hasn’t seen much in the way of improvement.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
With the Braves getting blown out by the Yankees last night, outfielder Jonny Gomes got an opportunity to pitch the top of the ninth inning. As you might expect, it was pretty entertaining.
Aug 29, 2015, 8:55 AM EDT
A quick recap from a busy Friday around MLB, including a dominant outing from Cole Hamels.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT
Ike Davis recently underwent hip surgery, but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training next year.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Chris Capuano has had an interesting season. In particular, he’s had a busy August.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:37 PM EDT
Baseball fans rejoice: Vin Scully will return to call Dodgers games in 2016.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s contract expires after the season. There’s a chance the Phillies decide to bring him back for the 2016 season.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:42 PM EDT
The Blue Jays added some depth on Friday, claiming 1B/OF Danny Dorn off waivers from the Diamondbacks.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
The Nationals weren’t happy with how the Jayson Werth bobblehead looked, so they’ll have a new one made and give it away to fans during the off-season.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Chris Heston will return to the Giants’ rotation to replace the injured Matt Cain on Sunday.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
Yasiel Puig is back on the disabled list with his second hamstring strain this season.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
AL West teams, including the Athletics, get the short end of the scheduling stick again in 2016.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
An unknown team claimed Padres closer Craig Kimbrel on revocable waivers.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Will the Red Sox exercise his $13 million option for 2016?
Aug 28, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
This is from an incident in June 2014
Aug 28, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
An important manifesto from a woman who is both a serious baseball fan and who does not deny the bleeding obvious.
Aug 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Rough timing for the impending free agent.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:44 PM EDT
Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks.
- Mark Teixeira says he’s having “serious pain” when he tries to run 1
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 9
- Vin Scully will return in 2016 for his 67th season of broadcasting 35
- The Athletics have a travel-heavy 2016 schedule and unsuccessfully tried to have it altered 10
- Mariners fire general manager Jack Zduriencik 71
- Pedro Martinez wonders if bad chemistry is the reason the Tigers and Mariners are out of contention 53
- Vote of non-confidence: Reds owner says manager Bryan Price won’t be fired before the season is over 23
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 86
- Sarah Palin sticks up for Curt Schilling, tells ESPN to “stick to sports” (262)
- Dan Patrick: When does ESPN cut ties with Curt Schilling? (200)
- Curt Schilling taken off of Little League World Series duty for making a really bad tweet (169)
- Curt Schilling taken off of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecast this week (134)
- Phillies announcer calls Mets fans “obnoxious” (123)