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.
Apr 18, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT
And one serious mistake with respect to the Tigers.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:47 AM EDT
He may not care, but I’m going to write a research report about how you normalize ISPFMLBLSSR for different eras.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT
If this is true, you’d have to think the Philly Phanatic would have a no-fly zone imposed over him.
Apr 18, 2014, 6:47 AM EDT
Adam Wainwright turned in the latest of several dominant pitching performances around Major League Baseball this week.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
The Phillies’ rotation is about to get stronger.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
The Twins scored six runs on one hit, eight walks (!) and three wild pitches in the bottom of the eighth inning tonight.
Apr 17, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
Jonathan Papelbon had a little more giddy-up on his fastball today, but don’t ask him about it.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Jeremy Jeffress turned down a minor league assignment with the Blue Jays and will seek an opportunity elsewhere.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT
Lots of teams watched Joel Hanrahan throw today.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT
Yangervis Solarte, Brian Roberts, and Scott Sizemore turned a triple play and got CC Sabathia out of a potential jam.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Mike Napoli suffered a dislocated finger on Tuesday, but only had to miss one game.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Shane Victorino has been sidelined since the end of spring training with a hamstring strain.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
Yet another injury for Lorenzo Cain.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Ji-Man Choi, a Triple-A first baseman in the Mariners’ farm system, has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug methandienone.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:08 PM EDT
You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you have Yasiel Puig … Yasiel Puig . . .
Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT
Slow starts for the well-paid are beginning to be reversed.
Apr 17, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson was fantastic this afternoon against the Blue Jays, shutting them out for eight innings of four-hit ball. Gibson struck out four, walked one, and lowered his ERA to 0.93 on the season.
Apr 17, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT
This is some good nonsense for a slow day.
Apr 17, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT
It’s really, really cold in Minnesota right now and they’re playing outdoor baseball.
Apr 17, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Your mileage may vary, but a 1-0 game in which each starter go the distance is baseball at its most sublime.
- Hank Aaron is getting vile racist hate mail in retaliation for pointing out that racism still exists (244)
- “They Don’t Know Henry” (167)
- The Red Sox are still steamed that a PED guy played against them in the playoffs last year (133)
- Doug Glanville’s story about being racially profiled at his own home (125)
- There is still a racial divide in baseball (112)