Real Sportsmen Worry about the Popping Crease

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

 

––An American footballer visiting the UK saw a polo player readying for a match and asked, “what’s that?” The polo player answered, “the polo pony I ride when I play polo.” The American athlete put on his best mock serious expression and responded, “so you need another animal between your legs to make you man enough to play,” and broke into choke-inducing guffaws at his own wit. Later, the footballer and his Baseball player friend came across a game of cricket in progress. The baseball player, knowing only that Cricket used a bat, was shocked to see that it was held down, perpendicular to the ground. He said to his pal that the Brits must have chosen Cricket over baseball because they had trouble keeping their wood up.

Making fun of the sports, and the manhood of sportsmen, of our United Kingdom cousins is its own genre for some Americans. Those wishing to seem a little worldlier toss in a cursory exception for rugby when declaiming to their fellow macho men about the S&M bent of Polo (riding boots, kneepads and whips) or the effeteness of Cricket (wickets and creases).

In July of last year I wrote this about British Lions rugby legend Gareth Thomas’ coming out: “He came out to Helen Weathers of The Mail on December 19, 2009, and Bernard Goldberg (on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel) was still able to say to him in June of this year that he was the only out professional athlete playing for a major team sport.” And this was still true, on both sides of the pond, on February 26th of this year, 2011. It’s been well over a year since Gareth Thomas came out and in that time not one American athlete in Baseball, basketball or football has come out. Those sports can show a handful of retired players who are gay. The bitter struggle that recently ended the harmful and unfair DADT policy in our military has made us familiar with some of the brave gay women and men who have been serving our country. We know there are many more gay service members than these courageous public faces because of the more than 14,000 firings that took place under DADT since 1993.

Do baseball, basketball, and football (and hockey and soccer) expect Americans to believe that the men who play these sports only become gay once they retire, or that there are no gay athletes in team sport? Do they think playing these sports requires more guts than serving in the military? American sport is in a shameful state where closeted gay athletes fear being honest and must look across the Atlantic for real men and for real sportsmanship.

For over a year gay athletes have been able to look to Gareth Thomas and to the game of rugby that has responded in a sportsmanlike way to his coming out, but not one has had the courage. Now they have another real man who might show them the way. On February 27th 24-year old Steven Davies bravely became the first out gay Cricketer. To see the future of sport read and view Steven’s coming out interview. You will also see the future of humanity; perhaps you’ll join it.

 

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