Dear Sports: Welcome to the 21st Century

“I’m gay.”

A short, declarative sentence. A sentence said, in other contexts, many times a day. A sentence that most of us are no longer shocked by.

And yet, with that sentence, the sports world finally entered the 21st century.

When Jason Collins came out in an article in Sports Illustrated, he brought into the open a fact that any thinking person already knew was true: there are professional athletes that are gay. We all knew it — every player and coach knew it, all the GMs knew it, all the suits knew it. The only problem was, no one talked about — at least, not openly. No one was willing to be the first.

Now that Jason Collins has broken the silence, we will surely learn of other gay athletes in the four major male professional sports. There were already openly gay players in the women’s sports (Britney Griner, for just the latest example). But until this week, no male pros had gone public. Now one has, and we can be thankful: thankful for his courage, thankful that we no longer have to keep up a charade, thankful that others now have the psychic space to be who they are, thankful that another area of secrets has been made unnecessary.

Jason Collins has had a peripatetic pro basketball career. He has not set the basketball world on fire, averaging about 3 points a game and playing with a number of different teams. He is, in short, a pro basketball journeyman.

So it is with both pride and excitement that we can say something that a few days ago seemed unlikely:

Jason Collins, your play was a game-changer. Congratulations.