Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Theory: ESPN Had Collins is Gay on Ice

Small tidbit involving the short bus that is sports media and coordinated events. Recall the hoopla that the sports world and mainstream media had for Jason Collins coming out? First active gay athlete! He's black and gay! It felt a bit over the top and phony. The timing seemed a bit interesting with it coming at the start of the NBA off-season and during one of the media's pre-Supreme Court decision pushes for gay marriage. A reader of Bill Simmons emailed him about his spot on prediction of a player coming out of the closet and Simmons put it in his mailbag. The innocent tidbit might tip a media watcher off to the background work on the Collins coming out media event.

From ESPN:

Q: A mailbag reader emailed you asking when the first American athlete comes out. Your response: "Great question. I think it will happen within the next 30 months. It will be someone who isn't a superstar but a recognizable player — like a third starter in baseball, or a swingman in basketball (no pun intended) — and someone who's closer to the end of his career. I think it will be basketball or baseball. Someone SHOULD do this. They'd become an icon in the gay community and much more marketable/famous. It's a smart career move."
This exchange happened on Nov. 23, 2010. [Jason] Collins came out on [April] 29, 2013. If you said a more conventional timeframe I wouldn't have e-mailed you. But exactly 30 months? Who says "30 months" in response to anything?
Let me play amateur detective and conspiracy theorist rolled into one. This was not the only time Simmons pushed the idea that an athlete should come out. He would cite endorsement opportunities as the big upside. Simmons even mentioned how Mark Cuban thought it'd be a good, marketable thing. There is a quid pro quo vibe to it all. Collins was going to use ESPN for a guilt trip contract, and the media would use Collins as a gay panda, rubbing it in black's faces, too. Look at Collins' contract history. He was signing one year contracts. ESPN's extensive network of reporters and sources have tabs on what is going on, and might have sent feelers out to a gay player or two's agent. Back scratching. The odd thing was Simmons' prediction of baseball or basketball. Those sports have the smallest teams so fewer players to choose from probability wise, and clubhouse cohesion may be a factor in coming out.

Still amazing in the hunt for the first gay athlete that the media missed a pretty obvious one right in the New York City area. Kerry Rhodes was a very successful defensive back for the NY Jets. Weird how the media teased NYers with the idea that a NY baseball player was gay for years in the late '90s/early '00s, but overlooked Rhodes. He was also telegenic, and could have been a good spokesman for their crusade. How'd they miss him? It might be because he doesn't really change stereotypes. He is a media hound, loves the camera, loves jewelry, has made forays into acting, and is a bit of a dramatic show boater at times. He might not have been the hulking macho figure that they would want to break stereotypes like a 6'10" NBA center. Once again, the media kept insinuating Mike Piazza was gay even after he was engaged to a Playboy playmate. Maybe access journalism is at play here. Maybe Rhodes wanted it squashed and silenced, but Collins needed the media for one more million dollar deal.

When Simmons predicted 30 months it took him right to the end of an NBA off-season. An opportunistic NBA player would want to roll that out for a guilt trip contract from the league. Look at Collins' stats and playing time. Collins was signing one year deals and was a stiff back up center at 30. There is always a new 6'10" hungry and younger journeyman to draft or sign cheaply every year to bump old Collins off the bench. Collins or his agent probably reached out to ESPN with the thought that the guilt trip contract could be an ace in the hole. Each April Collins could use the coming out story if he felt he needed it for a contract and get great press. He might have wanted one year too long though as his body is a bit used up. Collins and ESPN overplayed their hand with fans because in a nation where countless fans overlook the criminal behavior of their team's role players who the hell cares who they fall in love with?


klejdys said...

Trust me, I'm probably just as onto this shit as you are, but I don't buy it. I mean, it implies the ESPN grapevine goes from beat reporters (who in 2010 didn't cover individual teams - those are usually non-ESPN affiliated) all the way to Simmons.


"He might not have been the hulking macho figure that they would want to break stereotypes like a 6'10" NBA player"

No one would really describe Collins as hulking, or even overtly masculine. More soft-spoken and effective at the rim (heh).

I do think the smaller conspiracy is that Collins wanted one more payday and hoped to get it as either the guy who broke down the walls for gay players or by getting those endorsement dollars by being gay OR, finally, maybe parlaying that into a column or TV gig. But in the end, he's just not that interesting and most red-state whites didn't provide the fodder for our cultural betters to beat them over the head with, so the story quickly moved on, with the only objections now coming in that "someone SHOULD sign him!" but no one really backing it up with any strong analytical reasons.

Son of Brock Landers said...

You bring up a good point on using him as a prop. I also liked Charles Barkley covering for all NBA guys by saying they've all had a gay teammate but didnt make a big deal of it. Yeah, whatever Chuck.

The agent-reporter network is a two way street. Yes I do think ESPN would discuss things with Simmons as he drives o many page visits. The man has 2.5 mil twitter followers. You know how Big Lead posted on TO filing a lawsuit on Drew Rosenhaus for pushing him into bad investments with cronies? I emailed McIntyre over a year ago about that exact idea, but who will investigate agents when they can shut your access off?

PRCD said...

When I think of ESPN, I think of fat middle-aged douche bags who spend all their time gossiping about sports instead of picking up a barbell. It's somehow masculine in this society to have a head full of the crap they sling on Sports Center where pencil-necked, unathletic weaklings opine on the hawtest black bucks.

Stop watching pro sports. Cancel your cable. Have a big back. Smirk at weaklings who try to make fun of you when you say you don't follow sports.