Sports Heroes and Gay Marriage

Same sex marriage is now legal in New York. Most people seem to be happy about it, but browsing the internet and Twitter for reaction to news can be very self selecting and biased. We can guess how "real" New Yorkers feel about it - "real" in the Sarah Palin "real" America sense - but for the most part, the city seems to be pretty stoked that a sizable group of people now has basic human rights.

I was down on Christopher Street the other night and remarked to my friend how it felt extra gay for some reason - perhaps because it is Pride month, and the parade is fast approaching, or simply because it was a warm Saturday night and I was standing outside of Duplex and who isn't at least a little gay when they're down in the Village? Either way, there was a general feeling in the air, with rainbow flags fastened to the facades of buildings and couples walking hand in hand that perhaps gays in New York were on the precipice of something huge.

Of course, not everyone was happy. Sports and gays have a complex relationship to say the least, but the major story last week involved former NY Giant David Tyree coming out (ha!) against gay marriage, claiming legislation would incite "anarchy" in New York.

He is right about the anarchy: in 30 days, every single Williams Sonoma in the city will be crushed by a wave of wedding registries, Fire Island will sink into the ocean under the sheer weight of honeymooning couples, and Christopher Street will run red!... with roses from thrown wedding bouquets.

He backed off his comments a little bit, but the point was made: Former Super Bowl Hero Hates Homos.

Pro sports are institutionally homophobic for many claimed reasons: naked men in the locker room, tradition, machismo, etc. Obviously, all of that is bunk. It can all be attributed to the fact that athletes spend their entire lives training, very little time socializing and tend to be ignorant about a whole host of social issues, let alone gays. We should not expect our athletes to have opinions about anything important: politics, global warming, the homeless, war, even reality TV. Why? BECAUSE THEY PLAY SPORTS FOR A LIVING. They do not create legislation, or solve issues, or do anything besides run and jump and throw and catch. Ask your neighbors or friends or parents about gay marriage, don't ask freaking David Tyree.

Now Tyree is well within his rights as an American to not like gays. By the way, that is the clear subtext to all anti-gay marriage proponents: if you are against gay marriage, you are against gay people. There is no separating the two. Tyree is allowed to not like gays, and talk about it freely, and donate money to anything. But when he says he would trade the HELMET CATCH for a defeat on gay marriage, that's when I get pissed.

David Tyree, shut up. Just shut up. You are responsible for the single greatest sports moment in my entire life, and in the lives of countless other Giants fans across the world. Do NOT sully our memory with your backwards ass opinions.

Which brings me to the absolute lunacy of having sports heroes. We live in a world where our athletes are constantly revealed for being idiots, in the same way our politicians and celebrities and normal folks are constantly exposed. It is all thanks to the internet. People did not get dumber, the exposure just became more universal. Bob Costas can love Mickey Mantle all he wants, but he needs to acknowledge that being a grown man and liking anything about an athlete other than how they played the game is an exercise in heartbreak.

I have essentially three male heroes in my life: my father, who is an excellent and heroic man and inspires me every day, his father, who kindled my love for writing, and my mother's father, who taught me it's possible to be both Jewish AND a gambling, scotch drinking badass. All three of them love or loved sports. None of them played them professionally - they are just fathers who actively and passively schooled me in what makes a man a man.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was, growing up with positive male role models. There are kids out there with sports dreams who idolize athletes and put them on a pedestal unbefitting of a glorified gladiator. But there are about 100 other places to go before choosing to love someone like David Tyree.

David Tyree was certainly not a hero of mine. He caught a ball in a game that made me happy for whatever reason. I had no stake in that game other than emotional, and if he had dropped the ball I would have kept on living. But he held on, and for that reason wove himself into my memories for all eternity. When I am using FutureTube to show my kids the day the Giants won the Super Bowl, I'm going to mention his name and hopefully will never remember his bigoted opinions.

Supporting gay rights is not about being progressive, or having gay friends, or being for equality, or accepting the inevitable or even recognizing basic human rights. It's about a moment in human history that is bigger than Catholics or Tea Parties or Republicans or Democrats or Stonewall or your nephew or hairdresser or teacher or friend. It's about a moment that is a microcosm of a bigger moment that we are all part of, when actual change is on the horizon and humanity lurches forward just an inch or two.

And it's about pulling your head out of your ass long enough to trap a ball against it.

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