Early yesterday, a prominent sportswriter came out of the closet, and to everyone's surprise, it wasn't a woman.
Steve Buckley, longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, announced Thursday that he's gay. In one of the most public displays of courage (Remember, he's in Boston. Irish Catholics are probably second only to African-American Catholics when it comes to gay ignorance. Don't hate the truth. No homo.), Buckley came out to the world in an article he wrote. Entitled “Welcome to my coming-out party,” he explained how his decision was influenced by his mother's ongoing acceptance, and eventual support in opening himself up to the world.
“My mother and I had already had the gay talk, during which she had told me that nothing had changed, that she loved me, asked if I was seeing anybody, and so on. What she didn't like was the idea of me coming out publicly; she was of the opinion that it was really nobody's business, and she worried that prejudice might disrupt my career.
But like an NFL referee, she had overturned the original call. 'Do it,' she said. I thanked her. She smiled.”
Normally we would use this time to crack wise, like how we always thought Charley Steiner would make a great bear. Or, if he dated Martina Navratilova would he still be gay? Or maybe how Doris Burke should use this time to admit she goes to karaoke nights regularly. Or that Andrea Joyce likes to do more with little gymnasts than make them cry. (Or maybe that's what she's into?) I wonder if Ron Franklin thinks we should leave this one to the boys. Eh, sweetcakes?
But the cold, hard reality is that coming out as gay in the sports community has to be one of the hardest places to reveal that truth. This point is only exemplified by the fact he had been “out” for nearly seven-years to his family. Keep in mind, the last time a sportswriter admitted as much on paper — Los Angeles Times sports columnist Mike Penner announced in 2007 that he was transsexual and would begin living as a woman — he failed to live up to his own expectations, and tragically committed suicide at the age of 52.
Buckley might play it cool on paper, saying he's “been on the sidelines of Boston's gay community but not in the game,” admitting he thinks he “would have had a pretty good career in the (gay) Beantown Softball League,” but we know this decision came neither lightly, nor without the grave responsibility of bearing the burden of his own expectations, as well as every gay person working within this often homophobic field.
And while we could joke that all he had to do was join a women's softball league if he really wanted to be on a gay team, it would not be fair to his giant set of balls. The ones he needed to put his sexuality, profession, and maybe even life, on the line to be true to himself. After all, isn't that the sign of a great writer?