I'm not sure what any of this means, because I suspect it depends entirely on who you are and where your head happens to be, but the collision/commingling of gay and lesbian issues and the sporting world are now in warp drive, to wit:
• Tony Dungy is being assailed by gay groups for his plan to raise money for the Indiana Family Institute, a group that opposes gay marriage and gay adoption rights, and believe gays can be "cured" of their "affliction."
• Rene Portland, Penn State University and former player Jennifer Harris have reached a settlement in Harris' lawsuit against Portland and the school for anti-gay bias, asserting that she was kicked off the team in considerable because Portland thought Harris was gay, which she apparently isn't.
• And now, John Amaechi, the former Penn State and Orlando Magic player, will come out of the closet through the auspices of a new book about his life, due out later this month.
|How does Tony Dungy, who will be honored at an Indiana Family Institute banquet, handle the inevitable criticism? (AP)|
Dungy has made a point of including his faith as a major tenet in his coaching philosophy, and up until now it has been accepted as another facet of a serious, principled and devout man. But the IFI flap, first noticed last week far from the madness of SB41, suddenly turns Dungy into the one thing he surely didn't want to be here -- a political football.
Maybe he knows what the IFI is about; maybe he is utterly unaware. Maybe he regards it as an insignificant portion of the group's mission. We'll find out soon enough.
But there is about be a hard rain poured down upon his head, so soon after being hailed for his coaching and demeanor and devotion and humanity, and it will not end well. Either he will be shocked, or hardened, or just plain pissed off about being hurled into the rosebush of gay politics, but that's how it plays, and therefore that's what it is.
The Harris story brings a quiet, thuddy end to what should have been a test case for the rights of gay athletes not to be discriminated against for their gayness, even if, as Harris claims it is, only perceptual.
As pointed out by a number of commentators on this largely sub-radar story, Penn State stood behind Portland and mealy-mouthed its way through the issue, fighting off extended financial liability rather than addressing the underlying claim -- that Portland has had persistent and antagonistic issues with gay athletes.
The settlement assures that none of those charges will be brought to light, leaving both Harris' claims and Portland's refutation of those claims to blow into the wind, to fade and then blow away with the wind. Nothing is delivered, for nothing is revealed. The lawyers did their job. Feh.
And now, Amaechi, who is supposed to come out via the pages of Man in the Middle (scheduled for a Valentine's Day release).
And, like Esera Tuaolo, and Billy Bean (as opposed to Billy Beane), and Dave Pallone, and David Kopay, and others before him, they will drift into a strange obscurity, acknowledged and then immediately thereafter ignored, because that's how the machine deals with its gay and lesbian sistren and brethren. A quick nod, and then back behind the curtain.
In other words, this is old ground, all of it.
The most interesting twist is how Dungy chooses to cope with something slightly more critical than "can't win the big one." The least interesting is probably going to be Amaechi's book, unless it goes somewhere that the other coming-out books go.
And the weirdest is the Penn State story, because everything that needed to be said on both sides is now proscribed by the benefits of dual confidentiality agreements, which we assume to be in place since nobody has divulged anything about the settlement, even the dollar amount.
But it's still the same old, same old, not even told a different way. It's like the trench warfare of World War I -- the soldiers changed because the old ones all got shot, but the trenches never moved. It was a four-year tape loop with lots of dead people on the side.
And so is this, with a different kind of carnage. The lesson? Societal change is measured in micrometers, and sometimes the amount of change is simply too close to zero to be anything but zero.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.