I really have a hard time grasping why the personal life of an athelete is becoming such big news. I sincerely thought of this as a non-issue and had no intention of any deeper thought or musings on the story from ESPN The Magazine that hit the stands yesterday. For those that have not been innudated by the traditional media blitz on the topic and somehow managed to miss the several hundred blog entries in the past 24 hours, Sheryl Swoopes booked a trip on a lesbian cruise line, they saw her on the roster and asked her if she would be a spokesperson. She decided that it was time for her to stop "pretending to be somebody I'm not" and gave an exclusive interview to the ESPN print magazine and also announced her sponsorship of the Olivia Cruise Line. She was once the spearhead of the "we're not gay" marketing motion of the league in its early days when she was married and pregnant. She reportedly left UT for Texas Tech because of unwanted advances by players. After her divorce she had what she says were her first feelings towards a woman and she has been in a long term relationship with that woman since that time. Together they raise Sheryl's eight-year old son.
Apparently this is all big news. I just don't understand why. I read an excellent article by Mechelle Voepel that made me reconsider my stance, but I still lack the understanding that makes it all clear to me. Perhaps I have a hard time grasping the importance of Sheryl's decision to go public with what is truly private because I lack the appropriate perspective. I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to be a woman, gay, famous, an athelete or for that matter to be a famous, gay, woman athelete (wouldn't life be so much more rich if we all could easily slide into and out of the perspectives of others). I am not blind to, nor ignorant of the pervasive poison of fear and hatred of those that are different that permeates modern society. I personally try to fill my life with people who are not tainted by that fear or that hatred and remain tolerant of but distant from those are thus tainted. I endeavor to make clear that I do not agree with the voices of fear and hatred when I am confronted by them so as to avoid the dangers of implied consent, and I stuggle with my own intolerance of the intolerant.
Personally, I am glad that one who has given so much to others is able to give a little something to herself and those she loves. I am thrilled that she is able to live up to the WNBA slogan "This is who I am." I am ashamed that we as a species have been unable to purge fear and hatred of ourselves from our society. I am saddened that people around the world live lives in shadow, secrecy and misery because of the fear created in them by the fear expressed by others.
It is impossible for me to imagine a world where I could not talk about the person I love with anyone with whom I felt like sharing personal conversation. I cannot imagine being self conscious about what I say or do when in front of others with regard to how it might impact my job or any other aspect of my life.
I understand that Sheryl will serve as a role model in a different way than she already does, and that is a great thing. Every child, even the grown up ones, needs quality role models. Sheryl is certainly a person to be admired for who she is as well as for what she has accomplished.
In the end, I guess while this may not be big news for me, I will stop my rant that it should not be big news at all.