Time to cross the line

Speaking of things we're way, way behind on.  But with all the sad news about Boston hitting recently, I received a timely reminder about what the Revolution's Kevin Alston is going through:

If they want to help this kid, go to marrow.org. Get registered. Get tissue-typed & be a donor. It is incredibly easy & painless. It just takes a commitment of time & effort. In so doing you very well may save a life. I'm sorry if that sounds trite - but it really is true.

Of course, I encourage you all to do so.  The Portland Timbers have gotten themselves a free pass into heaven this week with their wonderful friendly against the Green Machine, but you don't have to be an MLS franchise to fight cancer.  Stop reading now if you don't want to hear all about me.

The last two times I gave blood, I flat-out fainted.  After juice and cookies, I was politely told by the very nice people at the Red Cross to not give blood anymore, dumbass.  This is a very different procedure, but it's still something I need to nut up and go through with.

"Loney, you wimp, we all did it already, back when we first heard about Alston.  And ever since we heard about Atticus Lane-Dupre and Portland, we've been telling our friends.  Where have you been?"

I know, I know, it's nothing, I should have done it years ago.  But I felt light-headed just signing up at marrow.org, and felt I had to get permission from my wife before signing up.  If my number is called up, hold my feet to the fire and make sure I go through with it.  And make me re-read the FAQ's where it says that it'll hurt less than stubbing your toe.

Fine, so I thought they took a power drill and scooped out the delicious bone goo.  I'm an idiot.  But I'm an idiot who signed up, at least.  Maybe next week I'll, I don't know, get back to the comedy.

Sadly, not anytime soon.

Okay, I realize people are getting really tired of my ponderous social justice crap, but it would really be a shame if closeted MLS players let Jason Collins hang out to dry without a word.

Well, maybe there aren't any closeted MLS players.  I'll take that theory under advisement.  But it's been a few days now, and the silence is starting to get pretty deafening.

Fine, it's a tough, tough call.  Just like it was for Collins.  There's really a surprisingly easy rule of thumb for this.  If a player's reason for remaining silent is so good that he could look Collins in the eye and say, "I'm not coming out because of X," then fine.

Even today, it's really no one's call except the player himself and the fellow in the mirrow.  But this is one of those historical, cut and dried, where were you when, either be a union man or thug for J.H. Blair moments that define legacies.  That's not my opinion, that's just bleeding obvious.

Maybe if it were me in the jock instead of at the keyboard, I'd think differently.  Although I would hope I'd see Collins out, realize that the risks he's taking are also mine, and support him.  It's easy - VERY easy - for me to say I wish I could, but I can't, so it's up to someone else whose voice would matter.

Of course it's not the easy way.  Because that's why people become pro soccer players in America, they want to do things the easy way.

I don't mean to pick on MLS, of course.  Closeted NFL, MLB, and other NBA players - also hockey, which some are calling America's fifth major sport - they're doing Collins, themselves, and posterity a disservice too.  But since MLS is the one that's been so justifiably proud about their acceptance campaign, it would be refreshing to see someone take them up on it.

Because right now, we're heading for "Only Gay Male Professional Athlete In America Comes Out," and that's just stupid.

Here's what bothers me, in a nutshell - go read this Wikipedia chart real quick and come back.  I'll wait.

Two years?! between Jackie Freaking Robinson, Larry Freaking Doby, and the two guys on the St. Louis Browns, before another team integrated.  Sure, all those guys did was help turn Brooklyn and Cleveland into contenders, but the Dodgers and Indians had always been powerhouse dynasties and perennial champions.  Apart from the odd decade or two without a pennant before integrating.  Other teams should have been falling all over themselves to help themselves to the talent, and there are no untroubling reasons why they didn't.

It also certainly wasn't as if there weren't other good black players.  If, in another reality, Bill Veeck had signed black players onto the wartime Phillies, it would have been players like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Double Duty Radcliffe against a bunch of white 4-Fs.  The Phillies would have won 130 games and swept the World Series.

This is how entrenched racism was in American society.  Six years after Robinson's debut, more than half of major league baseball was still segregated.  The Boston Red Sox would cheerfully have spent decades being the Yankees' whipping boys rather than integrate.  The Yankees themselves resisted integration vigorously, and were the one exception to the rule that integrated teams had more success...but they would pay the price in the 1960's, when the farm system ran dry and the Kansas City Athletics ceased to be their major league subsidiary.

I'm not here to play Which Prejudice Is Worse or Which Prejudice Is More Intractable, but the fact remains that none of Robinson's existing teammates could "come out" as black.  Gay players could (and do) choose to remain invisible.

Except for two things - with black players in the 40's and 50's, clubs could bar the way before those players were signed.  Closeted players today, as I've pointed out repeatedly, have already leaped that hurdle.

If closeted players don't support Collins, then we're going to see, at best, another scenario where it's years before other players follow.  And Collins, sadly, is nobody's all-star.  Robinson and Doby played season after season putting up stellar numbers, and still integration was a tough sell.  It could easily be the same for gay players.

There is of course the concern that coming out of the closet might hurt future employment.  Which, while not a particularly noble reason for remaining quiet, is understandable.  Interestingly, a certain former Leeds United player seems poised to add another dimension to the story.

Although there's drama in Major League Soccer this week about signing an openly gay player...and predictably, because it's Major League Soccer, there has to be a battery acid fight over player rights.  I have a sneaking suspicion we'll hear more of that story next week - hell, I sat on this damn post all week waiting for the other shoes to drop.  But depending on what happens where and to whom, our league may have a story that will actually have repercussions greater than Collins.

Seriously, every soccer blogger, twitterer, Facebooker, and open the window and shoutinger are just drooling at the thought of Robbie Rogers to the Galaxy or not.  It's like waiting for Christmas.   We'll do to electrons what Herod did to Judea's toddlers.  It'll be glorious.