FROM THE EDITOR
I love sport. I’m crap at it, but I love it.
After skiing for nearly ten years, you might think I’d be at a skill level of, perhaps, Intermediate or even Advanced. No, I’ve plateaued out at Quite Poor. I’ve been playing badminton since my teens, much to the amazement of my opponents who often think I’m new to the game. As a kid I played field hockey for several seasons. I was a keen but ungifted player. At the end of my second year they gave me the Just For Turning Up Award. I was thrilled! At primary school I actually came first in a running race on Athletics Day. When I showed Mum my blue ribbon she was shocked: “You won a race? On those bandy legs?”
Soccer, tennis, baseball – I’ve had a go at them all. I’ve put my hand up and said, “Pick me! I’ll be on the team!” But they’ve all looked away, a little embarrassed, and declined my application. I even tried horse riding until the day my malicious mount deliberately started running under low-hanging branches to try to knock me off. When that didn’t work, she simply walked over to a tree and leaned against it with me trapped against the trunk. I bet that never happened to Princess Anne. It was a lonely afternoon, indeed, wedged between a pissed-off, overweight pony and that eucalypt.
I’m crap at sport because I just am. It’s not because I’m gay. As it turns out, plenty of gays are quite good at sport and compete at elite and professional levels. Last year, so many gay and lesbian sports people kicked open the closet door and long-jumped out that it was hard to keep track of them all. No one in the DNA office, for example, noticed that Aussie tennis pro, Casey Dellacqua, had come out until months afterwards.
Once upon a time, gay sports people didn’t come out. We’ll probably never know about the gay and lesbian Olympians, tennis champs and football players of 50 years ago. But in 1981, two tennis legends, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, both came out. They lost millions in endorsements and sponsorships as a result but they changed the landscape. Gradually, others followed. UK soccer player Justin Fashanu came out in 1990 with tragic consequences that lead to him ending his own life. Diver Greg Louganis came out as both gay and HIV-positive in 1994. Australian rugby strongman Ian Roberts came out in 1995. Many athletes chose to make their big announcement at the end of their careers or on retirement. But all that changed when diver Matthew Mitcham came out prior to the Beijing Olympics – games at which he went on to win a gold medal and score a history-making perfect 10.
Since then, gays in sport have continued to
My horse simply walked over to a tree and leaned against it with me trapped against the trunk. I bet that never happened to Princess Anne.
make headlines: boxing’s Orlando Cruz, US soccer player Robbie Rogers, NBA star Jason Collins, German soccer superstar Thomas Hitzlsperger, US college football star Conner Mertens…
But the real game changer this year is Michael Sam. Set to be a star of US football for years to come, Michael has the distinction of coming out at the beginning of his career. That’s testament to his confidence in the NFL, his team, and the club’s fans to support his decision. It’s a real game changer. It will open the door for who knows how many?
I’ll continue to muddle and misstep my way across the badminton court and down the ski slopes. I promise not to attempt figure skating, synchronised swimming or elephant polo, and just enjoy other sports as a spectator. Someone needs to be in the stands cheering on our heroes, right?
Michael Sam: coming out at the beginning of his career is a historic and symbolic leap forward for gays in sport.