DNA Magazine - - CONTENT - Andrew Creagh Andrew Creagh Found­ing 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.