I don’t care.
I really don’t care that Brittney Griner is gay.
Last week, the 6-foot-8 Baylor basketball star and the first pick of the 2013 WNBA draft confirmed what was long suspected. Griner, now a rookie with the Phoenix Mercury, remarked in an interview with SI.com that she is gay.
As a fan of the WNBA, I am not moved by this. What will move me is if Griner can entertain me this summer and in many summers to come the way I expect her to: if she dunks with frequency, if she sends opponents’ shot attempts into the stands with scary authority, if she navigates her way through the lane with pretty post moves.
I care about Griner’s skills as a basketball player, not about her sexual orientation. As a sports fan, the latter doesn’t’ matter to me.
The media still reported Griner’s admission as news, of course, and I get that. While there may be plenty of gay athletes out there, there aren’t many who come out and live openly. Different = intriguing, and we reporters live for intriguing.
Now, Sports Illustrated and other national news outlets are reporting that the sports world will be turned on its head when at least four NFL players, and possibly others from the three other big-time male sports leagues (NBA, NHL, MLB), will come out as gay. It’s supposed to happen soon.
As a fan, I say, “So what.”
As a journalist, I understand the interest. I suppose the “different = intriguing” factor comes into play more here because an active athlete from one of the men’s major sports leagues has never before come out as a homosexual. I suppose there will be a discussion as to whether or not endorsements and other business dealings will be jeopardized with such an admission. Ditto for team dynamics.
But as a fan, my take on this couldn’t be more black-and-white. No gray areas at all.
Here’s what I want to know as a fan: Can an athlete I support deliver the goods game in and game out? Gay or straight, does this athlete perform, does this athlete excel, does this athlete entertain me, does this athlete help my team win?
If yes, great. Keep up the good work. If not, my team needs to consider trading you, whether you’re gay … or straight.
Think of it this way: If “Joe Athlete” completes 16-of-18 passes and throws 4 touchdowns and helps my team win, do I really care if “Joe” says he’s gay? I really don’t. If he rolls up a triple-double with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and helps my team win, do I really care what “Joe” does in his bedroom? No, I really don’t.
If, for instance, Walter Payton had been gay, or if Michael Jordan were gay, would Chicago fans have cheered less enthusiastically for them? I doubt it because, as athletes, they hit expectations and, on countless occasions, exceeded them in spectacular fashion. They produced results — and victories.
At the end of the day, the personal and private details about athletes may make for good water-cooler talk. But for true sports fans, the endgame is all about the numbers, the performances, the results. It’s about winning.
That’s what I really care about if I’m investing my time in a sports team, and its players.
If you’d care to let me know what you care about as a sports fan, send me an email.
Ÿ Patricia Babcock McGraw also is a color commentator for the Big Ten, DePaul basketball and Chicago Sky broadcasts.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.