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Commentary: Would a coming-out party affect you as a fan?

Once a month, I fork-over $6 for a copy of the Sunday New York Times; paying the high tithing for the opportunity to spend two hours of my Sunday perusing the pages of the paper's varied and voluminous sections (complete with its own magazine inset inside the paper).

One Sunday, my mom - a daily reader of Carroll County's own Times - got 'hold of the Sunday New York Times. In an edition that, literally, included a story about the potential for people to begin taking vacations into outer-space in the not-too-distant future, my mom's first critique and circus side-show-styled curiosity came from the contents of the "Wedding Announcements" section.

That Times includes wedding announcements for members of the gay and lesbian communities. To be clear, my mom is not homophobic. She's just, well, she's 62, has lived in Carroll County for 40-plus years, and grew-up in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., before that.

I thought about opening this column with the following sentence, "Ray Lewis is gay?!.?!" (like when Austin Powers seemed startled upon learning that "Liberace was gay, who knew?"). But, then I recalled a skit from the Chappelle Show where, upon the revelation that the leader of the satirically-set skit's version of the KKK was black, a clan-member's head literally exploded.

To be clear, and to prevent any similar, brain-based explosions amongst Ravens fan(atics) - Ray Lewis is not gay. But, what if he was? Are you a closeted homophobe? Would his sexual orientation change anything at all about the player he was? No.

Last week, Brittney Griner, the top overall pick in the WNBA draft, calmly came out of the closet. At 6-foot-8 she may have had to duck slightly to do so; but she did it gracefully, with dignity, and to little or no fuss or fanfare.

The sports world is abuzz with rumors (first generated by another departed Ravens' linebacker and outspoken supporter of gay-marriage rights, Brendan Ayanbadejo) of the coming-out by one or more prominent male athletes; a superstar or collection thereof, from the NFL or NBA.

In his article on this topic last week on Grantland.com, Wesley Morris included the following footnoted aside; "[T]he reason for the obsession with men compromises a different kind of sexism that basically amounts to the institutional acceptance of sports being a masculine pursuit. The many women who play do so as Eves competing with Adam's rib. But, it's also that for a man to be gay in sports is less than manly. The same is true for combat - but the military has a federal law that protects against that discriminatory perception."

What if NFL athletes were wearing pink, not in solidarity and support for breast cancer awareness, but because they were gay (and proudly so)?

What if Purple Fridays were preceded by Thuper Thursdays? Would that be worse for football or more emasculating for its players than the PR crisis it currently faces in the wake of concussion studies, or the effects of the brain injuries caused thereby?

If the idea of homosexuality seems like more of an alternative lifestyle to you than the idea of space travel as a family vacation, then you probably stopped reading and put your head back into the sand.

Would you turn more quickly on e.g. Ray if he was gay than if he were, say, charged with murder, or accused of using PEDs?

In his article, Mr. Morris referenced the idea of the coming (out) of a "gay messiah;" a term loaded with its own religiously-charged connotations.

I try to stay away from statements about politics or religion; because both, political and religious beliefs, are best left to and for individuals to explore, establish and believe in for themselves - individually - not to be force-fed to or forced-upon others.

If it turns out your favorite athlete is gay, stand up and cheer for him (or her) just the same; and, if you're compelled to take a stance in opposition to that athlete's sexual orientation based-upon your religious beliefs, I would pose to you the question of whether an athlete being gay is any better or worse than if that athlete had e.g. six kids with five different babies' mamas?

Matt Laczkowski is a former high school and college athlete who writes from Westminster. Reach him via email at coach@with-character.com.

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