Those who believe Collins is being heroic in coming out point to the impact on young men and women still in the closet or having trouble dealing with their peers when it comes to their sexual preferences. I hope his impact is positive also, but is this “heroic” behavior? Being a role model is not the same as acting heroically. And while I’m sure it was difficult for Mr. Collins to come forward, we cheapen the word “hero” when misapplying it to people who, quite simply, don’t deserve it.
Refusing to move to the back of the bus? That’s an heroic act of defiance. Falling on a hand grenade to save your friends in war? That’s an heroic act of self-sacrifice.
How about telling cruel jokes about the president to his face? Bill Maher was deemed “heroic” by some for “speaking truth to power,” but that was nonsense. Was Sandra Fluke “heroic” for whatever it is she did? That’s how Democrats described her at their convention.
The point is simple. Words have specific meaning and using a word not to illuminate or explain but as a political crutch cheapens the language and dilutes the meaning of words like “hero.” You can admire Jason Collins for his decision. You don’t have the right to hijack the English language to service your agenda.
This is a story that will last about 48 hours and then drop out of sight until Mr. Collins either signs with another team or retires. Then, the hysteria will begin again. I suspect that given his abilities, some team in rebuilding mode with a lot of youngsters will sign him for his veteran presence in the locker room and on the court.
Then what? Will it be politically incorrect to cheer against Mr. Collins? Will any criticism by his teammates be seen as homophobia? I suspect those who will seek to use Mr. Collins’ status as a gay pro athlete to further their political agendas — on both sides of the issue — will jump on any controversy, no matter how trivial, in order to score points against the opposition.
For my part, the Chicago Bulls could use a man of character like Jason Collins. I hope they give him a serious look before the start of next season.