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Jason Collins: Much Ado about Nothing Much

I think Allahpundit hit a home run in his analysis of the impact that pro basketball player Jason Collins' self-outing will have on the country:

Easy prediction: 75 percent of the public will be casually supportive or casually disapproving but either way almost entirely indifferent. Fifteen percent, including lots of pols, celebrities, and the media, will support him enthusiastically. The other 10 percent will hassle him on the court or from the stands either because they dislike gays or just to spite the 15 percent of “opinion leaders” on the other side. Collins will get a standing O at his first home game next year — if he ends up being signed — and some fans on the road will get nasty with him when he fouls someone too roughly. He’ll do a few ads. Then, after a few months, with rare exceptions, everyone will get bored with it.

I'm already bored with it and it's been just a few hours since the story broke. I am happy that Mr. Collins is at peace with himself and can now live his life freely. But is he a "hero" for coming out of the closet? Anyone with half a brain could have predicted the outpouring of love, support, and sympathy from most of the country who cares about these things. Everyone wanted to rush out their statement, or Tweet, or Facebook posting, trying to be first in proving just how tolerant they are. I suppose this is better than the alternative, but really -- can we try to be a little more realistic and place Mr. Collins' action in perspective?

A marginal pro athlete at the end of a solid career (you don't last 12 seasons in the NBA without being a good contributor) admits to the world that he's gay. I'll admit it's a novelty -- the first active pro athlete to publicly declare himself a homosexual.

But what does it change? How many bigots will alter their views of gays and come to embrace them? If the reaction from some haters is any indication, not too many. Within minutes of the story breaking, ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard was telling the world that Mr. Collins wasn't a Christian:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

And American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer couldn't help himself, I suppose:

"I will guarantee you," said Fischer, "if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back, or thinking about trading for him, and they go to the players on that team and they say 'How do you feel about an out active homosexual being in the same locker room, sharing the same shower facilities with you?' they'll say no way. I don't want that. I do not want some guy, a teammate, eyeballing me in the shower."

A little projection by Fischer?

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.