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Alexander the Great was said to be gay. The homosexual lobby recruited Michelangelo as one of their own, but his posthumous outing is debatable. Bill Clinton wanted them in the military, he just did not want anybody to know who they were.


The man who “comes out” in a major American professional sport will be to the gay community what Jackie Robinson is to the black community.


Gays in sports are in the news. The editor of Out magazine is said to date an unnamed Major League baseball player, and he is pissed because the player will not do his so-called duty for the gay community and announce his sexuality. The Giants’ Eric Davis says he would want to know who a gay teammate is, so he could steer clear of him. Former Giant Julian Tavarez criticized booing Pac Bell fans for being a bunch of queers.


1993 American League Cy Young award winner Jack. McDowell reflects some typical views from the players’ standpoint. “I wouldn’t have a problem with it, not even taking a shower with a gay teammate,” McDowell, a Stanford man, said on Jim Rome’s “Last Word” television show. “The problem would be the distraction in the clubhouse. That’s all the media would ask about, and it would be all his teammates would deal with.”


Former football star Billy Ray Smith seems to think that players today are more accepting than in the past, but Rome did not buy that.


“There’s no way a gay player would be accepted,” said Rome. “At least not right away.”    


I say live and let live. I also say that in this great, free country of ours, everybody has the right to privacy. Nobody is obligated to come out and be a crusader like Robinson, which is what it would entail . The only obligation anybody really has is to not hurt others.


The gay player who courageously overcomes all the prejudice, and changes the culture of the game, will be an important person in our social history. That person must be allowed to make this kind of decision of his own free will. It is not right to force this kind of pressure on anybody, and it is selfish of Davis or the player’s lover to ask to him do this, disparate motives aside. It is also not realistic to expect players to have reached the point of maturity in life to overcome the inherent homophobia of pro sports.


In my pro baseball career, I have seen outlandish sexual behavior. The first point here is that straight athletes perform depraved sex acts. The idea of some of these guys doing the things they do, and then rendering judgment on another person would be laughable if it was not such a serious social issue. The second point is that if gay teammates engaged in the kind of orgiastic sex that the straights get into, revolution would ensue. It is a double standard that no player should be asked to overcome by himself.


Glenn Burke of the A’s lived in terrible fear of his sexuality being found out before dying of AIDS. AIDS is an issue that has been politicized, but it is not really an issue regarding the question of out-in-the-open gay big leaguers. Some teammates might call it a health risk, but education and knowledge over recent years discredits this concept. AIDS is a human issue, not just a gay one, as the African epidemic so tragically demonstrates.


The “10 percent theory,” meaning every A.L. team with a DH has one gay starter because they make up roughly one in 10 people, probably does not apply, because gays are less likely to be drawn to the macho world of team sports. Out of 25 roster spots, though, each team has a gay player every once in a while. To ask that lonely man to come out is not fair. Robinson is revered because he was willing to do something that was not fair to ask of him. If a gay player has the courage to do it with class and dignity, applaud him. Few people are Jackie Robinsons, however.


To paraphrase Branch Rickey, it will require “the right kind” of gay, and that person must assume the responsibility of his own free will, not because “Out” magazine tells him to.