Friday, 13 December 2013
COURTSIDE COLUMN-The Restricted Free Agent
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."-Jason Collins.
Every now and again in this sports and entertainment world we get to do something truly amazing. Especially in the game of Basketball that has broken down many cultural and racial barriers and brought many backgrounds together from the blacktop to the big time. From 'Glory Road' to 'Coach Carter' and countless players and stories more, there's so much inspiration out there it's almost like it was all dreamt up in a Hollywood movie story. That's what happens when real-life transcends the hard times that come with it's test. Inspiration and influence of people taking a stand for themselves and others truly changing the game. Inspiration like Magic Johnson telling the world he was HIV positive and Michael Jordan retiring to play Baseball to honor his late fathers dream of him as a child in beautiful tribute. Inspiration comes from legends and All-Stars to role players playing their part in a team and on everything that makes up the grander scale of things. Guys like John Amaechi write books on it and major British Olympians like diver Tom Daley reaching new depths of inspiration this month and then there's Jason Collins. The first active player in major American sports to announce he's gay, illustrating sports in a 3,000 word powerful, piece for the magazine known for swimsuit bikini issues. In unity for self, team, peers, sport and the world itself it doesn't get much more brave and inspiring, beautiful and influential than this show of solidarity. Still even with this humble man's simple but subtly embracing honesty...some still get it wrong. The first active player to announce he is gay, is yet now inactive. It may not be time to point fingers, but it's certainly not time to fold arms either. Time for the fistfuls of hate to be unclenched. Is this how the sports world responds for the player that did this for it?
As journalists we have jobs to report the news and as individual writers we have roles to present it in our own opinionated and expressive ways. Some may call for sensationalism but then that doesn't always see the truth. Some have told me as a reviewer and writer that I need to be more critical. Some say to get ahead you've got to step on some toes but I don't always agree. Still, sometimes it can't all be smiles and compliments, you have to scathe those who deserve the scold. Now I'm not on a witch-hunt and I'm not calling out the NBA or excusing any coach, player or personnel that this is them, especially because there are 30 teams...but it's exactly that, there's 30 teams in this league. Come on now. Half a year after the announcement NOT the "incident" of Jason Collins' truly professional stand, not one team has picked up this unrestricted free agent who is free in life but trapped outside his own sport like he was restricted for what reason? Tell me! I'm not pointing fingers at all 30 teams but those who aren't picking up this option can feel my words like a lump in the throat or a shiver down the spine. Those people that are hiding behind their ignorance know I'm talking to them. No team has signed him in all this time, after that one day you think this is a coincidence? No, this is wrong! Jason Collins shouldn't be given a break and a contract of what he said 6 months ago but for what he's done for 12 dependable, veteran years in this league. Those just focusing on the word "gay" should remember the start of the quote; "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center". He should still be that even though he split last season between Boston and Washington as a Celtic and Wizard (for that matter take a moment or more to Google why he chose the number 98). In a league where the beautiful age of Shaq/Ewing/Hakeem and decades of Kareem/Russell/Wilt big men are dead and gone, the post-post life of the NBA now rests on the broad but shaky shoulders of another regular free-agent Dwight Howard. Without him, whose the best Brook Lopez? With all due respect the wealth of talent at the 5 is diminishing with every 82 and Jason like his twin Jarron was before he retired (he retired...Jason has not, see the difference between the twins?) is one of the last, remaining true players at that position in this game. Another big-man stunted, it's a tragedy to the purists of this game too.
He can board, dunk, block, draw and make fouls and set picks for the best to roll, who wouldn't want this guy? He's a locker-room unifier now in more ways than one. Even a team with the leagues best seven-footer needs a decent back-up and Jason Collins is so much more than that. I could give you a scouting report, play-by-play of how any of the 30 teams in this "association" could use this guy, so why hasn't one made the call? Yeah, there are salaries, caps and all that space, but there's the Lakers, the Knicks and all that Jazz too. Come on now I'm not singling anyone out but someone has to make the stand for Basketball like Jason did beyond it. Why isn't the men's magazine GQ's 'Game Changer of 2013' not in it. He "came out of the closet" as people stupidly say don't pathetically throw him out the locker room. As the pictures and quotes from the article prove it, he's in "excellent shape". He's done his part now it's time for the teams to do there's. These are "teams" right? If there's an 'I' in team then I'm afraid in some peoples cases its ignorance. He made a stand not seen in any of the four major American sports, its time for the one to not let him fall. I mean some are talking about if he'll ever play again. I'm sorry I didn't realize he was injured...I guess just hurt right? He's got plenty of prime years left. What do you want me to do start a petition? Televise another "decision"? Let's take this guys basketball talents somewhere. You argued when Iveron's attitude or Gilbert Arenas searched locker got some of their best years taken for them so why aren't we calling foul here on the personal flagrant made on the one man who could muscle up with the biggest and best like a true warrior and opponent? Now he's facing his biggest obstacle to the hoop and he shouldn't be. Give him a clear path to the basket...even if he never did that for his opponent. Get it? It's his time...he's ready to go now. He's made his declaration and give him a uniform or not he'll wear his pride on his heart doing the work off-court to help those who need that confidence, but now when it comes to on-court he's made his statement and mark and just wants to play. So this is about Basketball now. Make it about that teams. This is ridiculous as Getty Images only having one official photo of the guy as SLAM magazine can attest. Or their 'Louder Than A Bomb' column showed us...MONTHS ago. Months ago when the time was spare games, not seasons.
We need to see more images of this guy around the basket like the real center he was offensively and on the ignored side of the court. Get it 'ignored'? We're not just defending Jason Collins as man, where flying the flag of his jersey name as a player. I see the tributes and the nice quotes from good guys like Steve Nash, but I don't see 'Collins' in the rafters so why are we retiring his jersey? This guys got more good years left...at least five. Especially with all that rest everyone's been giving him. Despite that he's still sharp like he is sound of mind. The NBA has a lot of years too, licking their wounds of recovery of bad players and role models ruining their reputation, while here lies someone whose made as an amazing stand as Magic did when everyone embraced his retirement in the 90's. This is a league full of teams and players who have made mistakes like everyone has but here lies one way to right them. Like when Tim Hardaway made those comments about Amaechi or when my favorite player (you all know, or can guess who he is) called a ref a "faggot". These ignorant times need to wake and grow up to Collins incredible intentions. What he does in his personal life is exactly that but what it brings to the public is the solidarity that those in life AND Basketball and the sports world hiding need to hear so they can feel more comfortable and assured with those they live and play with they call "brothers". It's time that a modern day culture of cruel insults in the entertainment world need to stand next to instead of in front of. A world where racial and cultural slurs are used so much in popular music that kids think it's "acceptable" to call each other the 'N' word no matter the race. I mean come on, this is bigger than basketball and even Jason Collins right now. I mean the NBA will be celebrating Martin Luther King Jnr day next month with a round of games and you know the real reason behind this and what this great man said and did and what it all meant, not just for black people. I mean this is a sport and a world that once didn't let black people even participate. This is how prejudice it was and how far we've come but in this day and age have we? Jason isn't judging anyone even if this writer might be wrongfully doing so. He's shown the content of the character. Like anyone straight or homosexual, he's more than his sexuality too. Jason Collins is a basketball player that just wants to play and with his talent he has more than his rights. All men are equal right? Right now all this wrong, what they're doing to him and others living in the shadows of fear...is appalling. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
"Say "keep within the boundaries if you want to play"/Say "contradiction only makes it harder"/How can I be/What I want to be/When all I want to do is strip away these stilled constraints/And crush this charade/Shred this sad masquerade/I don't need no persuading/I'll trip, fall, pick myself up and/Walk unafraid".-R.E.M. 'Walk Unafraid'.