Let’s talk about Ivan Provorov’s ol’ time religion and a God-awful lesson to learn

Now that the thunder-clap clatter has eased to a murmur, what are the lessons learned from L’Affaire Rainbow?

Well, we learned that the Philadelphia Flyers stand by their Russian Orthodox employees, because rearguard Ivan Provorov received not so much as a mild tsk-tsk for skipping out on a pregame warmup last Tuesday night.

While his playmates adorned themselves in rainbow-colored garments and wrapped the blades of their hockey sticks in rainbow-colored tape to signal support for the LGBT(etc.) community on Pride Night, Provorov remained in the Flyers changing room, alone in his gay-is-sin thoughts as his playmates participated in the 15-minute frolic.

Provorov later cited his old-time religion as the reason for his refusal to play Mr. Dressup, telling news snoops: “I respect everybody, I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

Oddly enough (but probably not surprising), the Russian Orthodox rearguard refused to elaborate on his choice of religion over rainbow, perhaps because further discussion might have been a bit dodgy, if not prickly. News snoops might have asked Provorov about Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, a man who believes a) his buddy Vlad (The Bad) Putin is a “miracle of God,” b) the Russian invasion of Ukraine is necessary to prevent an eastern-advancing scourge of gay Pride parades, and c) same-sex marriage is “a sin” and similar to “apartheid in Africa or Nazi laws.” Apparently, those are talking points Provorov would rather avoid.

Whatever, his true-to-religion soundbite was sufficient for Philly head coach, John Tortorella (“Provy did nothing wrong”), the organization (“The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity”) and the National Hockey League (“Players are free to decide which initiatives to support”). In other words, nothing to see here, kids.

So that’s another lesson learned: If an NHL player wishes to opt out of a team theme night (Pride, Military, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous, etc.), he need only dust off religious dogma to avoid the sin bin, and we have to assume that’s all-inclusive, meaning it’s an easy out available not only to Russian Orthodox but also Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. (I suppose an atheist would have to come up with a different angle, but I don’t know.)

L’Affaire Rainbow also reminded us that news snoops are quick to rally and kick up a mighty fuss, yet they’re just as lickety-split in finding a new toy to chew on.

I mean, opinionists hither and yon spent three days in full and loud yowl, most of them pooh-poohing Provorov and suggesting an appropriate level of punishment, like deportation to the bosom of Mother Russia or listening to Barry Manilow music 24/7. I swear, we haven’t heard the jock journo machine rage like this since two of its heroes, Bobby Orr and Jack Nicklaus, pledged unwavering devotion to Donald Trump.

Yet, today, mention of Provorov’s work clothing is scant and has been pushed to the back pages of sports sections and the back half of news programs.

But here’s what the scribes and talking heads are ignoring: How many Ivan Provorovs are in the NHL? One per team? Two? Five? Surely he isn’t a lone wolf.

The jock journos decline to pursue the issue for one basic reason: They aren’t gay. Thus they can’t relate and don’t care. They’ve delivered a good and proper bawling out to Provorov, positioning themselves as LGBT(etc.) allies, so they harbor no compulsion for a deep dive into the matter.

Similarly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants no portion of any anti-gay discussion, unless it provides him an opportunity to apply a coating of sugar.

“When you look at all of our players and the commitments that they’ve made to social causes and to making our game welcoming and inclusive, let’s focus on the 700 that embrace it and not one or two that may have some issues for their own personal reasons,” he told news snoops the other day.

Sure, Gary, and let’s focus on all the banks Bonnie and Clyde didn’t rob.

Perhaps some reminders would be appropriate right about now…

  • In January 2014, TSN ran a three-part documentary, RE/ORIENTATION, which attempted to pry the lid off the issue of gays in hockey.

“We struggled to get participation from players,” said series host Aaron Ward, a former NHL defenceman and TSN talking head. “Over a nine-month period, we reached out to 12 different National Hockey League teams. (We) could not get co-operation. It was a struggle to get guys to sit down and be comfortable and honest in front of a camera. Obviously, it’s easy to sit down and read words for a PSA, but it’s another thing to sit down and be honest and in-depth and be clear about how we feel about this process and this issue. It’s almost a barometer of where we are today.”

Nine months. Twelve teams. That’s more than 200 players. And only three—Andrew Ference, Ben Scrivens and Dustin Brown—agreed to a formal, on-the-record natter. None of the three are in the NHL today.

  • Last month, Hockey Canada revealed results of a study into incidents of on-ice discrimination across all levels and age groups during the 2021-22 season. There were 512 penalties called, 61 per cent involving sexual orientation or gender. Males accounted for 99 per cent of the fouls.

Some of those male shinny scofflaws might grow up to perform in the NHL, which, with its shoulder shrug in L’Affaire Rainbow, has given players the official okey-dokey to go rogue and show the LGBT(etc.) collective, or any marginalized group of their choice, the cold shoulder. They can be just like Ivan Provorov. All they need do is flash a rosary or spew the Lord’s Prayer, then wait out the brief media storm.

What a God-awful lesson to learn.

Diversity: Sports sections of daily newspapers still stuck in the 20th century

It happens every time a story with social significance spills into the playground, as was the case last week with Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders outing himself.

Sports scribes seized the moment, like West Coast grizzlies at the annual salmon run, and they went on a feeding frenzy, feverishly tapping opinion pieces favorable to Nassib, the first openly gay man to be included on an active National Football League roster. But their essays, although well-intentioned, were chock-full of assumptive generalities and shy on first-person perspective.

The wordsmiths wrote on auto pilot, as if following a template.

Nassib is brave. Check. Nassib is courageous. Check. Nassib is an inspiration. Check. Bravo for Nassib. Check.

It’s all meant as high praise, yet, in reality, it’s the piling on of platitudes.

And there’s a reason for that: They don’t know any better.

I mean, the rarest of species in major North American professional team sports is the openly gay male. There have been more confirmed sightings of Elvis, Sasquatch and Amelia Earhart. There is one at present, Carl Nassib. There’s never been more than one at any given time.

But the second rarest species is the openly gay sports scribe (newspaper division), male or female.

LZ Granderson

A handful exist in the United States—LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times most notable among them, and transgender female Christina Kahrl is the freshly minted sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle—but I don’t know of any LGBT(etc.) writers working at dailies on the northern side of the vast, still-blockaded border.

I spent 30 years in the rag trade, shutting down in 1999, and any gay person scribbling sports during my time was coal miner deep into the closet.

So, if we do the math, there’s not been an out gay jock journo at a major daily in Canada in more than half a century. Perhaps not ever.

Even as we hear more female voices and see more Blacks and people of color on our TV sports networks, the toy departments in the rag trade remain stuck in the muck of the 20th century, like an old jalopy spinning its wheels in a ditch.

When I took my leave from the business in ’99, both dailies in Winnipeg had a female scribbling sports. Today there are zero. There were no out gays then, there are no out gays now. There were no Blacks or people of color, there are zero today.

It’s much the same across the oft-frozen tundra. Sports sections at daily newspapers don’t do diversity.

Thus, when Carl Nassib comes out or Black athletes rise in protest of social injustice or another woman is beaten up/sexually assaulted, the scribes are at a disadvantage. Because they aren’t gay, Black or female, they’re incapable of drilling to the numb of the matter.

I mean, the very notion of straight men explaining what Nassib’s coming out means to the LGBT(etc.) collective and/or society is the highest level of absurd. It’s like having Tiger Woods for a driving instructor.

Therefore they traffic in platitudes, which comes across as trendy, if not patronizing.

Christina Kahrl

When Nassib said he “agonized” for 15 years—more than half his time on this planet—before coming out, those of us in the LGBT(etc.) collective got it. Fully. It’s why some of us, including myself, were moved to tears. We’ve felt the searing pain of the suffocating inner strife. We’ve lived the fear of losing/being denied employment or lodgings. We’ve lived the fear of losing friends and family. We’ve lived the fear of bullying and worse. We know what it’s like to be told conversion therapy will “cure” us. We know what it’s like to hear the Vatican refuse to bless our marriages because gay sex is a “sin.” We know the humility of being scorned and refused service. All that based solely on our preference in life/sexual partners and/or gender identity.

So, yes, we know Carl Nassib’s story because it’s our story. And we can tell it.

Sadly, sports editors across the land are not inclined toward giving diverse voices a share of their platform. They’re quite comfortable allowing straight, white, mostly male scribes to opine with an outlier perspective on stories that can only be told with LGBT, Black, or female insight earned through lived experience.

The irony, of course, is that numerous sports editors and scribes are quick to condemn the lack of diversity in, say, the National Hockey League and NASCAR, or at Augusta National Golf Club—and they’ll shame others for failing to promptly rise in protest against social and racist injustice—yet they don’t see a very white, very straight, very male business in their own mirror.

Sorry, but you can’t be part of the solution unless you recognize yourself as part of the problem.

Yanic Duplessis is the rarest of species—the gay male hockey player

There are three stages to the coming-out process for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

To wit:

Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.

Yanic Duplessis has arrived at Stage 3.

Young Yanic came out publicly earlier this month and, no, it didn’t qualify as news with an uppercase N because no one is talking about him as a hockey prodigy. He’s still a kid, just 17, and he’s trying to find his way in life and on the ice, where he might one day suit up with Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and possibly beyond.

That’s a big if.

Les Voltigeurs selected the product of Saint-Antoine, N.B., in the ninth round of the Q’s entry draft in 2019, but he was not among the 34 participants in training exercises that began last month. He also declined an invitation to join Campbellton Tigers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League for their pre-season frolic. He’s chosen to stick close to home and play high school hockey.

That isn’t the preferred path to a professional career.

Yanic Duplessis

Still, Yanic’s coming out caused something of a stir because homosexuality is a taboo topic in male hockey. Except, of course, when anti-gay slurs are used as weaponry.

“It should be a non-event, and some day it will be a non-event, but it’s not a non-event now,” Brian Burke said of Duplessis from his Hockey Night in Canada lectern the other night.

Burke is correct.

A teenage hockey player’s sexuality shouldn’t be news, front or back page. But it grabs the attention of the CBC and HNIC because the National Hockey League has never known an openly gay player. Active or retired. Nor have any of its affiliated minor leagues and its main breeding ground, the Canadian Hockey League. There have been more confirmed sightings of Sasquatch than the gay male hockey player. At least one woman, Manon Rheaume, has appeared in an NHL game (preseason), but never an openly gay man. There are female scouts and coaches. But gay guys? They need not apply.

Many wonder why Yanic Duplessis is news. So he’s gay, they say. Why make a fuss out of his sexuality? Nobody cares, right?

Oh, but they do care.

Consider:

  • There were three anti-gay incidents in Airdrie, Alta., this summer, including a rainbow crosswalk that was tarred and feathered.

  • Would-be Conservative party leadership candidate Richard Décarie believes being gay is “a choice,” and marriage should be exclusive to men and women.

  • Tennessee governor Bill Lee recently signed into law an anti-gay adoption bill. Nine other states have similar laws.

  • A student at the University of Louisville entered an LGBT studies course and distributed anti-gay pamphlets.

  • Last month an employee of a Catholic fringe group in Detroit ordered a cake from the lesbian-owned Good Cakes and Bakes and requested that this message be written on the icing: “Homosexual acts are gravely evil.”

  • LGBT hate crimes in England and Wales went from 5,807 in 2014-15 to 13,530 in 2018-19.

  • According to a 2017 report, 60 per cent of LGBT students across the U.S. feel unsafe at school due to sexual orientation and 40 per cent feel unsafe due to gender.

Then there was the recent raising of a Pride flag outside city hall in Minot, N.D., the very heartland of the U.S.A. Mayor Shaun Sipma and council invited the citizenry to share their thoughts on the matter. Here are some of their natterings:

“Today it’s LGBQ. What’s next? BLM? Antifa? White supremacy? You opened up a can of worms Mr. Mayor, and I pray that lunacy does not prevail on the streets of our fine city due to a poor decision brought to us by you. I’m not here to judge. Judgement belongs to a higher power than all of us here.”

“We can pull down the 10 Commandments out of our court yards, out of our schools, we can slap God in the face, mock God. His word says he will not be mocked, just so you know, you ain’t getting away with it, and then raise up a flag praising something that God’s word speaks against. Now I’m gonna tell you a warning, I’m gonna warn you, that’s why I’m here…not about physical violence…I’m here to warn you of God’s judgement. God will…not…let…this…go.”

“The American flag represents the hearts of Americans, and the LGBT flag represents the genitals of certain Americans. Now, I’ve always thought the genitals were kind of a sacred thing, in the sense that, for one, what you do with them is your business and not mine. In terms of the numbers game here, there’s probably a larger Star Wars fan base here than there is LGBT community, and where’s the Star Wars flag being raised? Or Vikings fans? Since we’re next door to Minnesota, let’s raise a Vikings flag. As long as we’re on that page, how about a heterosexual flag and a Confederate flag and the list goes on and on. You opened a can of worms, and do you want all those worms?”

“You can’t even look at the small little things that can turn into a bombshell. I already see our guns coming. It’s coming next. Our freedoms are being taken away. I’ve never been so pissed off in my entire life and so disappointed in our mayor, ’cause you’re bringing war to the city of Minot.”

“I’ve got relatives that were ex-homosexuals, I got friends that are homosexuals. I love ’em all, but here’s the choice: We gotta make a choice for life and not for death.”

“I was raised under the 10 Commandments, and that’s also a law, it’s the law of God. I hope you have the nerve to back up our police department when this city starts seeing the kind of garbage that’s been going on around the country, when people starting coming in rioting and tearing things down because of the door you’ve opened.”

“That flag is called an abomination to God. We love God and must stand for truth. When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. When the wicked rule, the people mourn.”

“(The Pride flag) identifies Satan.”

“If that letter P (pedophile) is added to LGBTQ a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, are you still gonna fly that flag?”

Lunacy. Rioting and looting. Worms. Loss of freedoms. Guns. War. Death. Satan. Pedophilia. All that hostility and holier-than-thou condemnation (and there was much, much more) simply because a flag was raised to recognize support for the gay community. Remind me to cancel that weekend trip to Minot.

Homophobia isn’t going to disappear any time soon, and certainly not during what remains of my lifetime. Gays are still too often considered lesser-thans, and men’s hockey represents the final frontier in mainstream sports, even as it trumpets itself as a game that “is for everyone.”

If hockey truly was “for everyone,” Yanic Duplessis coming out wouldn’t be noteworthy.

I don’t know if there’s a God but, if so, I like to think she or he is looking down on young Yanic with favor. Those things that go bump in the night can be mean and nasty and frightening for any 17-year-old kid who’s come out, let alone a hockey player, and they/he need all the positive reinforcement and acceptance they can get.

I know how toxic a hockey changing room can be, so godspeed to him.

Captain Canada (Caroline Ouellette), Captain America (Julie Chu) and baby Liv makes it a forward line

First of all, the birth of Liv Chu-Ouellette is a beautiful story that should be celebrated.

Little Liv, who arrived on Nov. 5, is healthy and her parents are full of joy. Nothing else should really matter.

Except, in this case, there’s a delightful sidebar. Like, Liv has two moms, and they’re both very good at hockey. One, Caroline Ouellette, captained Canada during its gold-medal crusade at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and her other mom, Julie Chu, is a former captain of the United States national women’s team who was wearing the Stars ‘n’ Stripes in Russia.

Julie Chu, left, Caroline Ouellette and baby Liv.

That’s right, little Liv’s moms are Captain Canada and Captain America.

Although they’ve butted heads for many years on the international stage—one getting the upper hand at the Olympics and the other at the world championships—both moms are teammates with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Ouellette was preggers with Liv when they won the Clarkson Cup last spring) and both coach the Stingers at Concordia University.

Let us not, however, think of this strictly as a feel-good sports story. It’s a life story, first and foremost, with a hockey backdrop.

The fact we’re discussing and celebrating the birth of a daughter to a same-sex couple is another noteworthy testament to the progress the LGBT collective has made and, even though many people (mainly gospel sharks) pooh-pooh the notion that same-sex parents can raise children properly, evidence from numerous studies endorsed by the American Psychological Association suggest that kids of lesbian couples are as well-adjusted in most critical social areas as their heterosexual peers. Eve and Eve works just as well as Adam and Eve.

Among other things, here’s what the APA has stated:

  • There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armest, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997); On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
  • Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
  • Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).

So there’s that.

This is also another example of the deep chasm that exists between women’s and men’s sports vis-a-vis gays. While any gay male skating in the National Hockey League today remains deeply closeted, two of the world’s premier gay female players are out, proud and having babies, happily presenting daughter Liv to followers on an Instagram account.

I think we know what would happen if the respective captains of the Canadian and American men’s entries at the Sochi Olympics—Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise—posted a pic of themselves with their new-born on Instagram or Twitter. That’s right, the Internet would break. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and not even Donald Trump could put it back together again.

At a time when horror stories of sexual harassment and the ongoing hissing contest between two men with nuclear weapons are prevalent, feel-good tales with happily-ever-after endings seem scarce. Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu and baby Liv have given us one.

Bless them.

Robbie Rogers was no Pied Piper for gay male athletes, so what now?

Under ordinary circumstances, the retirement of a physically broken-down defender who never set foot or wonky ankle on the pitch this season would be filed under ho-hum.

The thing is, Robbie Rogers wasn’t your ordinary soccer player.

Robbie Rogers

He was gay, out and proud, the sole openly gay man among the approximately 4,350 athletes listed on the 145 rosters that represent five major men’s professional sports organizations in North America. One in 4,350. So, yes, Rogers’ retreat from the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer this week warranted more than a line or two among the transactions noted on the agate page of a newspaper’s sports section.

But what did we learn from Rogers’ time as an out athlete in MLS, and what does his departure mean in the grand scheme of things? What does it tell us?

Well, on the positive side of the ledger, Rogers’ tour of duty in Los Angeles became a myth-busting exercise, in that the notion that a professional men’s team could not achieve success with a gay man in the lineup was laid bare as a misguided and completely false narrative. The Galaxy, with Rogers an every-day contributor, won the MLS Cup in 2014.

But we also know that Rogers was no Pied Piper.

Since he came out in 2013, only two other openly gay men have surfaced—Michael Sam and Jason Collins. Neither lasted much longer than a hiccup. Sam was on the field for the grand sum of 12 plays with Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, while Collins finished the dog-eared days of a 13-season NBA career with the Brooklyn Nets.

At its basic, most-simplistic level, Rogers’ retirement means there are now zero openly gay men among the approximately 4,350 performing in the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and MLS. Zero.

There are, no doubt, gay men in all five leagues, but they remain closeted. And that’s what Rogers’ retirement confirms for us—homosexuality in professional sports remains strictly a male issue.

Women don’t have that gay hangup.

Amanda Clifton and Elena Delle Donne: I do.

You’ll find open lesbians in the Women’s National Basketball Association (Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics married Amanda Clifton last week); in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Soccer League (Megan Rapinoe of the Seattle Storm is dating WNBA veteran Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm); and at the Olympic Games. And it extends beyond team sports. There are out lesbians on the pro golf and tennis tours. There have been for decades, dating back to Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and beyond.

Here’s what LPGA tour pro Christina Kim says about lesbians in her 2010 book Swinging From My Heels:

“Because there’s never been an honest, open discussion about lesbianism on tour, it has become a source of fascination among many golf fans and especially male reporters who have only heard various rumors and innuendo. Contrary to what many people think, we are not the Lesbians Playing Golf Association. By my count there are no more than two dozen gay women playing the tour right now. Considering there are 230 active members, you’re only talking about 10 per cent of the players, which from everything I’ve read is in line with the population as a whole.

“To every player I know, the issue is just not that big a deal. There are no super-freaky homophobes out here or militant man-haters. At most, a player’s sexuality may be an occasional practice-round conversation piece: ‘Hey, did you hear that so-and-so likes girls?’ ‘Really? Huh. So, did you hit an 8-iron or a 9?’ ”

Men’s sports, with their culture of machismo and misogyny, can’t get to where the women have been for more than 40 years. Often, the male jock’s go-to taunt for an opponent is a gay slur. Still. In 2017.

“My only regret in my 11-year career are the years I spent in the closet,” Rogers said in his parting comments on Instagram. “I wish I could have found the courage that so many young individuals have shared with me in the past five years to live honestly and openly as a gay person.

“To all the women and men who are still frightened to share their truth with the world, I’d encourage you to come out.”

Should we care if athletes in the five major men’s team sports leagues come out in numbers? Absolutely. We should all feel comfortable in our own skin, and it shouldn’t matter with whom we share our bedrooms.

The playing fields of North America (male division) remain anti-gay, despite Robbie Rogers’ and the LA Galaxy’s best intentions, and that’s not only wrong, it’s shameful.

About muzzling the media…cheering for John Farrell to be fired…Mr. Crosby goes to Washington…Rip Van Ditka…presidential word play…the Vice-Puppet takes a hike…and good and bad movies

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

So, ESPN has instructed its SportsCenter dinnertime co-anchor, Jemele Hill, to stand in the corner for two weeks due to her refusal to refrain from using her Twitter account as a political pulpit.

Jemele Hill

Already on notice for labeling Donald Trump a “white supremacist” and the “most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill went off on the U.S. commander-in-chief’s good pal, Dallas Cowboys billionaire bankroll Jerry Jones, who cautioned his employees that there’d be hell to pay if they took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. They either stand or they sit permanently, as in not play. In a series of tweets, Hill submitted that fans objecting to the Jones ultimatum could “boycott his advertisers.”

That, apparently, was in violation of ESPN’s social media policy, thus Hill was considered a repeat offender and shuffled to the corner.

If the Hill tweets are measured as a suspendable offence, what are we to make of other sports opinionists whose take on the U.S. president and his fanatical fixation for protesting jocks is less than flattering?

Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, for example, called Trump “the buffoon in the Oval Office” in a piece condemning the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the White House. Bruce Arthur, a very active political voice on Twitter, wrote in his Toronto Star column that “Trump is a force for white nationalism and white supremacy. You can’t find a middle ground on white supremacy. When you try, there are suddenly very fine people among the KKK and Nazis.” He also described him as an “argle-bargle-belching president” with a “canker-sore ego.” Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, used her Star soap box to blast Trump as “this most odious of commanders-in-chief.” On the night the U.S. citizenry elected Trump the country’s 45th president, Steve Simmons of Postmedia and TSN tweeted: “The saddest night in American history.”

Apparently, opinionists at the Globe, the Star, Postmedia and TSN are more fortunate than Hill. They are not shackled by the inconvenience of censure. Nor should they be. ESPN got it all wrong.

I have two words for the Major League Baseball playoffs: Damn Yankees.

John Farrell

On the matter of unacceptable commentary, surely the aforementioned Steve Simmons crossed over to the dark side when he openly cheered for the dismissal of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell during a segment of TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge on Sunday. Bruce Arthur suggested that Farrell “could get fired it sounds like in Boston,” and Simmons chimed in saying, “Yay.” Should sports scribes and/or talking heads be cheering for people to lose their jobs? I mean, to suggest a player, coach or manager ought to be dismissed due to flawed or faulty performance is part of the gig. That’s analysis and opinion. But for a jock journo in mainstream media to openly root for dismissal, that’s shockingly unprofessional and shameful. Purely and totally shameful.

Sadly, Simmons, who has made a living by being loud, condescending and objectionable, doubled down on his stupidity, offering this on his Twitter account: “Any day that John Farrell loses, gets eliminated and gets tossed out is for my money a good day.” When one follower suggested he get past his ugly fixation with Farrell, whom Simmons has belittled ever since the skipper defected from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Bosox, the Postmedia columnist replied: “Nothing to get over. Guy was given opportunity in Toronto. Lied to management, public. Tried to leave after first year. No respect for that.” No respect because he lied? Everyone in sports lies, including Simmons (see fake Phil Kessel hot dog story). No respect because he switched teams? Again, fake righteousness. Simmons, be advised, secretly and deceitfully negotiated to leave the Calgary Sun for the Calgary Herald while still being paid by the Sun in the early 1980s. Pot meet kettle.

I don’t know about you, but I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins-meet-the-President schmooze at the White House on Tuesday came across as very awkward and uncomfortable. It was almost as if none of the “incredible patriots” really wanted to be there, even as Donald Trump advised the gathering that “everyone wanted to be here today.” The entire scene was creepy and cringe-worthy, including Mario Lemieux’s faux smile, and it was notable that the most notable of all the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, was stuck in the back row. I doubt that was by accident.

Rip Van Ditka

What do you call someone who sleeps through an entire century? Rip Van Ditka. “There has been no oppression (in the United States) in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end, said in a radio interview this week. Jim Crow laws, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. tossed in jail for peaceful protests, police turning fire hoses and German Shepherd dogs on black people, Stonewall, whites-only Major League Baseball, keeping women barefoot and pregnant…didn’t happen. None of it. Rip Van Ditka later qualified his take on history and allowed that, yes, he has witnessed oppression during his 78 years walking the third rock from the sun, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to. He’d already lost the debate.

Found out last weekend that legendary singer Lesley Gore was gay. How’d I miss that? Guess I was sleeping, like Mike Ditka. Whatever, Lesley could have cried at my party anytime. Even if it was Judy’s turn to cry.

I swear, Donald Trump might just be the funniest man alive. In a warped way, of course. I mean, the president of the United States believes he invented the word ‘fake.’ He said so in a chin-wag with one of his Republican toadies, Mike Huckabee, the other day. “The word…I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake,'” the Commander-in-Syntax declared. “I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I’ve never noticed it.” Well, yes, according to Merriam-Webster, folks have been writing about fake this and fake that since it first appeared as an adjective in written form—in 1775. Oddly enough, that’s the same year that ‘burro’—as in donkey—was added to the lexicon. What a coincidence.

Trump’s Vice-Puppet, Mike Pence, ought not be trashed for walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. He has as much right to protest a protest as National Football League players have a right to protest racial/social injustice. The difference, of course, is that one is a phony, staged protest meant to stoke the fires of division and stroke the ego of the man in the White House, while the other is trying to bring about change.

Fact is, Donald Trump has done more than any athlete to promote the protest movement, including the man who started it all, Colin Kaepernick. If the Commander-in-Chaos had keep his lips zipped and not called out any “son of a bitch” who takes a knee, we’d only be hearing crickets today.

My normal routine on Sundays is to lay my little, ol’ body on the loveseat and watch movies. Four of them minimum. Well, I made the mistake of choosing Failure to Launch to lead off my flick-a-thon this past Sabbath. It’s a film featuring Matthew McConaughey. I lasted less than an hour. It’s a stupid film. First of all, Terry Bradshaw is in it and he basically plays his real life buffoon self, which is stupid. Also playing himself is McConaughey, who seemingly plays himself in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, which is also stupid. I enjoy a good romantic comedy—Billy Crystal and Debra Winger were terrific in Forget Paris, and Crystal and Meg Ryan were absolute delights in When Harry Met Sally—but there ought to be a law against the kind of stupid you see in Failure to Launch and McConaughey’s one-trick-pony acting. I switched channels and watched four people on CNN engage in a rousing, 15-minute exercise in Trump bashing. It was actually funnier than the film.

My faith in quality film-making was restored shortly thereafter by I’ll Cry Tomorrow, an intense, gripping biopic about singer Lillian Roth. Susan Hayward is absolutely brilliant in the lead role. Up next was Dances with Wolves, a different kind of western that, whether historically accurate or not, was extremely entertaining. And that’s saying something, because I’m not a Kevin Costner fan. Closing the show was Must Love Dogs (love Diane Lane), which more than made up for Failure to Launch.

Coming out is hard enough without being told how to do it and how to act afterwards

Life is full of little surprises that sometimes feel like an ambush. Like when you realize you’re gay or transgender. What do you do now?

Coming out is seldom, if ever, easy.

It’s like there are two of you, one sitting on each shoulder, and both are engaged in push-me-pull-you mental gymnastics that can be crippling, if not paralyzing.

The positive of the two yous is determined to push you out of the closet, trying to sway you with comforting assurances that family, friends, co-workers, classmates and everyday acquaintances will welcome and embrace the gay you with inviting arms and adoring smiles.

“It’ll be safe,” she whispers. “You have nothing to worry about. You’ll be free and the world will finally see the true you. They’ll love you.”

Yet, just as you are about to step out, the other you pulls you back with words of caution, if not scare tactics: “Leave this closet,” she says, waving a red flag, “and you will be rejected, degraded, humiliated, bullied, sullied and maybe even beaten up. Is that what you really want your life to become?”

It is as I have written: Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.

It would be helpful, of course, were there a How-To Manual for Coming Out. We could simply turn to the appropriate chapter and, presto, we’re out and we’re proud gay, lesbian and transgender women, men and children. Life goes on tickety-boo. Except it isn’t quite as simple as picking up a copy of Popular Mechanics to learn how to change the oil on your SUV.

There is no right way to come out. There is no wrong way, either, although my personal experience taught me that the right and wrong of coming out is very much left to interpretation.

I advised those closest to me in a lengthy late-night email and, as I was to discover from a dear friend who has since basically disappeared from my life, it was callous, insensitive, hurtful and ill-timed. How dare I not advise her before all others, and how thoughtless of me to dump such naked honesty on her when she was dealing with her own level of personal strife.

“We had a special relationship,” she reminded me in an accusatory tone a number of years later, at our first get-together after the fact. “You should have told me first.”

“We have to do this in our own way and on our own timetable,” I tried to explain in an unflinching way that, I suppose, might have come across as clinical and unfeeling. “Each of us is different. We find our own way. We feel when the time is right, so we do it and expect the worst but hope for the best.”

Is there an element of selfishness in all that. By definition, absolutely. You are foremost and uppermost. Yet you also acknowledge that others might be wounded, which only adds more uncertainty to the original, push-me-pull-you pile of confusion.

It doesn’t end there, either.

Now that you’re out, are you supposed to behave and talk a certain way? That is, do you now immerse yourself into the gay collective and become a mouthpiece and advocate for the gay rights cause? Or do you simply go about the business of being you? Again, that’s an individual choice.

Shawn Barber

This past April, world champion and Olympic pole vaulter Shawn Barber came out in 54 words on his Facebook page. He was gay and he was proud. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on.

“A person has the right to say as little or as much as they want about their orientation,” observed Jim Buzinski on the website Outsports.

Agreed.

But wait. Here we are three months later and the other main scribe at Outsports, Cyd Zeigler, has scolded Barber, who, at the recent Canadian track and field championships, told the Toronto Star that his being gay is “something that shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Declaring to the world that you’re gay—even if it was in desperately early morning hours—then going into hiding is hardly the behavior of a champion,” Zeigler wrote in a gratuitous bullying, attack piece. “Barber, instead, has cringed. For whatever reason, he has decided that the whole ‘gay thing’ isn’t a necessary part of his identity as an athlete. So he’s pulled back. He’s stayed silent. No, even worse, he has belittled his own coming out.”

Zeigler has since softened his stance and rewritten the article, but his original remarks make it abundantly clear that Barber has let down the team, so to speak, and they serve as a classic example of not only a writer going well over the line of fairness in commentary but also of gays eating their own.

Coming out is hard enough and Shawn Barber is doing it his way, same as Zeigler did it his way and I did it my way. Expecting us to be anything more than who we are is not only unfair, it flies in the face of what gays desire more than anything from society—to be accepted for who we are.

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