Massive amounts of cash.
Different game theory,
wit’out knowin’ the languages’ll leave ‘em all weary.
Smack ‘em all silly,
wit’ the four-fifth. Really.
Please don’t get too near me,
actin’ all picadilly.
See, they be talkin’ that.
Never, ever walkin’ that:
life of extravagant livin’,
Tryin’ to erase they memories as chil’ren.
Man, I can’t hear ‘em.
They accents is foreign.
I abhorred ‘em.
- from “How I Hunger,” found in Mental Disorders, Labancamy Publishing, 2006
One of the first people to publicly criticize, or should I say analyze, Collins in a manner in need of public admonition was Chris Broussard. Broussard, one of my favorite sports analysts, reporters and journalists for ESPN, while referencing Collins’s sexuality, seemingly questions Collins’s religious and spiritual integrity. Following Collins’s announcement on April 29, 2013 that he would reveal his homosexuality in the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated, Broussard, while a guest on ESPN'’s Outside The Lines, stated the following:
I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.... If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.
Today on OTL, as part of a larger, wide-ranging discussion on today's news, I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.
We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.
Strength. One of the most sought after criterion of middle-class patriarchal masculinity is strength. While we, men, have evolved from a tunnel focus on brute strength alone, our primal desire for strength manifests itself in a whole hosts of other arenas in our lives. In America, the power, clout and influence offered by one’s occupation usually suffices for the power, clout and influence that brute strength once supplied. In Broussard’s case, he has profited tremendously from being associated with ESPN, “the Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Such an affiliation has allowed Broussard to be recognized as an expert in the arena of sports, particularly with regards to professional basketball. He was a guest on Outside The Lines, in part, due to his expertise regarding all things basketball related. In theory, when Broussard suggests that due to the practice of homosexuality, Collins walks “in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he is not only making a statement about Collins with regard to religion and spirituality, but with regards to character as well. Broussard ventures into the role of gatekeeper regarding who is of a rebellious nature and who is not; and, by implication, who is capable of acknowledging authority and following rules and who is not. Broussard functions as an arbiter of character in an arena – the NBA and its attendant entities – where the employees (the players) are heavily scrutinized, especially employee character and background. Broussard, however, is no NBA owner. He is not a GM. He has no strength – no power, clout or influence – in relationship to the forces that control the NBA and its message(s) other than that afforded to him by corporate partners of the NBA: like ESPN. And, ESPN only allows Broussard influence in the arena of NBA analysis. Broussard’s perspective on Collins was a distraction from the desires of ESPN; Broussard will not make that mistake again. Broussard may want to find strength as a man in an arena other than his occupation, for ESPN can and will diminish his influence when Broussard’s power, clout and influence are in opposition to the desires of the company.
Intelligence. Broussard is a smart guy. No manly American man wants to be thought of as dumb or stupid. We may not all be members of cum laude societies, but we like to think that, individually and collectively, we have an intelligence that is of value and that can be productive. Broussard’s level of intelligence, seemingly, allows him to understand the value of being recognized as a person of religious conviction in America (if only in a Machiavellian sense). He understands the role of Christianity as a “commodity,” a personal selling point, alerting those in his company that he is most likely like them. He states that he “is a Christian.” He does not seem to understand the value of one’s sexuality as a commodity in America in 2013. As Collins himself acknowledges in the Sports Illustrated piece, ten years ago about one-third of the U.S. population was in favor of same-sex marriage; today, almost two-thirds are in support. One’s tolerance of the sexuality of others has become a commodity in 2013. Broussard should be aware of this. He is a smart guy. Jason and his agent are surely aware of Jason’s sexuality as a commodity, as a way to “sell” Jason and capitalize on his assets.
Some have suggested, perhaps in a manner slightly sarcastic and full of satire, that Collins has employed simple game theory in his use of his sexuality at the end of his “less than stellar” NBA career. In his article for World Net Daily entitled, “NBA’s Jason Collins: Gay Superhero,” Matt Barber describes Collins as a “fading, 34 year-old free agent” who, “just as he was ready to move to the next level of his basketball career (couch, Cheetos and NBA 2K13 on his PlayStation)…may now have to contend with millions in product endorsements, speaking fees and, potentially, even a renewed NBA contract.” There may be a bit of haterade detected in Barber’s tone. The article begins in a tone reflecting envy regarding all of the attention that Collins has received as a hero and for being courageous for his stance on sports and sexuality. Responding to Collins being described as courageous, Barber writes,
With everything to lose and nothing to gain, Jason Collins, in one single, selfless act, has rushed forward to jump on that “homophobic” grenade of persecution each of his LGBT brethren, sistren and whatever-else-tren face daily. For every oppressed dude-digging-dude, chick-digging-chick or cross-dressing whatchahoozie, Jason Collins has “taken one for the home team.”
Danger? Fear? Difficulty? One can only imagine. Have you ever tried to fend-off a herd of undulating, adulating media-types and Hollywood celebs? Me neither. Guy could get slobbered on – might even skin an elbow.
Oh, sure, a bunch of those “Christians” and conservatives are up-in-arms over the president’s “bizarre priorities” – that he would personally call Jason Collins to congratulate him over “the love that dare not speak its name,” while completely ignoring a guy like Cameron Lyle.
Who is Cameron Lyle, you ask? Well, little chance you’d know. And why should you? He’s just some attention-grabbing track and field star from the University of New Hampshire who sacrificed his athletic career to undergo the excruciating process of donating bone marrow to a total stranger dying of leukemia.
Yeah, I know. What a prima donna. They call that “heroic”? Puhleeze. Sure, like in a 1950s kinda way. We’ve evolved. We’re talking “gay pride” here. So, naturally, Collins gets the call – a little “one-on-one” if you will – while Lyle gets the shaft.
Did I mention that courage is a criterion of middle-class patriarchal masculinity? So here, Barber is upset because the gay guy fits the criteria of masculinity better that he, or perhaps Kyle. I say: men we need new criteria for masculinity if we are to live in tact, as full human beings. If we are to work on the hows and whys of the manifestation of petty jealousies within and between us; if we are to be the supportive partners to women that are needed for us all to develop our most; if we are to become our childhood dreams, then we must renew and reinvent ourselves. But, I will admit, Barber’s comments also point out the material gain that Collins stands to attain as a result of his announcement.
Simply put, game theory is strategic decision making. And so, if, at the end of a professional basketball career, Collins has concluded that he can facilitate his ability to continue to live in the luxury that over $34 million in earned NBA salary has afforded him over the last decade by embracing his homosexuality and selling his sexuality as a commodity to the American public, then so be it. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The economic appeal of Collins and his story has already been felt by NBA executives:
Last season, Collins changed his jersey number to 98, out of heretofore unspoken solidarity with Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who was kidnapped and killed in an anti-gay hate crime in 1998. In the first twenty-four hours after Collins went public, No. 98 became the top-selling custom jersey on the Wizards’ Web site.
Difference. Difference is something that African American men have had to deal with since the inception of the thought of the Union. To alleviate the collateral damage that sometimes results from being different, African American men have sought middle-class patriarchal masculinity: to be just like all the rest of America’s men, white men. And, part of such an assimilation has been an acquiescence to Christianity as the milieu from which one draws one’s religious understanding and spiritual grounding. Some African American families, post-Migration, acquired identities reflecting such an acquisition of Christianity; perhaps, the Broussards are such a family. But, the criteria by which the mainstream of America’s population judges and evaluates its members have evolved, somewhat, since those days of yore (maybe, perhaps?). Broussard’s inability to recognize such an evolution only serves to underscore and reinforce difference of the very nature that his family seemingly sought to eradicate. Broussard is totally out of step with the public narrative regarding homosexuality. He is against it; the American public supports it. He finds himself at odds with the American public. A position not wholly unfamiliar to black men in America, but a position that Broussard’s occupation at ESPN suggests should no longer be a concern of black men like Broussard. (Too idealistic? Maybe).
With Broussard being an African American man of a light-skinned complexion, I did not like the idea of Broussard suggesting that Collins did not fit the criteria of a Christian: that Collins was in rebellion to Christ. I am quite sure that at some point in Broussard’s life he was, perhaps, teased for his skin. Perhaps his authenticity as a black child was questioned. I would ask Broussard to reflect on those instances, if they ever occurred, when he makes declarations about Collins and Collins’s rebellion of God and Christ. I would be willing to bet that Broussard’s distaste for those who question his authenticity as a black man because of his skin tone would be similar to Collins’s distaste for those who question his religious and spiritual authenticity because of his sexuality. I would hope that African American men – who suffer from the overdetermined interpretations of others – would not continue the cycle of projecting traits we find uncomfortable about ourselves onto others. Freud is dead. Let his shit die too!
Lastly, the Broussard Incident illustrates that the economic bottom-line of a corporate entity far outweighs the value of and validity (or lack thereof) of perspectives taken by the corporation’s employees. Put another way, ESPN will not risk losing the economic relationship that it has with the American people because of some heartfelt remarks made by one of the company’s analysts. ESPN sells sports news. They sell it to poor people, rich people, old people, young people, straight people and GAY people. ESPN is “fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.” If Broussard does not have enough self-control, rationality and loyalty (all criteria of masculinity as practiced in America) to ESPN to understand ESPN’s commitment to the public it serves, then perhaps Broussard should not be working at ESPN. When presented in such as way, all of the independence and freedom of thought as a journalist that Broussard once believed he had is placed in stark relief: he is one who better damn well do as his superiors demand and command. Hence, his apology. And when episodes like the Broussard Incident happen, they can result in men like Broussard speaking of feeling emasculated by the company. That emasculation occurs because the criteria by which men like Broussard may be evaluating their masculinity is flawed. As long as men, particularly African American men, have a tenuous hold on the criteria of middle-class patriarchal masculinity, they will continue to experience periods of emasculation and the rage and anger associated with such emasculation. I tell you, we need some new criteria.
So, to everyone hating on Jason Collins: get a life. If you want to criticize him about anything, then criticize him for lying to that young lady for eight years. She will never get that time in her life back. And for that, I empathize with her. Although I believe that Jason should be afforded the space to develop a healthy masculinity that works for him, I do not believe that that masculinity should be in opposition to America’s feminisms; if anything, the newly created masculinities should function in tandem with and as a benefit to America’s feminisms.