Being from the San Francisco area, I was one of many locals horrified by Chris Culliver’s homophobic remarks last week (about how he’d never play with a gay team-mate – “We don’t got no gay people on the team. You know, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff”). Being the daughter of a former English teacher, I was one of many writers almost as equally horrified by his mangling of the language. But the reaction he prompted was incredibly reassuring. Of course the 49ers organization condemned his remarks – they know their market! – but plenty of other NFL players chimed in, offering their support for gay rights and marriage equality. Seemingly overnight, because of one fairly idiotic remark, the homophobia that has long been ingrained in sports culture seems to be dissolving.
Frankly, I never understood sports homophobia – events involving large numbers of incredibly buff young men in tight clothing, running around a court or field, jumping, chasing, and tackling each other, is about as homo-erotic as anything not X-rated. (Although, I count myself among the many women who watch sports, not out of devotion to the team or interest in the intricacies of scoring and strategies, but because we also enjoy watching incredibly buff young men in tight clothing!) While I don’t expect most teams to dump end-zone prayers for group performances of YMCA, it sure does seem like the overall climate has changed. Sure, a few neanderthals are sputtering about the horrors of gay rights (“what’s next, people marrying their horses?”), but it’s hard to dispute the fact that public opinion is shifting. Who knows whether it’s because of Will & Grace, or because Idaho and New England haven’t suddenly gone berserk (no pet marriages yet!), but I for one am thrilled. (I am a card-carrying Jewish mother, so naturally I’m still hoping that one of my sons turns out gay, so he’ll never replace me with another woman and I’ll have a shopping pal.)
So here’s a new “fight song,” in honor of the welcome changes within the sports community: