The times, they really are a-changin’

This is big.  This is big, even though it sorta feels right now like this isn’t causing a big stir except in all the places that are writing stories about it because it’s the first: a player in one of the major American team sports has come out publicly as homosexual. Veteran basketball player Jason Collins writes a first-person essay in the Jason Collinsupcoming issue of Sports Illustrated; you can read it here

Among my initial reactions: 

  • it’s none of my business, or it shouldn’t be…and Collins agrees 
  • I don’t care that he’s gay…and Collins hopes we all think that
  • this couldn’t possibly have happened before now, and now I don’t think it will much matter…and it shouldn’t
    Americans’ attitudes about sexuality are changing so fast you can almost hear the thought balloons popping up over the heads of one person after another as they realize they don’t care about someone else’s private life (with the exceptions of any Kardashian, of course), that they want to be the kind of person who is tolerant of differences among people and who wants to treat others fairly.

Collins is a veteran of six teams over 12 seasons in the NBA, so he’s not a kid and he’s not a superstar.  He’s also a free agent, and whether he now gets signed by another team—and which team—will be interesting things to watch for.  And I like that he made this announcement after his team’s season was over, so it can’t distract his teammates from the job they have to do.  Loyalty to the team, and putting the team ahead of his personal wants, is an attribute that should win him a lot of respect around the league.

I applaud Collins for his bravery: despite the changing attitudes about homosexuality all across this country, making this announcement and putting himself at risk for discrimination took guts.  But the more announcements like this there are, the less risk there will be.  He says openness is a good place to start in disarming prejudice; that’s clearly true.  As more people have come out of the closet, from your everyday schmoes to tee-wee stars, more of the rest of us have found out that someone we know and like and respect is gay.  The American military trashed it’s policy that forced homosexuals in the services to lie about who they are, and we’ve seen that our armed forces have not disintegrated into a morass of low morale.  More people are translating their feelings into action at the voting booth, registering their support for the American ideals of fairness and tolerance.

Collins says, “The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.”  Stand up for what you believe in: solid advice.

Yep, this is big news, big big big…I mean, what else could possibly have been important enough to be the lead sports story on the day that Tim Tebow was released by the Jets?  This is amazing stuff indeed!

(photo Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A rich vein of loopy

Even though the easy and obvious answer should be easy and obvious (duh), a disturbingly large percentage of our fellow Americans aren’t satisfied with taking the easy way.  Good for them, I say: it demonstrates their exceptional American characteristics of ingenuity and perseverance to come up with these unconventional answers, while generating easy laughs for us lazy slobs whose consciences take no offense when we just skate by, exercising nothing more mentally rigorous than logic and reason.

Public Policy Polling conducted a poll in late March that asked people about conspiracy theories, ones “well known to the public, others perhaps to just the darker corners of the internet.”  What did they find?  A rich vein of loopy:

  • 4% believe shape-shifting reptilian people take on human form and gain political power to manipulate society and control the world (probably thinking of Mitch McConnell on this one)
  • 5% believe Paul McCartney died in 1966 (the rest of us think he’s on another world tour)
  • 11% believe the U.S. government allowed the September 11 attacks to happen
  • 13% believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ (huh?)
  • 14% believe the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s
  • 15% believe the medical and pharmaceutical industries create new diseases to make money off of treatments

(As for the 29% who think aliens exist—what’s wrong with the other 71% of you?)

Just so much harmless kookery, right?  Yes, but what about the 20% who believe the government is hiding a link between autism and childhood diseases, or the 37% percent who believe global warming is a hoax?  Those people act on their beliefs to the detriment of the futures of both their children and the planet they share with the rest of us.  What does it say about our society when, more than ten years after the fact, 44% still think that our then-president took the nation to war on a personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein, and another 12% aren’t sure?

What about the people who had elaborate explanations for the Boston Marathon bombing the day after it happened, before anyone but the bombers themselves could possibly have known the truth?

For starters, I suggest you check out the Bad Astronomy blog on Slate, where Phil Plait recently vented a little about the march of antireality in general and just today about the links between the anti-vaccine nuts and the measles outbreak in Wales.  He has a clear-headed approach and a clean writing style that I think you’ll appreciate.

After that? I don’t know for sure…perhaps we can all get some good advice from the 14% who believe in Bigfoot, or the 9%, like Gen. Jack Ripper, who are convinced that fluoridation of our water isn’t just about dental health.

This is a no-brainer…so it’s perfect for this blog

My Houston Astros kicked off their American League existence Sunday night with a big exciting win over the Texas Rangers, and Monday I thought I should write something nice for the blog about the entire event. You see how far I got with that.

Tuesday night my Houston Astros nearly got perfect-gamed for the second time in less than a year, just the kind of thing that the doomsayers who’ve predicted a third 100+ loss season for the Astros needed to be able to say “I told you so.” Yeah, well, you didn’t count on Marwin Gonzalez, did you? (Yes, Marwin Gonzalez. I know.)

This morning I found a post on Awful Announcing that combines the comfort and excitement of Opening Day with the sense of disorientation that we Astros fans are working through as we get acquainted with our new team and league: major league players performing bits of “Who’s on First?

And that made me think, I want to see the original in all it’s glory…and I’m betting, so do you!