Lifting Weights

Jason Collins is the NBA's first openly gay player, which is good for him and the game and us. He did it in the same understated, graceful way that he's done everything else in his long career.
Share |

Originally published April 29, 2013.

Bruce Herman, the man who writes the text for more or less every trading card printed and sold by Topps, lives in Blacksburg, Va. with his wife, children, massive record collection (very heavy on pop-punk) and massive dossiers of quotes from and factoids about the various players he's paid to write about. For a while, I edited what he wrote when I worked at Topps; for a longer while, I wrote those cards myself—mostly basketball, some baseball, and the occasional card for Susan B. Anthony or an astronaut for one of Topps' historic sets—for him as an independent contractor.

As much as I enjoyed writing the cards I wrote—I almost got the words "a screaming comes across the sky" onto the back of a Renaldo Balkman card, and generally enjoyed the opportunity to spend what was either just enough or actually too much time reading up on random NBA players—I was never nearly as good at it as Bruce. I was never less than in awe of his work. He had long ago shed the Master Prosesmith vanity that led me to write too many/too much about, like, Speedy Claxton and then grump over the self-edits I needed to make to get my card-backs down to character count; he swapped my flopsweaty adjectives for something smoother and more economical and more reliably on-point. Where I might fuss over finding the right 200-character sentence for a Shaquille O'Neal card—Just one sentence to describe Shaq? Why must "Fu-Schnickens" contain so many letters!—Bruce just reached back into his dossier and pulled up a quote from Jason Collins. This would have been on Shaq's Topps card around the middle of the last decade. Playing against Shaq, Collins said, "feels like you're lifting weights." And then Bruce was on to the next card, after writing what was both the perfect card-back for Shaq and, in recent retrospect, also the perfect card for Jason Collins.

Collins, by that point, was not necessarily getting a Topps card of his own. He was a vital player for a pair of doomed New Jersey Nets NBA Finals teams in 2001 and '02, but not every player gets a Topps card, and there were always players whose promise or stats or reputation or even just knack for getting photographed doing interesting things elevated them over Collins. There are a great many pictures of Collins boxing out. There are some photos of him setting picks, or sweating gape-mouthed at the foul line. There is only so much demand for those cards, though, especially when the back of the card is full of Collins-esque stats. That what made Collins a valuable player on good teams, and has kept in the league as he has made his descent from that not terribly commanding peak, never had anything to do with measurable statistics doesn't mean the basketball card can be printed without them. Every player gets quantified the same way, and the words that might explain where that quantification falls short or is unrepresentative are only expended on players about which kids or collectors or fans might want to read.

And so, in Collins' case, they mostly haven't been. Excepting some cards featuring swatches of his game-worn shorts and jerseys, Collins hasn't had a card of his own since Fleer made one for him in 2007-08. Anyway, after Collins came out as gay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated co-written with Franz Lidz, his statistics seem to matter even less than ever, and the cardboard collectibles with pictures of his weary self on the front and a litany of his workmanlike numbers on the back are no longer the things about his 12-year career that seem likeliest to endure. At this point, it's mostly about the line that Bruce caught, the part about "lifting weights."

***

In his coming-out piece, Collins writes with eloquence and good humor on his identity and his decision to reveal it while he's still employed in the NBA. He is, if you hadn't noticed, still working in the NBA—the 34-year-old split last season between the Celtics and Wizards, and is a free agent. He has been an itinerant backup for the last half-decade, and may or may not have gotten a job next season as a seven-foot practice pylon, pick-setter and strategic foul-giver before he wrote what he wrote. Whether it will or won't help or hurt him get a job next season is a question that's less Embrace Debate fatuous than it initially seems—Collins' individual courage in becoming the first active-duty male professional athlete to come out is most meaningful, like most individual acts, in context.

There are executives and teams that would be more or less inclined to hire Collins because of who he is and his choice to own that identity in public, and that means something beyond reminding us that the owners of the Utah Jazz are jerks, or whatever. The response of Collins' NBA peers—broadly positive and accepting thus far, although someone is obviously going to say something stupid at some point, at which point we'll go through the ritualistic dismay-cycle that comes with that—matters, too. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, a rancid veal breast wrapped in Today's Man microfiber blends and comically bulletproof self-regard, wrote the story off as a "dramatic attempt to sell a magazine, I guess," and that, finally, doesn't matter. Ditto for the airheaded disagree-with-the-lifestyle righteousness of ESPN's Chris Broussard, one of what will doubtless be many pious and hilariously un-Christlike Christians to huff in similar silly ways. It doesn't matter because Mike Francesa doesn't matter—doesn't matter to exactly the same huge extent to which Francesa is convinced he does matter—and because Chris Broussard doesn't matter, but it mostly doesn't matter because Collins' story isn't about some Diet Coke-braised radio meat's opinions or the dim prejudices of some scoop-faking mediocrity, so much as it's about work.

***

It is not just about that for Jason Collins, of course, or for the many other gay athletes who have had to wear the same burdensome mask he wore without ever getting the relief he seems to have found in shedding it. For him and for them and for many of us, straight and gay, this is personal—here's a person we have watched play for years stepping more fully and proudly into himself, and here too is our refracted, vicarious pride and happiness in seeing him do that. This is all good: good for him and good for the league and the game and those of us who care about both, and also good as a development in one of the precious few national conversations that seems to be progressing in more or less the direction and manner—if still not nearly at the pace—that it undoubtedly should.

But if his dignity is a big part of what makes Jason Collins so admirable at this moment, the way he has consistently found dignity in his very public labor is what makes it stick. Jason Collins has faced off with Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the NBA Finals and his generation's other NBA giants in games significant and insignificant, and he has not outscored or outplayed them in any of those games. Collins went into those games knowing that he would not, could not do that. He might foul them in a timely or intelligent way, or piss them off, or set good enough screens and play good enough defense to mitigate at least to some extent the inescapable physical fact that his opponents were bigger and stronger and better at basketball than him. His ability to do those things, his willingness and knack for the NBA's most rote and punishing work, has made him both professionally valuable and personally wealthy.

And if Collins' bravery today has made him an historically significant figure—and I'd argue that it has—it's worth remembering that his humble heroism is of a piece with his reliable and consistently unheroic life in basketball. Jason Collins earned both respect and a living by doing work, by pushing and fighting and fighting even when it was more or less futile, because that was his job as he understood it and because it was the way he could do it best. He won what he won by finding ways to make his humble individual utmost a component part of a collective effort towards a common goal, and so both buried and multiplied his labor's significance. He makes his living like that, by disappearing into his work and doing it, by doing invisible and important things that aren't easily or adequately captured on either side of a basketball card. It makes sense that we wouldn't have seen this coming, but it makes even more sense that, if Jason Collins were to make history, he'd do it just like this.


Share |

Comments

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! 5 ways to cut belly fat

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable. Well done!amazing selling machine

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. combat, law enforcement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.mold inspection toronto

Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing.hotmail

pou cheats This is right the info I am exploring omnipresent. Acknowledges for your blog, I legitimate attest your blog. This is a stunning blog. hill climb racing hack apk

hack hay day This is important, though it's necessary to help you head over to it weblink: 8 ball pool cheat

I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more.online advertising

BusinessOpportunity.com is a leading source for finding business opportunities for sale—along with a number of other exciting work-at-home and other small business-model options like distributorships, licensee opportunities and small franchises—any one of which may be specific to your needs. Our team is dedicated to helping you realize your financial goals by providing you access to the perfect business opportunity, one that is just right for you! Home-Based Business

BusinessOpportunity.com is a leading source for finding business opportunities for sale—along with a number of other exciting work-at-home and other small business-model options like distributorships, licensee opportunities and small franchises—any one of which may be specific to your needs. Our team is dedicated to helping you realize your financial goals by providing you access to the perfect business opportunity, one that is just right for you! Home-Based Business

I found Hubwit as a transparent s ite, a social hub which is a conglomerate of Buyers and Sellers who are ready to offer online digital consultancy at decent cost.nächste

I have express a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s blog site list and will be checking back soon…language of desire

Awesome enter complete of practical gratuitys! My place is fairly novel besides I am plus holding a solid schedule getting my lecturers to evacuate expounds. Analytics proclaims they are arrival to the point however I retain a sense "nonentity loves to be initial" Cheap e liquid

Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us. I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more.best cure for fatty liver

Free Merchant Accounts Good Courier, I am a huge devotee in posting statements on locales to allow the blog scribes distinguish that they've added something advantageous to the mankind deep labyrinth

I should say only that its awesome! The blog is informational and always produce amazing things.
Dragon City Hack

I ‘d mention that most of us visitors are really endowed to exist in a fabulous place with very many wonderful individuals with very helpful things. Business Opportunity

I also benefit from learning the assessments, but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release. paypal to perfectmoney

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. combat, law enforcement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.houses for sale surat

sportsbook offers Awesome announce i want vote further blesss for the info. Knowledge is definitely a gummy field. But, is however midst the initial points of our tempo. I cherish your enter plus watch before to again

Regular visits listed here are the easiest method to appreciate your energy, which is why why I am going to the website everyday, searching for new, interesting info. Many, thank you!how to take her home on the first date

I have express a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s blog site list and will be checking back soon…ways to reverse hair loss

It is evident from this composition that the maker who published this essay has a pleasant saintly reason. I suppose that this composer wishs a fraction again plaudit than he normally receives. I seriously suppose in you, sir! Safe Work Method Statement Template NSW

It really very great to know that this article is being covered also on this web blog so cheers for taking time to discuss this! instagram

With so many books and articles coming up to give gateway to make-money-online field and confusing reader even more on the actual way of earning money, Hubwit is a refreshing change. I stumbled upon this site while searching for work-form-home options. learn about debt management

You might comment on the order system of the blog. You should chat it's splendid. Your blog audit would swell up your visitors. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.πλατφόρμες παπούτσια

I found Hubwit as a transparent s ite, a social hub which is a conglomerate of Buyers and Sellers who are ready to offer online digital consultancy at decent cost.Buy Xanax online

Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. I'm happy I found this blog. Thank you for sharing with us,I too always learn something new from your post.Matt Lloyd

Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I wanted to thank you for this websites! Thanks for sharing. Great websites! MOBE

I most likely appreciating each and every bit of it. It is an incredible site and decent impart. I need to much obliged. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome.MOBE

I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more.serta iseries mattress

After reading your article I was amazed. I know that you explain it very well. And I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it. exploding targets

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles Likri.com

I finally found great post here.I will get back here. I just added your blog to my bookmark sites. thanks.Quality posts is the crucial to invite the visitors to visit the web page, that's what this web page is providing. cheat dragon city | hack boom beach

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.Ephesus tours

Amazing notify integral of beneficial perquisites! My locale is fairly unprecedented plus I am more holding a firm rhythm getting my lecturers to furlough observations. Analytics flaunts they are impending to the location however I receive a sentiment “nobody likes to be initial Richmond Hill Wedding Limo

lowes coupons This new article of yours is a mind-blowing one. There are not many articles which impress me. But, this one has by quite a lot of impressing. I really liked all of the elements in this article and I hope I will see the quality of this article continued in the other articles that you will publish in the future as well.

The betting slip is highly functional with the excellent feature of being able to automatically lock in higher odds should the odds shift in your favour before the bet is processed. One feature we really like is the display of the minimum and maximum accepted wagers for each selection in the slip. Social media news

NJ Wedding Limousine Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place

I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.pakistani bride dress

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.mobile app iphone austin

Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it…houston dodge dealers

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site.we buy cars houston

Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us. I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more.car for sale in houston texas

After reading your article I was amazed. I know that you explain it very well. And I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it. ship my car

I like viewing web sites which comprehend the price of delivering the excellent useful resource free of charge. I truly adored reading your posting. Thank you! δακτυλίδια

Completing your initial school chore can be murderous essentially if you don't understand how to wwwritingservice provides essay help online. Here are the primitives to have you manuscript accompanying faith.