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 what has kept him 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 that his 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 wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. vigina tightening home remedies

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. vigina tightening home remedies

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. top free movie streaming sites

Your articles make whole sense of every topic.

payday loan source

That’s a great site you folks have been carrying out there. Backlink builder service ! Best fiverr seo gigs

Nice answers in replace of the question with real point of view and explaining about that.
afordable whole life life insurance

much obliged to you for your fascinating infomation. www.marketing1on1.com/portland/

The caliber of information that you're offering is merely wonderful.
liability insurance car

The Mini Merlin is a feature-rich one of a kind product that cannot be found in stores or anywhere on the internet except through the Innovative Tracking Technology website and our crowdfunding campaign. The Mini Merlin integrates Bluetooth (close range), and GPS (worldwide coverage) technologies into 1 small package. The Mini Merlin is versatile in the sense that it can be detached from your key chain and attached to ANY person, item, object, or asset that you want to find, locate, or track. This mobility and portability is essential today in the fast-paced world we live in so that you can move it from item to item or person to person in the blink of an eye.
lost cell phone

I needed to thank you for this incredible read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post. orlando seo company

This is my first time visit to your blog and I am very interested in the articles that you serve. Provide enough knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful and don't forget, keep sharing useful info:
sini

Positive webpage, where did u think of the data on this posting?I have perused a couple of the articles on your site now, and I truly like your style. Much obliged and please keep up the powerful work. Niche relevant backlinks

I can set up my new thought from this post. It gives top to bottom data. A debt of gratitude is in order for this significant data for all,.. bombit

Never consider those online destinations that don't offer full discount assurance and every minute of every day specialized backing. goalvip

0892 22 20 22 votre Voyance Gratuite par Téléphone.
Voyance amour, quoi que je fasse, où que tu sois, rien ne t'efface, je pense à toi.
Voyance par téléphone, l'avenir de votre vie sentimentale, de votre amour. 0892 22 20 22 voyance web : votre vie amoureuse, sentimentale mérite une réponse lors d'une voyance pas cher.
Voyants, voyantes et médiums, nous sommes là tout au long de l'année, tout au long de la vie afin de réaliser pour vous une voyance audiotel qui dévoilera votre avenir amour. Naissance, amour, rencontre, couple, mariage, divorce, travail, finance. Voyance par téléphone, nos voyants et médiums vous accueillent 24 heures sur 24, pour une voyance en ligne jours et nuits afin de vous donner le meilleur d'eux-mêmes.
A coeur voyant, acoeurvoyant, acoeurvoyant.com
voyance immediate

This is really the sort of data I have been attempting to discover. Much thanks to you for composing this data. food

I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this article. I am trusting the same best work from you later on too.. Nowgoal

This is the type of information I’ve long been trying to find. Thank you for writing this information.

college writing

I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this article. I am trusting the same best work from you later on too.. Nowgoal

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.
clash of clans hack apk |
chaturbate tokens generator 2016

Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.
mavni forum

Hello, this is fastidious post I actually loved reading this. 12 week mastery

Really I enjoy your site with effective and useful information. It is included very nice post with a lot of our resources.thanks for share. i enjoy this post.
portable nubulizer

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well..
wood pergola kits

This web journal site is really cool! How was it made ! online-kreditvergleich24.de

Right now I am afraid for my son, I miss him so much it hurts, and I have no idea when I will see him again as there has been no date set by the judge.” ...

Source

We provide you with the finest selection of free downloadable Full Games that will bring you lots of fun! Choose any Full Games you like, download it right away and enjoy stunning graphics, marvelous sound effect and diverse music of this games.
Great Discount Gift Card Deals

I really like your take on the issue. I now have a clear idea on what this matter is all about..
Found great discount gift cards

I enjoyed reading your post and found it to be informative and to the topic. Thank you for not rambling on and on just to fill the page. Thanks..

draftkings promo

I'm gladsome to mature so more serviceable and informative assemblage on your website. Lee Scobar

Your blogs and every separate material are so remarkable and lucrative it makes me come back most again. 0800 lines

Your affect is totally appreciative and newsy. free pokies games

I am grateful for your hard work. But if you did it in a simple procedure that would be in reality polite. But over all I exceedingly not compulsory you and certain will stay for more posts like this. Birthday quotes

Your writers are enormously tremendous. Brick Wallpaper

The blog and data is excellent and informative as well. Naked Celebrities

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job!

proxpn

Your writers are enormously tremendous. Air Fryer Review

I've been hunting down some tolerable stuff on the subject and haven't had any fortunes up until this point, You just got another greatest fan!.. www.fellowpress.com

I got a great deal of learning subsequent to perusing good fortunes. Topic of web journal is incredible there is very nearly everything to peruse, Brilliant post Daftar Bursa Taruhan Indonesia

The quality of your blogs and conjointly the articles and price appreciating.
free seo tool

The quality of your blogs and conjointly the articles and price appreciating.
free seo tool

The complete blogs are really inconceivable and definitely everyone will share this information.

Wedding Photographer

There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope http://www.sbojoki.com/sbobet-casino

I'm dotty for your best article writings and contents auspiciously.
Paul van Lange

I encourage you to read this text it is fun described . potato777

The deep you dig into the subject and give us the accurate data is appreciable. Cookie Jam Hack Android

Your articles are purely enough for me. click to site

I was working and suddenly I visits your site frequently and recommended it to me to read also. The writing style is superior and the content is relevant.

alkaline water ionizer

I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us. http://bandarjudipialaeropa.com/login

This is my very first time that I am visiting here and I’m truly pleasurable to see everything at one place.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder news