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Jock Talk: Star excels after coming out

by Roger Brigham

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird  

The national regressive political climate be damned: living your life in sports openly and honestly despite any concerns about the homophobia that surrounds us all is still a pretty good deal.

Take Sue Bird, All-Star guard for the Seattle Storm, who said she's always been candid about her life and her sexual orientation with family and friends. She chose last weekend's WNBA All-Star Game break to confirm to the press that she was a lesbian and was dating fellow Olympic gold medalist Megan Rapinoe (a superstar in her own right in soccer).

"Even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn't right for me at the time," Bird, 36, told ESPNW about her decision to speak out now after having been reticent for years. "It's my journey. I'm gay. Megan's my girlfriend. These aren't secrets to people who know me. I don't feel like I've not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you're not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it's this secret. That was never the case for me."

And just to show how easy the task of talking to the press about yourself is, the 15-year veteran appearing in her record 10th appearance, with Rapinoe looking on, went out and chalked up a WNBA All-Star Game record 11 assists in the West team's 130-121 victory over the East.

Not bad at all.

Stacks up well, in fact, with British diver Tom Daley's weekend. Daley, a disappointing non-contender in the Summer Olympics a year ago in Brazil, turned things around in Budapest, Hungary. He stunned Chinese fans at the World Aquatics Championships with a brilliant final dive in the 10-meter board competition to snatch the gold medal.

A lovely bauble to share with his on-looking husband, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

"When I saw Aisen Chen do his last dive, I saw the Chinese team cheering and celebrating as if they had won," Daley said. "And I was like 'OK, you want to play that game? I'm going to show you what I can do, too.' It turned me into a competitive animal."

But apparently, we ain't seen nothing yet.

"An Olympic gold is the one thing I'm yet to win and it's my dream," he said.

And what the hell – if you're struggling with fears while deciding whether to come out, you can do what McDaniel College women's soccer and lacrosse player Lindsey Farrell did: lighten the mood by making a game of your coming-out statement.

As shown in a warm little film made by Towson State film student Mark Dragon, a high school classmate of Farrell's, she spelled out "C-O-A-C-H-I'-M-G-A-Y" while playing Hangman with her teammates during a rain break in practice.

"My coach ran over to me and in front of the team, hugged me," Farrell said. "I started crying because I can't deal with that emotion. It was overjoying to know that I have another mentor, another 20-some girls behind me and supporting me behind my process. That is why I play."

On the other hand, we do take note that the boxing world is currently following a slur-a-thon hype tour by two fighters working to convince people to pony up a few bucks to watch them in a fight on HBO that is likely to go down in history as one of the most one-sided slaughters in pugilistic history. If you like racist, homophobic, or sexist remarks, you'll be right at home paying up to watch this meaningless debacle. If not, get off the sofa, enjoy life, and join in the sport of your choice no matter who you are or whom you love. It adds spice and meaning to compete without the burden of hiding who you are.

It's why we play.


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