Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The announcements to this point have been few, but maybe society is finally concluding that an athlete coming out publicly about being gay is no longer a news story that has to transcend all else that is occurring in the world and bring newscasts and blogs to their knees.
On Wednesday, when Massachusetts sophomore guard Derrick Gordon announced he is gay, it certainly garnered plenty of attention coming out of the gate, but the world did not stop spinning because we were all being told something that's probably been the case for some time now.
Consumers of college and pro sports obviously don't know all the bits and pieces that make up the personal lives of those who play for our favorite teams, but is it really necessary at this point?
Before Gordon, who came out to his family, coaches and teammates just days ago, let the rest of us in on his secret, we were already exposed to the breaking news of Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay NBA player in history last month. A short time later, it was former Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam who, despite his rough and tough demeanor, finally decided he had had enough living a lie and is now poised to become the first gay player in the NFL next month.
The coverage given to the Collins announcement consumed news cycles for days, even though when he first made the announcement last year he was not on an NBA roster. Still, the media beat us over the head with the wall-to-wall analysis, interviews, speculation, pie charts and focus groups. Collins was the first to break down the wall in the four major sports, so the dissection of him and the cultural impact was to be expected.
In the case of Sam, it felt as though he was carrying some sports newscasts all on his shoulders. Being a gay basketball player, perhaps the general public can understand, but being a homosexual football player ... how dare you tread on such holy ground!
A football player is as manly as they come and yet here was Sam breaking through the stereotype. And Sam was just not any college football player, he was a consensus All-American and the Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Missouri, which tells you all you need to know about just how tough he can be when he puts on the pads, the same way the guy in the locker next to him does on game day.
Gordon, a transfer from Western Kentucky who played at the highly successful St. Patrick High School program in Elizabeth, N.J., sat out the 2012-13 campaign before hitting the hardwood this past season. He wasn't a game-breaker by any means, but Gordon was fourth on the team in scoring with a 9.4-point average as he shot 47.8 percent from the floor. A starter in all 33 games for a UMass squad that at one point was nationally ranked and made it to the NCAA Tournament, one has to wonder whether Gordon would have made this announcement if he were still playing for the Hilltoppers.
The website for the Minutemen hasn't dropped everything in favor of 24-hour- around-the-clock coverage. Instead, the most recent news story from the school includes just a handful of statements from administrators and head coach Derek Kellogg, not much else in the way of sensationalism.
"I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly," Kellogg says. "He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but, most importantly, he is a wonderful human being. We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team and a family, we stressed to him that we support him in every way possible. Derrick is a first-class representative of this university and this program since he joined us and we are all very proud of him."
The spotlight burned heavily upon Collins and Sam, but Gordon has been spared the intense scrutiny. It may have something to do with his announcement coming just days after the national championship was decided, or maybe the announcements of new coaching hires and players declaring for the NBA Draft have grabbed some of the limelight.
Then again, maybe we are just getting used to the fact that college and professional sports are finally catching up with the rest of the world and headlines are reserved for players who miss opening day for the birth of a child or a free-agent signee has decided to skip meeting his new teammates in favor of taking a questionable vacation.
Really, at this point, the only thing Gordon should be worried about is his brutal shooting at the free-throw line (52.8 percent) and perhaps cutting down on his turnovers as he prepares for the 2014-15 season.