Roger Goodell is the most powerful man in sports because he knows how to make money. But last week, when NFL personnel were creating a hot button mess of sexual orientation questions, Goodell could have shown himself to be something other than a rainmaker in a really sharp suit. He could have shown himself to be a human being.
All he had to do was stand in front of the cameras and tell his NFL talent evaluators to cut it out. He could have put all those in his employ on notice that questions about a prospect’s sexual orientation don’t belong on the same checklist as how fast they run or how far they can throw a football.
Goodell should have known better than to say nothing. Too many people are content to say nothing when saying something, anything, could make all the difference in the world. Saying nothing means that we allow the wrong questions to matter way more than they should.
Anyways, I asked myself, how would Cayman Thorn respond to a pro scout’s sexual orientation question. Hmmm. . .
“Cayman . . . are you . . gay?”
“Ch’Yeah! I’m thisclose to playing in the NFL! I haven’t been this excited since I dated a Yoga instructor!”
“Are we talking about the same gay here?”
“I’m asking if you’re gay.”
“Oh. You mean show tunes gay?”
“Into chaps, Cher and drama gay?”
“Are you? . . Do . . you?”
“All of the above?”
“Are you, Cayman?”
“Well, all of the above are stereotypes. They’re used in an indiscriminately discriminating way, as a means of filing someone’s sexual preference into a Rolodex.”
“You introduced those stereotypes! . . . I’m simply asking a question.”
“It doesn’t feel like a question. It feels like a sad and ignorant statement, the kind to which stereotypes are usually born.”
“I didn’t mean to offend.”
“No, you want to sneak a peek inside my little black book . . that’s not offensive at all.“
“It’s funny, you have a live wire drip attached to your ear. You could dime up someone on the other side of the world with that Bluetooth and it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference to you why it works that way. All that matters is that it works for you.”
“What are you getting at?”
“What I’m getting at, prospective boss man, is that your ignorance doesn’t keep you from accepting that piece of plastic that can dial up Tokyo in the middle of the night. Yet . . somehow, your ignorance isn’t so accepting of people, real people? Whose only crime is being different than you?”
“I uh . . .”
“Alright, lemme ask you a question that doesn’t require such deep thought.”
“Go right ahead.”
“How’s the clubhouse situation on your team?”
“The clubhouse, give me a feel for the dynamics I would be walking into.”
“I don’t understand your line of questioning.”
“Okay, how many players on your roster have been charged with a crime?”
“Why does that matter?”
“It matters lots. I don’t dig the idea of working next to a guy who drinks and drives his pal into a sidewall, or beats on his woman, or a guy who goes all Wild West in nightclubs, or shoots dogs for fun. It’s not a healthy working environment for me. And it seems that the league employs quite a few of these fellows.”
“Okay, Cayman . . . I get it.”
“Do you? Or do you celebrate it? It seems as if your league is really good at placing a high profile on bad guys. Really . . what choice would a gay man have in your league, but to stay silent in such a daunting workplace?”
“You made your point . . .”
“Of course, you’re simply looking to protect gay football players from the Mad Max world you guys perpetuate, right? So you issue a declarative statement under the guise of a question, whose intent couldn’t be more clear if you painted it red and called it Bulls Eye.”
“I get it!”
“Nah, I don’t think you do. But some day? You’ll be forced to get it. Because some day, some hot shot kid with skills to the moon and back, is gonna come out before an NFL draft. And then, I wanna see what all you genius talent evaluators do about him. I want to see if you bypass that kid based on what he does behind closed doors.”
The interview ends, and Cayman Thorn walks away. Never having answered a question that never should be asked in the first place. Eh, I’m not so much ashamed of being a football fan as I am of being a member of the human race sometimes.