2013 MLB Predictions

In honor of Opening Day across the country here are some of my predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball season:

Disclaimer: I do not actually expect any of these predictions to come true because baseball is an evil sport that never makes sense.

The New York Yankees will finish in last place for the first time since 1990.
The Yankees are starting to resemble that other “Evil Empire,” the Soviet Union of the late 1980’s. Old and banged-up, but still capable of winning the whole thing. Unfortunately, too many injuries (Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez all on the DL) and too many old guys (Ichiro Suzuki, Lyle Overbay, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Kevin Youkilis) mean the Yankees will continue breaking down as the season progresses and finish in the cellar of the American League East.

The first manager fired will be Terry Collins.
Collins has only been the manager of the New York Mets for two seasons. Two awful seasons where the team only won 151 games total and saw its roster dismantled after owner Frank Wilpon was duped by Bernie Madoff and needed loans from the league to pay bills. This season is not going to be much better. The only thing keeping the Mets from finishing last in the National League East will be a AAAA team called the Miami Marlins. Collins may keep his job due to this being the final year of his contract, but being a loser in the country’s biggest media market means the pressure will definitely be on.

The Miami Marlins will not be the worst team in baseball.
That honor will fall to the Houston Astros. When your team payroll is only $25 million TOTAL, and your highest paid player makes $3 million (Bud Norris), you are in for a long season. The Astros do have some talented, young players like Jose Altuve and Matt Dominguez, but they also have Rick Ankiel, Carlos Pena and Erik Bedard. Add to the team’s inexperience a new place in the American League West, and you have a recipe for at least 100 if not 110 losses.

The Kansas City Royals will finish above .500 and make the playoffs.
The Royals last had a winning record in 2003, and last made the postseason in 1985. 1985! It is currently the longest postseason drought not only in MLB, but also in American professional sports. The Royals have quietly built a young, talented team with the likes of Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez. The rotation will be completely re-tooled by off-season trades for James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis, and we will have to wait and see if former starters Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen accept their new roles in the bullpen. Every year has an unlikely playoff team, and this year it will be the Royals.

Another superstar will be busted for PEDs.
Last season saw Melky Cabrera win the All-Star Game MVP, and a month later receive a 50 games suspension for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. During this past off-season The Miami New Times reported that a clinic in Miami, Biogenesis, known to distribute PEDs also had records linking the clinic to Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and Jhonny Peralta. The 2013 season will be the first with in-season testing for HGH, and a new test for testosterone. The new testing will snag someone the only question is who?

Playoff Picks.
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
Wild Cards: Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals
AL Champ: Tigers over Blue Jays

NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Cards: Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants
NL Champ: Dodgers over Nationals

World Series: Tigers over Dodgers

Steubenville and The Future of Rape Culture

A quick Google search will show the “rape culture” that is prevalent among athletes from every corner of the country. These athletes could be professionals making millions of dollars, or high school “stars” destined to relive stories in small town barber shops. They could come from rich tony communities, or towns that saw better days decades ago. This culture runs rampant, and has for years. It needs to stop.

Yesterday, a judge in Steubenville, Ohio convicted Tyler Mays and Ma’lik Richmond for the rape of a 16 year-old girl from neighboring West Virginia. Both were football players for the Ohio football powerhouse, and they will both now spend time in a juvenile facility for a night of partying that became a national news story. The actions of Mays, Richmond, and the scores of classmates and teammates who witnessed this crime happening could have been prevented. Instead, the culture in Steubenville and high schools like it across America filled these teenagers with a sense of importance and entitlement.

Steubenville has a 10,000 seat football stadium, and a population of roughly 18,000 residents about 10% of which are unemployed. It is the birthplace of Dean Martin, Traci Lords and Rollie Fingers. As the steel industry declined during the 1980’s, so did Steubenville as it lost almost 13,000 residents . Steubenville is depressed, polluted and turns to its football team for a ray of hope.

For many the team’s football coach, Reno Saccoicca, is a legend. A member of the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame, he has won over 300 games, and guided the Big Red to three state titles. He also appears to have given Mays and Richmond a sense that their actions would not have any consequences. Text messages from the players seem to show that Saccoicca knew of the incident, and assured the boys that everything would be alright.

This does not just happen in Steubenville. All across the country coaches are covering for players. In 2003, the Baylor men’s basketball coach, Dave Bliss, tried to cover-up the murder of one of his own players by a teammate. These coaches will tell you they are worried about the futures of these young men, but more likely they are worried about their own careers. In the cutthroat world of sports all it takes is a few losing seasons, or no championships, to be given a pink slip. If securing your job and winning games means having a rapist or murderer on your team some coaches are prepared to make that sacrifice of morals.

Along with the coaches, school officials and even members of law enforcement have been accused of intimidating victims, or not investigating rape allegations at all. In the case of Lizzy Seeberg, a 19 year-old who accused a Notre Dame football player of rape in 2009, the Notre Dame police department never interviewed the accused rapist. Notre Dame football players texted Seeberg threats if she went to the police, and school officials told reporters she was depressed. A few weeks after the incident, Seeberg killed herself, and three years later her alleged rapist was playing for a national championship. He was never suspended, charged or named.

The odd thing about all of this is that is no need for it. There does not need to be any cover-ups. There does not need to be any of this because, frankly, how hard is it for an athlete to find someone to have consensual sex with? That statement may be slightly naive because rape is not about sex it is about intimidation and power, but on any given night in Anytown U.S.A. there will be someone who would have sex with the local superstar.

Unfortunately, our culture gives these athletes a sense of entitlement. A sense that everything is theirs for the taking whether that is a Range Rover or the co-eds who just walked into the door at the house party. After a century of making the athlete into the modern day warrior this concept needs to change. It is barbaric and will not shift until the powers that be move into a new mentality about athletes and their place in society. The idea of not caring about what the athlete does off the field needs to change.

We need to care about the names on the backs of our jerseys. We need the Saccoccia’s out of coaching and replaced with coaches who will mold young minds instead of worrying about wins and losses. We need to work to change this culture for all the victims out there who did and did not come forward. We need to stop grieving over the loss of promising futures, and remember the real victims. The next Steubenville may be happening as you are reading this, so this change needs to start now.

Why Americans Dislike The World Baseball Classic

In case you are not a huge baseball follower, or hate baseball all together, the World Baseball Classic began earlier this month around the globe. This will be the international tournament’s third attempt at gaining traction and acceptance among baseball fans, writers and players. Whether it is the tournament taking place during spring training, or the lack of interest from many star players (mostly Americans), critics have denounced the WBC since its first go-round in 2006.

But why? The Olympics, soccer’s World Cup, and golf’s Ryder Cup are huge ratings draws and garner attention from anyone who loves international competition. So why does there seem to be such vitriol and hatred towards this attempt at a large-scale tournament for baseball? Do people really dislike Bud Selig that much?

There are several reasons why the WBC seems to be having difficulty establishing itself in the United States. The first is timing. Americans just finished the NFL a month ago, college basketball is nearing March Madness, and the NBA and NHL are starting to have some meaningful games, so no one cares. March is for spring training, not real baseball. It is for games in Bradenton, Dunedin, Goodyear and Surprise. Games where your favorite players are on the field for three innings before heading to the locker room. Hell, even after the regular season starts the majority of fans do not start caring until June or July.

The problem is when else would the WBC be held? Major league players did not head to the Olympics every four years, so stopping the season to hold the tournament seems highly unlikely. Immediately after the season may hold the public’s attention more with the past season so fresh in their minds, but the NFL and college football are in full swing by November. Most players would balk at extending an already long season. Holding the WBC in March makes sense due to the length of the baseball season, and the fact that many players would be in spring training camps without it.

Secondly, the WBC has an exclusive deal with the MLB Network. The network reaches about 50 million homes, but is usually on the higher level cable packages. Fifty million homes is less than Golf Network (80 million), ESPNU (70 million) and the new NBC Sports Network (80 million). On Sunday, ESPN found a loophole and broadcast the Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic game by using their ESPN Deportes feed because MLBN only had the rights to English broadcasts. My current cable package has the three networks listed before, but not MLBN. Therefore my interest in the WBC has been minimal at best, and I would suspect that many people feel the same way.

A quick scan of the United States team roster brings us to the third reason for a lack of interest. No Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Grienke, David Price or Matt Cain, and that is just with pitching. When Mark Teixeira injured his wrist, and needed to be replaced the team had to go with Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is a very good player, but he is no Prince Fielder or Paul Konerko. The American roster is full of very good players, but very few superstars.

Unlike the USA men’s basketball team where a formula of team-oriented players was found to work after the debacle in Athens, and not superstars alone, the USA baseball team has not found a formula that even works. Adding high-level players might be an option. If two of those five pitchers decided to throw for Team USA would that not elevate the level of play, and draw more attention? If Fielder replaced Teixeira would that not have brought a few more fans to the ballpark? By continuing to run the American B-team out every few years US Baseball is assuring fans a mediocre team, a lack of interest and ultimately another WBC without the United States winning.

Without any interest from fans or players in the United States, the WBC will not make it past 2017, if it makes it to 2017. As the only international baseball tournament left after the demise of the Baseball World Cup in 2011, the International Baseball Federation and MLB will work hard to keep the WBC moving into the future. MLB will need to loosen its reins on broadcasting games through MLBN, and bring in another network or add more households. They will also need to convince more superstar caliber players to lace up their cleats for Team USA, and not to worry about injury.

In 2006, I traveled to Orlando and watched two WBC games. The first game was Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic. Both teams were loaded with talent, and the stands were loaded with fans of both teams waving flags and blowing horns. It was the most insane baseball experience I had ever witnessed, but it was also a lot of fun. These fans were excited for their teams, and the possibility of winning a world championship (the D.R. finished 4th, Venezuela 7th). The WBC with Major League Baseball need to find a way to reach American fans like they have in other parts of the world. It needs to do this through more access via television and better players on the roster. Until they figure this out Team USA will not win the WBC, and no one will care.

A footnote: the second game I saw in Orlando was Australia vs. Italy. The Italians defeated the Aussies 10-0 in seven innings, Jason Grilli (4.2 innings, 7 strikeouts) was the starting pitcher, and Mike Piazza (1-3, 1 BB) the starting catcher for Italy.

Dennis Rodman – Sports Diplomat?

When Kim Jong-un assumed power in North Korea almost a year ago the world knew essentially nothing about the twenty-something new leader of “The Hermit Kingdom”. It is believed that Kim Jong-un attended school in Switzerland during the 1990’s, and was a huge fan of basketball, Michael Jordan, and the Chicago Bulls. So it really should not have come as a shock that Kim Jong-un would want to meet with a Hall of Fame basketball player who appeared on three of those six Bulls championship teams during that player’s visit to North Korea. It also should not have been all that shocking that the former player was Dennis Rodman.

The visit was not sanctioned by the State Department, and unfortunately will probably only serve the purposes of the television show that was being filmed, and the propaganda machine of North Korea. No aid was given to the starving people of North Korea, and all reports say that Rodman watched a basketball game (a 110-110 tie) then partied with the rotund dictator. That is a shame, and the waste of a rare visit into the most isolated country on the planet, but maybe this random visit from Rodman cracked open a door.

In April 1971, the Chinese government invited the United States Table Tennis team to a visit which led to President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Muhammad Ali met with Saddam Hussein in 1990, and worked to free 14 American hostages before the start of the first Gulf War. The Baltimore Orioles traveled to Cuba to play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team, but unfortunately the games seem to have only led more players to defect from the island country.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton increased the use of sports diplomacy around the globe during her tenure, and sent athletes to Iran, Palestine, Mali, Haiti and dozens of other countries. In August of last year the State Department and a WBNA Basketball Envoy held camps in Senegal, and the envoy will be going to China throughout this year. We will have to wait and see if new Secretary of State John Kerry continues this trend, but history shows that sports diplomacy can work in at least getting a foot in the door.

Little is known about Rodman’s visit other than it was for a new HBO series, Vice, which will be produced by the magazine of the same name, and will premiere in April. In the past the magazine has written some investigative journalism pieces, but it seems that Kim Jong-un was happy with his guests, and that the intention of this visit was not investigating the problems in North Korea. This leads some to believe that this was merely for entertainment purposes, and not diplomatic ones.

The word “entertainment” would fit Rodman’s profile more than “diplomatic”. During his 14 season NBA career Rodman was known more for what he did off the court than what he did on the court. Run-ins with coaches and team management led to him being traded or released from the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. Some of his exploits off the court included wearing a wedding dress to a book signing, dating Madonna, wrestling with Hulk Hogan, and starring in a movie, Double Team, with Jean-Claude Van Damme. He also proceeded to have a Hall of Fame career known for tenacious defense and rebounding.

North Korea’s propaganda machine will likely spin Rodman’s visit into a victory for “The Great Successor,” as Kim Jong-un has been called by North Korean media. An American vists, and apparently does not ask about human rights violations or nuclear testing, but instead calls the North Korean leader “a friend for life”? This might be the easiest job ever given to the nation’s Propaganda and Agitation Department. Remember these are the guys who once boasted that Kim Jong-il shot a 38 during his first attempt at golf while scoring at least five holes in one.

The State Department did issue a statement that Rodman was not working with them, but that they also cannot stop Americans from traveling to North Korea. They have also said that they would like to speak with Rodman about his visit. In January, Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited the nation, and drew some harsh criticism from the State Department.

The true nature of Rodman’s visit will not be clear until the episode of Vice airs in April, but if the photos released are any indication Kim Jong-il had a great time with “The Worm”. Could this be the crack in the ice that the United States has been searching for? Should the State Department have Steve Kerr or Scottie Pippen join Secretary Kerry on an actual diplomatic mission to North Korea? It has worked in the past in China and Iraq with Ali and table tennis, why would it not work on the basketball loving dictator.

So, let’s round-up Kerr, Pippen, and maybe Jud Buechler, fly them to Pyongyang with Secretary Kerry, let them play basketball while Kerry negotiates a treaty that brings food to a starving nation. Of course, then we would have to add yet another odd credential to the already diverse resume of Dennis Rodman. Dennis Rodman – Sports Diplomat.

A Woman Shall Lead Them

Saying that the United States is a misogynistic society might be a huge understatement. The country was founded by a group of men, it did not give women the right to vote until the early 20th Century, and has never had a woman in a political position higher than Speaker of the House. Last year, a hearing about birth control access did not have any women speakers, and the committee’s snubbing of Sandra Fluke brought her into the national limelight, and she became a target for old school chauvinists like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

Men who fear women, men like Limbaugh and O’Reilly, call women “bitches,” “sluts” and “whores” with little regard that they are also mothers, daughters, and sisters. These scared men also want women nowhere near their sports unless they are wearing a tiny skirt, dancing and holding pom poms. So it might come as a shock to some that on Sunday a woman will lead 42 men towards the green flag, and the start of the Daytona 500 a.k.a “The Great American Race.”

Danica Patrick started her top-tier racing career with the IndyCar series in 2005 where she spent the next seven seasons. During that time she became the first woman to win an IndyCar race (Indy Japan 300 in 2008), and the highest woman finisher in Indianapolis 500 history (3rd in 2009). She also finished in the top ten 63 times in 114 races.

Patrick made the move to the more high-profile, more “good ol’ boy” world of NASCAR racing in 2010. Last season, during her first full season in the Nationwide Series (a minor league of sorts for the Sprint Car Series), she finished 10th in points. Last week she was the fastest driver at Daytona, and won the first ever pole position for a woman driver at arguably NASCAR’s highest profile race.

If you are sitting in the stands on Sunday you will surely hear some interesting conversations. These will come from the guys who are calling radio stations, and posting comments on articles that Patrick will fall back after the second lap, that a pole position at a restrictor plate race means nothing, or that her lighter weight gives her an advantage. You might even know that she probably won’t fall back that early, that a pole position is a pole position no matter the race, and that cars have weight added based on the driver’s weight.

After sitting in the stands at a NASCAR race or two I can attest to the “good ol’ boy” mentality of many race fans. I have heard horror stories from the stands of southern tracks, and I am sure this faction of fan will be in attendance in Daytona. Joe Six-Pack will decide that he needs to yell a colorful phrase as Patrick’s #10 car drives past each lap, or maybe he just gives her the finger. Both things I have witnessed and heard here in Michigan as Jeff Gordon (starting alongside Patrick on Sunday) made left turns for 200-plus laps.

The trailblazing women of sports have always had to deal with the Joe Six-Pack’s of the world. The Joe’s will tell you that women do not belong competing beside men, and that the only reason it happens is for ratings and exposure. There is some sliver of truth in believing that, but it is probably because more women become interested and tune in. If a 10 year-old girl is sitting on a couch Sunday, and decides she wants to race cars is that a bad thing? Any sensible person would probably tell you “no,” but Joe Six-Pack will tell her to go play with Barbie, and leave the racing to the boys.

He does this because he is scared. So very, very scared of getting beat by a girl.

He is scared that Serena Williams will kick his ass in tennis, or that Ronda Rousey will knock him out. The thought of Hillary Clinton as President has Joe packing his bags for Germany, Australia, or some other place where a woman in charge would never happen. Joe does not want to see Lauren Silberman compete at an NFL combine in two weeks. “Not the NFL,” Joe cries.

There will always be a Joe Six-Pack to fight, it is just a sad truth we must deal with as Americans and as sports fans. Women like Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Billie Jean King always fought back, and their struggles continue to inspire new generations of women to do the same.

Excuses, Excuses

Comment sections on the internet might contain the ramblings of some of the saddest people in this country. Open any article about a controversial topic, and the comment section is bound to be full of ignorant citizens puffed up by anonymity, and full of misinformation. Hiding behind a keyboard makes it easier to spew hatred passed on by relatives and reinforced by ultra-right wing nut jobs with microphones and not hidden by a username.

Over the past few days articles focused on the topic of Native American nicknames and logos were published by the Detroit Free Press and MLB.com. The Free Press article dealt with The Michigan Department of Civil Rights asking federal agents to ban schools from using Native American imagery and nicknames. Currently 35 schools in Michigan use Native American imagery or nicknames for their sports teams. MLB.com reported on the Atlanta Braves decision to not have the “screaming Indian” logo on their batting practice caps for the upcoming season.

Comments for both articles were full of those sad, ignorant souls I mentioned above. I read them all, and then I realized why some of these people might feel the need to comment on something they do not fully understand. They need to make an excuse. An excuse for why the team in Washington still carries a racist name, and why Atlanta would have been better with a “screaming Indian” than an “A”. An excuse helps them forget that names like “Redskins” and “Indians” and imagery like Chief Wahoo are very, very racist.

Making excuses to hide the fear of change in sports is nothing new. They kept African-Americans out from the four major sports until the late 1940’s, and it continues to keep them out of management and coaching positions throughout sports. The prevailing thought for years was that African-Americans were not intelligent enough to be quarterbacks until Warren Moon, Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham shattered those bigoted dreams. We still need to work on the folks who forget that Tony Dungy, Doc Rivers, Ron Washington and Mike Tomlin all have been very successful recently.

On the issue of Native American imagery in sports two excuses tend to rear their ugly heads at the bottom of every article written on the subject. That these nicknames and logos are somehow “honoring” Native Americans, and the “political correctness overkill” whiners.

Usually we honor someone with a statue or monument. Native Americans are the only people honored by having sports teams named after them, unless you include the Fighting Irish, descendents of Spartans and Spanish priests. To put it differently they are the only people who were murdered and displaced for hundreds of years, and then honored by having a baseball cap sold for $25 with an image of a “screaming Indian” on it. Or honored by a 20 year-old white guy from Springfield running onto a court in Champaign with full headgear and face paint. OR honored by having one of the most racist things you could say to a Native American emblazoned on sweatshirts worn by fans of a football team in our nation’s capital. That is honoring them to a lot of people. That is why it is still OK. Your New Era cap is just as good as the Lincoln Memorial because it honors them.

“I’m so tired of the PC whiners.” That comment will show up a few times. Well, I am tired of that guy whining about my political correctness. Last time I checked their were no teams named after any other minority group in North America. We have Redskins, Indians, Braves, Eskimos, and Chiefs. There are no Sambos, Chinks, Krauts, Dagos, or Beaners. Seriously. When I see a comment like this I wonder if the guy writing it also continually writes Disney asking them to re-release The Song of the South, or thinks Gallagher is still funny. Anyone who thinks that political correctness in regards to the name of a sports team is a bad idea is wrong on a few levels.

On Friday, I listened (via the internet) to a symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian on stereotypes in sports nicknames and logos. During a question and answer session a high school asked the “where does it end” question. Her one concern seemed to be the Irish, and the use of the leprechaun as a logo for the Boston Celtics and Notre Dame. E. Newton Jackson, a professor at the University of North Florida, answered “Leprechauns don’t really exist.”

That is the problem. Ignorance and stupidity continue to fuel the notion that Native Americans are just mascots, and second-class citizens. These sports teams, Hollywood and other media outlets do nothing, but reinforce that notion. The tide will turn just like it did for African-Americans, Latinos, and Europeans. Those too ignorant and stupid to see the change coming will have to deal with the fact that Native Americans are real people, and they do not belong on t-shirts in souvenir shops at stadiums.

Where Is The Gay Jackie Robinson?

“Ain’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah. Can’t be … in the locker room, nah. You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.”

Those words were spoken by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver this week during an interview with comedian Artie Lange. This. Week. I hope I do not need to let you know how insensitive and ignorant Culliver’s comments are, but sadly this sentiment is felt among athletes across the board in the four major sports in the United States. In the history of the four major professional sports, from the late 19th Century until the present day, there have been exactly zero publicly gay players in professional baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Zero. A handful of players have come out of the closet after their playing days ended, most notably John Amaechi, Billy Bean, Glenn Burke, David Kopay, and Esera Tuaolo.

But even with comments like those above by Culliver it seems that the tide is turning, slowly, towards acceptance. In a survey conducted by ESPN late last year of 62 players in the four major sports, almost 60% said they would be in favor of gay marriage. That is a small sample size, but a survey of 1,400 pro athletes found that almost 70% would welcome a gay teammate in 2006, that number has hopefully increased over the past six years. The NHL and various teams across the other sports (including the 49ers) have spoken out for gay rights, and have created “It Gets Better” videos. It seems that we may be inching closer to an openly gay athlete in one of the four major sports.

The question is who will this gay Jackie Robinson be, where will he come from, and what sport will he play?

Major League Baseball is a largely conservative league. The same survey that showed that 60% of athletes would be in favor of gay marriage showed that only 45% of baseball players would be in favor, 82% said they would vote for Mitt Romney, and 65% are pro-life. Also, 30% of the league is Latino, a largely Catholic and conservative group itself. NBA Players tend to be a bit more liberal, but the league is almost 80% African-American. African-Americans along with Latinos have traditionally been strong opponents of gay rights, mostly because of their religious views, but that trend seems to be changing in recent years.

During the election this past November exit polling showed that 52% of Latino and African-American voters would support gay marriage in their states. For younger voters that number increases to almost 70%. Helping the cause is the overwhelming support among Latinos and African-Americans for President Obama, who finally came out in favor of gay marriage himself last year.

The NFL may have a slight advantage with gay rights for two reasons. One, the sheer number of football players per team (over 100) means that an individual is very likely to have played with a gay teammate at some point during his career. An ESPN survey of college football players in 2009 showed that almost half believe they have played with a gay teammate. Secondly, to play in the NFL you must have been out of high school for at least three years. This essentially requires all football players to attend college if they want to play in the NFL. As many of us know, our viewpoints on social issues can drastically change during our time in college.The NFL is still far behind the times as Culliver’s quote showed.

The NHL benefits from a majority of its players being Canadian (gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005), and the limited exposure it receives in the United States. By being a second tier league, it actually allows the NHL to endorse programs like You Can Play without the worry of losing advertisers or fans. It would also benefit from the exposure of having the first openly gay player in its league. These thoughts have surely run through Gary Bettman’s mind at some point. Wade Davis, an openly gay former NFL Europe player, just stated last week that he believes the NHL will have the first openly gay player.

It is doubtful that this gay pioneer is already playing in one of the four major sports. LeBron James has stated in the past that if a player suddenly reveled he was gay he would lose the trust of his teammates. Players from Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter to former NBA star Tim Hardaway have stated they would be opposed to a gay teammate. On the flip side, players like Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash and Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver have stated they would have no problem with a gay teammate. It is a polarizing issue, and one that seems not ready to happen.

The man to join the ranks of pioneers like Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Warren Moon, Borje Salming and Bill Russell is playing on a rink, court, field or diamond right now. Possibly in high school maybe junior high, he will need to be very good at whichever sport he plays. He needs to be very good because he will have to overcome the obstacles that being gay will bring because of ignorance. He needs to be so good that a team will have to draft him, or a university will have to recruit him. So good that they cannot look away, and after awhile the recruiter or scout begins to see that this young man is an athlete, instead of a gay man.

Once he is drafted or recruited he will need to continue being strong. He will look to the men mentioned above, and to other athletes like Sean Avery, Charles Barkley and Chris Kluwe for support. It will be tough, there will be heckling by fans, opponents, maybe even teammates, but they will slowly fade away once this man points to the scoreboard after another victory.

Maybe in his locker he has a piece of paper, and on that piece of paper is a quote, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion your wasting your life.” He’ll read those words of wisdom from that “pilgrim” who fought prejudice on a baseball diamond almost 70 years ago with his bat and glove, and remember that he will never be alone.

Once he reaches the biggest stage, the professional stage, the spotlight will be at its brightest. The heckling will be louder and the pressure almost unbearable, but he is strong. He has fought his whole life for this moment, and he will not let it slip through his fingers. He understands that he is paving the way, breaking down walls and myths, and nothing will get in his way. This day is coming, and those ignorant enough will try to stop it, but they will fail again just like they did in 1947.