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PARISI: A third-stringer in the shade of a superstar

Jackie Robinson earned his reputation on the field, Jason Collins as a sideshow on the midway

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2013

In what may qualify as the overstatement of the year, NBA journeyman center Jason Collins has been dubbed "our generation's version of Jackie Robinson," merely for outing himself Monday as the first openly homosexual player in any of the four leading major league team sports.

That ludicrous assertion was made by, among others, Brendan Dwyer, who teaches a sociology course at Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Sport Leadership. The Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual-rights advocacy group, echoed that nonsensical claim, which is an insult to the memory of Robinson, the black man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 and is the subject of a biopic, "42," in current theatrical release.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I saw "42," Jackie Robinson is rightly a sports legend, and Jason Collins is no Jackie Robinson.

For starters, let's compare their statistics. In 10 seasons, all with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson compiled a career .311 batting average with 137 home runs and 734 RBIs. He earned rookie of the year honors in 1947, and won the National League batting title and Most Valuable Player award in 1949 with a .342 batting average and 124 RBIs.

By contrast, playing for six teams over 12 NBA seasons, Collins averaged an anemic 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. The 7-foot center — acquired by the Washington Wizards from the Boston Celtics on Feb. 21 — played in just 38 games in the recently ended season, averaging just 10.1 minutes of playing time and an even more paltry 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.

Despite being a second- or third-string center much of his career, Collins has earned a whopping $33 million. Now, as a 34-year-old free agent unlikely to be re-signed by the Wizards, he understandably wants to remain in the limelight and in the money. By coming out, he probably improves his odds of being signed for the 2013-14 season by a team looking to burnish its politically correct credentials — despite being what a sportswriter for The Washington Post described as "at a stage in his career when declining, low-impact players are generally pushed aside."

Moreover, inasmuch as Collins has no lucrative product-endorsement deals, he risked losing nothing by coming out. Instead, his announcement was greeted with hyperventilated, fawning media coverage. As Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins described it: "About 10 minutes after Collins came out in Sports Illustrated magazine on Monday, the chorus of approval he received was equal to a holiday parade." Yes, and with Ms. Jenkins in effect serving as grand marshal of that parade. While wisely eschewing the Robinson analogy, Ms. Jenkins did evoke Martin Luther King Jr., answering her own question "Is Collins a hero?" with "King likely would have said yes." She apparently overlooked the comparison to Rosa Parks.

All in all, Collins was hardly "heroic" or "courageous," as much of the sports media — which are as politically correct and pro-gay as most of the rest of the print and broadcast media — would have you believe. Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro put the matter in some badly needed perspective when he asked incredulously, "Collins is a hero? Our standard for heroism has dropped quite a bit since Normandy."

Indeed, if there is any "heroism" in this episode, it would be found in Chris Broussard, an NBA analyst for ESPN who has been the target of hate speech from the intolerant left since Monday for saying on the network's "Outside the Lines" show that as a Christian, he didn't "agree with homosexuality" and that he regards it as a sin. Mr. Broussard, no doubt under pressure from the politically correct suits at ESPN, subsequently walked back his remarks. "I realize that some people disagree with my opinion, and I accept and respect that ," he said. "I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today, and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA."

Mr. Broussard, now likely viewed by his sports media brethren as the newest "cornball brother," was lucky he wasn't fired by ESPN, which said it "is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins' announcement." That lack of a scalp no doubt disappointed the left, for whom the sole remaining group it's acceptable to attack is devout Christians. (If you doubt that, ask Tim Tebow.)

The bottom line is, the liberal media have lionized Collins not because of any noteworthy achievements on the basketball court, but solely because his self-outing advances their relentless homosexual-rights agenda. Long after he hangs up his sneakers, Collins won't be remembered for anything he did on the basketball court, but only for this 15 minutes of sideshow fame. Now, if a WNBA player were to be drafted by an NBA team, that would be a genuine Jackie Robinson moment. But likening Collins to Jackie Robinson is the sports equivalent of sacrilege. The more apt analogy here would be to one of Robinson's contemporaries, Eddie Gaedel.

Peter Parisi is an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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