- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Mike Piazza says he is not gay, which qualifies as a news item of sorts.

The news prompts a squeamishness among the national town criers, if only because Piazza's sexuality is none of the town's business.

The squeamishness eventually passes, undoubtedly following a strong dose of Viagra. Performance anxiety goes with the territory.

Piazza felt compelled to address the topic after Mets manager Bobby Valentine told a magazine that baseball is "probably ready for an openly gay player" and a gossip columnist with the New York Post interpreted the comment to be a preemptive measure designed to ease the coming-out exercise of a well-known athlete in Gotham. Hint, hint.

This is hardly fascinating stuff, considering the fare peddled on HBO's "Real Sex" and by assorted daytime talkmeisters, many of whom have never come across an alternative lifestyle they couldn't exploit.

A man who wears a diaper to relieve stress is in the neighborhood of the man who sleeps with his ex-girlfriend's pet ewe. One man eschews indoor plumbing, the other eschews pillow talk, not counting, "Baa."

A gay athlete barely resonates in this context. To be fair, Dave Kopay, who played with the Redskins in 1969-70, beat everyone to it a long time ago.

Dennis Rodman, in a dress, pushed the boundaries in sports even further in the '90s and complained only after he failed to land a modeling contract with Victoria's Secret. Somewhere in all the excitement is Marv Albert, in panties and a bra, and his telephone number in the black book of a dead dominatrix.

Consenting adults do whatever they do in the privacy of their bedrooms, some of it inventive, to say the least. Some go public, some don't. The distinction is important.

Piazza was granted no such option, mostly because salacious gossip is one of the principal currencies of the new media age.

The public's need to pant trumps fair play, blurred as it has been by those with a compulsion to be validated by the masses.

America likes to watch, as one Peeping Tom said to the other.

Or is that what the owner and manager of the Gold Club in Atlanta said to one another as they sat next to Patrick Ewing while a dancer, perhaps in Monica Lewinsky's designer kneepads, showed him some love?

Whatever, Lady Godiva, still nude and on horseback, is on television.

Piazza finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a culture that likes it a lot of ways, as long as all of it is hot, hot, hot.

We profess not to care about the sexual practices of consenting adults, the obligatory starting point of the discussion. We also feel badly about asking. But tell us anyway. Now tell us more. We will get over our shame, our hypocrisy, our unlevel playing field.

Larry King Live is back on the trail of Gary Condit. Do not touch your remote control, however incongruent the picture is. Larry Live is a serial marriage partner, Condit a serial philanderer. Honk if you either have been married to Larry Live or had an affair with Condit.

Condit merits the curtains to be drawn from his private life, no doubt, the justification clear enough.

The justification is different with Shawn Kemp, a raging heterosexual whose ups and downs in the bedroom led to seven children by six women and a precipitous drop in points and rebounds. In his case, being gay would have been a good career move.

Otherwise, lurking uninvited around someone's bedroom is pathetic.

If baseball is ready for an openly gay player, the out-of-breath ones in the national media have a funny way of making it a nonissue, with front-page headlines and incessant chatter.

This begs a follow-up question in the ballpark of the absurd.

Is baseball ready for a chatterbox who likes to be bound and gagged while a woman walks over his flabby body in spiked heels, preferably with a red rubber ball wedged in his mouth instead of one signed by Bud Selig?

Don't blame this space. Someone else started it.

Take it from Rafael Palmeiro, a 37-year-old convert to Viagra who raises an unnecessary query as well, which is: He needs the stuff already?

Whoa. Didn't know that. Learn something new every day.


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