A little over a week ago, we were treated to a go-round of moralizing from sports columnists and sports talk radio hosts (something I always find amusing on its face) regarding the gay slur mouthed by Laker Kobe Bryant at an NBA official. (Disclosure: while a lifelong Laker fan, I am not a fan of Kobe Bryant, the person, which has lessened my passion for the Lakers in recent years) Certainly, while Bryant’s use of the word was unacceptable, it’s absolutely hilarious for anyone who has played or been around competitive basketball at just about any level (from high school to the NBA; from local rec league to pick-up games at 24-Hour Fitness) to act “aghast” that Bryant would say such a thing.
That word, among others, has been a staple of trash talk and angry outbursts for years — unfortunately. I am not defending Bryant for saying it — it is a word that people clearly need to remove from their vocabularies — but to act as if it was absolutely unheard of is asinine. Hence, Bryant’s inital response to requests for an apology. His initial “non-apology” was — more than the tone-deaf denial it was portrayed as by many sports journalists and commentators — merely part and parcel of the environment he’s been part of for decades. This is the same environment fomented by the screaming sports talk host or “all or nothing” sports columnist that makes the game bigger than it is.
Just this past weekend, though, I came across a more cloaked — and therefore, perhaps more disturbing — shot at homosexuals. During a Red Sox-Angels game at Anaheim, a between-innings break brought the wholly predictable appearance of the “Kiss Cam.” If you’ve been to any pro or major college sporting event in the past 10 years, you’ve seen it. The stadium video board jumps from one camera shot to another of a couple and the crowd roars until (or after) the pair kisses on camera. While it’s become part of the sports entertainment landscape, it can be funny at times when the camera focuses on a first date, or sweet when it comes up on an elderly couple. However, apparently the folks running the kiss cam in Los Angeles of Anaheim (or whatever city the Angels represent, since there’s no mention of any city anywhere in that stadium in reference to the Angels — just an omnipresent hal0ed “A”), also find humor in the idea of two men kissing. Not only that, based on the reaction of what sounded like a majority of the crowd, so too — unapologetically — do the fans. The Kiss Cam, you see, wrapped with a shot of two Boston relief pitchers sitting next to each other in the bullpen, to the hoots and hollers of more than 30,000 people.
While I personally am not offended by what, truly, is juvenile humor that would likely draw a laugh from a nervous 12-year-old, and usually I wouldn’t think twice about it, this time it struck me — mainly thanks to the recent media coverage of the Kobe situation. How many of those 30,000 people verbalized concern about or disapproval of Bryant’s comments? How many didn’t? Where did the hypocrisy start and finish? And where, pray tell, is the media this time around? Is it not convenient to their storyline of a “greater family atmosphere” in Anaheim than at the recently ridiculed Dodger Stadium? Can you imagine the outcry from the media if they could tack “homophobic” onto that hype? Is homophobia part of a “family environment”? How would a gay Angel fan feel about it?
So, Kobe Bryant mouthing a gay slur: worthy of harsh condemnation. The Angel organization and the operators of Angel Stadium of Anaheim making a lame, but clearly homophobic, joke at least twice in three days in clear view of 30,000-plus people: oh, it’s just a joke. Hmmm.
It’s not the PC thing that gets me — either way, whether overly PC or not PC at all. It’s the sad double standard and lazy hypocrisy.