1 min

Elephants in the locker room

The trauma of being found attractive

Gay goalie Scott Heggart says his pre-game hockey ritual is so intense that his high school coach gave him an end-of-season award for it – followed by a bang-on impression of the routine for good measure.

Heggart’s point?

“Before a game, sex is the last thing on your mind,” he says.
br>This, despite all the panicked hullaballoo in some quarters about what the presence of openly gay players could mean for getting changed in the locker room, not to mention picking up the proverbial dropped bar of soap. (As if it would be so different from the manly butt slaps already administered for a game well played.)

Newly signed Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe dismisses what he feels is the false elephant in the locker room.

“What makes you think that because all of a sudden a player is allowed to openly be himself that he’s immediately going to start mounting every guy in sight . . . despite every single norm we are raised with?”

Basketball’s Jason Collins says he’s glad he came out in 2013, not 2003 – that he “baked” for 33 years.
Does it seem plausible that gay athletes like Collins, having agonized about the consequences for their careers, team relationships and fan reaction, are now going to start making passes left, right and centre at their teammates?
Any number of people in any number of workplaces go about their business on a daily basis “without riotous orgies,” Kluwe points outs. “Those of you worried about a gay teammate checking out your ass in the shower or hitting on you in the steam room or bringing too much attention to the team – I have four simple words for you: grow the fuck up. This is our job; we are adults, so would you kindly act like one?”

Much of the discussion about openly gay athletes still hasn’t cracked the level of adolescence, a dismal reminder of our crippling discomfort with sexuality and gender.

It’s not unlike the sky-is-falling reaction that accompanied female sports reporters’ first attempts to gain access to locker rooms.

Back in the late 1970s, Major League Baseball (MLB) blocked Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke’s access to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ locker room during the World Series – access that her male competitors took for granted.
The word, delivered to Ludtke by the assistant to the baseball commissioner, was that if they allowed her into the clubhouse, the players’ children were going to be ridiculed in school the next day.

Not to mention, he added, that the players’ wives had not been consulted.

Ludtke’s crackshot rejoinder? “On what decision has baseball ever consulted the wives?”

She consulted her lawyers, took the MLB to court, and won.

“There were probably a dozen to 20 women reporters at that time covering sports; I would say, conservatively, there are now several thousand,” Ludtke says of the implication of the court’s ruling.

Hopefully, the recent decision by Collins and soccer’s Robbie Rogers to step out while still on the field of play will have a similar influence on other closeted male athletes – and eventually drown out the fear-mongering about what it means to have openly gay teammates.

And really . . . so what if a teammate finds your butt, package and pecs to be all that?

Be flattered. And if you’re not on, or partial to, that particular team, then a clear “Thank you for noticing my vitals, but I’m not interested,” is all the defensive equipment you usually need to stop a pass in its tracks.

As Kluwe points out, human resources personnel are there to intervene in the (unlikely) event things get out of hand . . . or to hold your hand through the trauma of being found attractive.