Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 1, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Hold off on praise of Collins

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — Jason Collins chose to be gay, and he chose to be up front about that choice.

While there’s something to be said about the latter, I still can’t bring myself to pull from the grab bag of popular adjectives like “brave,” “courageous” and “heroic” to describe the NBA free agent’s decision to declare his sexual orientation in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.

And, please, let’s refrain from referencing Jackie Robinson, as No. 42’s situation consisted of completely different circumstances.

Race isn’t a choice. Robinson was a black man because Robinson was born a black man.

In my opinion, one’s sexual preference (just as one’s religion) is a lifestyle choice. As a Christian, I’d be wrong to judge Collins for resorting to that path.

Actually, I’m confident that I wouldn’t treat Collins any differently even if I was in the same locker room. And I wouldn’t think more or less of him if I was a fan of his team.

What he does off the field is up to him.

What’s unsettling to me is that society deems it OK to criticize Tim Tebow about being up front about his religion, but if someone chooses not to praise Jason Collins for coming out as gay, then that’s socially unacceptable, politically incorrect.

This is a complicated subject, isn’t it?

To eliminate some of the touchiness of the topic, I’ll be sports-specific for a moment.

Here are the 7-footer’s career numbers in the NBA: 3.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds a game and half a block per contest.

At 34, Collins is now looking for a job. He played for both the Celtics and Wizards this past season before becoming a free agent.

If he doesn’t get another playing opportunity, are NBA teams homophobic? No. That decision will be based on his production on the court.

And fans aren’t homophobic, either, if they choose to not crown Collins the king of courage.

In sports, let’s save the showering of praise for athletic accomplishments. Let’s limit the calls from the White House, too (yes, Collins received a ring from the president).

Collins was the first active athlete in one of the four major professional sports to announce that he’s gay, and there will likely be more to follow.

Somebody had to be the first, and while that took a leap out of his comfort zone, I prefer to preserve words like “brave,” “courageous” and “heroic” to use in other situations. Does that make me brave?

Reds Roadkill

The Reds’ run production on the road has been abysmal for a few reasons. Two of the main ones are Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart.

Bruce must produce from the five-hole. At his current pace, he will strike out more than 220 times and drive in about 62 runs. Now, as Reds fans know, the streaky Bruce may start to boil soon. He showed signs of it Wednesday, with a triple and single.

For this offense to score runs, Bruce has to bring ’em in. He’s not done so away from home, going 13-for-53 with one lonesome RBI outside the confines of Great American Ball Park.

Cozart, especially when batting second, must stop hovering around the Mendoza Line. A .200 batting average sandwiched between the league’s two best in getting on base (Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto) substantially diminishes possible production. Plus, the shortstop is a miserable 8-for-42 with three RBIs on the road. Cozart has a lot of upside, but he should probably stay down in the lineup.

As for the No. 2 spot, I’d like to see Xavier Paul assume that full-time position.

Faried Fires Back

After Tuesday’s 107-100 loss, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson sounded off about the Denver Nuggets being “dirty” and that they were sending “hit men” the way of point guard Stephen Curry.

Former Morehead State star Kenneth Faried, who has been quite successful as a Nugget, fired back. He said, “They play dirty every night. They have targeted me.”

Faried (11.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG) and the Nuggets will try to avoid elimination tonight as Game 6 tips off at 10:30. The Warriors lead the series 3-2.

Going Golden?

Considering the way Rick Pitino was rolling the dice in March and early April, who’s to say that his hot streak won’t continue into May?

Pitino could nab another title to go with his and the Louisville Cardinals’ NCAA basketball crown if Goldencents, a horse of which he owns 5 percent, wins the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Kevin Krigger would become the first African-American jockey to smell the roses since 1902 if he can guide Goldencents to victory. The horse was at 8-1 odds as of Wednesday.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.