NBA Center Jason Collins sets the stage, and a wonderful example, for gay athletes

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It’s not a baseball story, but some sports stories are so significant that we’d be remiss in not noting them. This is one of them: veteran NBA center Jason Collins has come out as gay in a wonderful, eloquent and uplifting Sports Illustrated column. You owe it to yourself to read his words on the matter.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has issued a statement of support, as have multiple NBA coaches and players from Doc Rivers to Kobe Bryant on down. There have already been and will be comments from bigots, homophobes and simple, pathetic provocateurs as well. They’ll be discredited, mocked and ultimately pitied in pretty short and overwhelming order if they haven’t already have been. We’re in a very different world now than even a decade ago, thankfully.

Those folks aside, I’m particularly struck by Stern’s use of the world “family” in his statement. While we all know that sports are a business and a quite often ruthless meritocracy, when it comes to the off-the-field and off-the-court human interactions, it makes eminent sense that people within sports, who know what one another are up against all the time in ways that none of us on the outside ever could, treat one another with the decency of a good, loving and strong family.

Today this is a basketball story. In the coming years this story will inevitably play its way out through football, hockey, soccer and baseball as well. When it does, Collins will be the touchstone, and his brave example and honest words will the ones that set the stage for and provide comfort and guidance to other gay athletes seeking to live their lives and play their sports outside of the closet.

Congratulations to Jason Collins for his bravery, his example, his humor and his class.

It looks like Bryce Harper cheated in the Home Run Derby

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I just saw Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs refer to this as “BryceGhazi” and we’re not gonna top that, so we shouldn’t even try.

The controversy: Bryce Harper, in defeating Kyle Schwarber in the Home Run Derby last night, didn’t follow the rules. Or else his dad, who was pitching to him didn’t. The rule in question is that the pitcher has to wait for the last hit ball to land before delivering the next one. Given that the Derby is a timed event, such a thing matters, of course, because the faster you get pitches the faster you can hit them out of the park. At least if you don’t get too tired first.

Harper’s dad was a bit quick with the final three pitches in the final round, allowing Harper to get to 18, tying Kyle Schwarber before winning it outright with his 30 seconds bonus time. Watch as Harper waves for his dad to deliver the pitch while the last ball is still flying:

I’m not gonna argue that he didn’t do it. I will say, however, that no one should really care. Mostly because it’s the Home Run Derby and it doesn’t matter a bit. Getting mad about this is a half-step removed from getting mad that Blackjack Mulligan used a foreign object to gouge Pedro Morales’ eyes during a house show in 1976. Yes, it’s true, but c’mon, we’re entertaining people here.

I have not seen any suggestion that Kyle Schwarber is upset, but if he later says he is I’ll simultaneously understand yet still roll my eyes. I doubt MLB will do anything here or issue a statement of any kind. If it does, I’ll roll my eyes harder. Because, I repeat: It’s the Home Run Derby.