Last year, Russia made headlines for all the wrong reasons when they passed an article of anti-gay legislation. Now, with the Sochi Olympics just three weeks ago, there's no time like the present to discuss the issue of homosexuality in sports - and TSN is doing just that this week.
Beginning on Wednesday, January 15, TSN's Sportscentre will air the first of a three-part series entitled ReOrientation, a feature about athletics and homosexuality.
While ReOrientation does include both Dustin Brown and Ben Scrivens of the Los Angeles Kings, the involvement of said players does not further encourage from writing about this. While I am happy to see that a couple of the Kings players are involved in this project, this is a feature that every sports fan, much less of hockey or the Kings, should tune into.
In addition to the contributions of Brown and Scrivens, TSN's Aaron Ward speaks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, former NFLer Esera Tuaolo and a plethora of other athletes both gay and straight.
As for Ward himself, he spent 17 years as a professional hockey player with 14 of those coming in the NHL. While he's had his share of success in the league, most notably winning Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricane, Ward has certainly seen - and lived - the culture of the modern athlete if you will.
Looking back on my teenage years, I am the first to admit that school was never my cup of tea. In all fairness, however, as much as I dreaded the notion of another boring day, I never feared going to school. I did, however, fear gym class.
While I was never the most athletically-gifted student, I was content to simply participate and earn a passing grade. But it wasn't that easy.
Going to class with so many guys that, in my mind, were all the same: boys who'd act so jocular that every class would be a contest to see who could outperform who - even in games as trivial as dodge ball.
But it was tough. I lacked the size and, in those days, charisma to keep up with the alpha males in my class but, in all honesty, it didn't bother me for the most part. What did bother me was when I was began to be called, for all intents and purposes, every name in the book from "faggot" to "pussy" to any other derogatory term you care to thrown into the mix. I survived but not after receiving my share of bullying which had become so bad that I would have doctor's write notes to excuse me from that class and that class alone. In hindsight, I do wish I had been more courageous but nevertheless.
Years later, I worked at a male-dominant company where, again, I was called the aforementioned slurs simply for wearing pink or purple shirts of all things - and while I can't justify the behaviour of my classmates in high school, it is notable to mention that they were teenagers. As far as the latter instances go, my antagonists were in their 30's, 40's and even 50's. Regardless of age, however, this type of behaviour is flat-out unacceptable.
While writing about my personal experience is not meant as a way to garner sympathy, it is a mild example of what homosexual athletes must endure on a regular basis. While many homosexual non-athletes experience the same type of bullying, it is especially difficult for athletes who are forced to blend in to such a chauvinistic environment where men are taught that vulnerability is weak.
In recent years, however, certain organizations have become progressive in dealing with homosexuality in sports. The most notable example is the You Can Play Project which is an organization that emphasizes the importance of an athlete's skill, heart and desire over his or her orientation. This is a project that has garnered the support of much of the National Hockey League including, most recently, Gabriel Landeskog and the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, homosexuality is still viewed as a sin by some athletes. So, while a great deal of progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done.
ReOrientation delves into the lives of different athletes, even some who felt so alone that they heavily contemplated suicide.
From the previews alone, TSN's ReOrientation looks promising and I, for one, am very excited to watch.
Part One of the series, The Culture of Casual Homophobia, will be aired on TSN's Sportscentre on Wednesday, January 15.
Part Two: The Transition Phase - Where are we going and how do we get there? airs January 16 and Part Three: The Players Speak will air on January 17.
Tune in to TSN's Sportcentre at 6pm EST and for those who do not get TSN, go to tsn.ca/reorientation to follow along.