I can't really offer any significant impressions of the Amaechi story yet, because I think the main event here is not the announcement, but the reaction.  Thus far, comments from current NBAers have been somewhat tepid, if fair.  Most have been of the hey-as-long-he-doesn't-go-Reggie-Evans-on-me-I-don't-have-a-problem-with-a-gay-teammate variety.  I guess that's the most we can expect, and a drastic improvement from years past.  The chic stance among columnists has been whoop-de-dam-do -- and I understand that position, even if I find it a little glib.  Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, who covered Meech while he was with the Magic, calls Amaechi's coming out "so 90's," and suggests that Amaechi's desire to have a public discussion is largely an attempt to sell his upcoming book, Man in the Middle.  In other words, Amaechi is a lot more like your average public celebrity than he is different. 

What's always upset me as a gay sports fanatic is the tacit assumption inside the sports world that gay people don't exist in its orbit, neither as participants nor as spectators.  Certainly it's widely understood that there are gay people in clubhouses and locker rooms.  But the general atmospheric tone has always been that gays are invisible, unless, of course, they botch an easy grounder at third, in which case they're homos.  Twice in Anaheim this season, slurs were unleashed in my close proximity - once, Dodgers fans were targeted as homos, the other time the pinstripers were serenaded with a variation of the Gonzaga fave, "Broke-back Yank-ees."  Both times, I confronted the offenders -- something I might not have done in past years -- willing to get my ass kicked if it came to that.  At Dodger Stadium, I've always stood up to a bigot, for no other reason than I feel that my season tickets entitle me to a certain ownership over my section, as if my own dignity isn't enough reason to call someone out.  You've also got your subtle, grade-B homophobia at the game - the Kiss Cam sequence that concludes with a shot of two guys, usually opposing players or fans, punctuated with the roaring studio audience guffaw from the crowd.  My married buddy, Luke, has pledged that if the camera comes anywhere in our vicinity, he's laying a big one on me.

In general, I'm not an identity politics kind of guy - it's just not my style.  I spend 80 nights a year at professional sporting events [tonight, though, it's Fairfax HS at Westchester HS - stellar Los Angeles city showdown down in Playa] and only one at Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner, largely because I think Elton Brand is far more interesting than Sheila Kuehl.  Having said that, I have to take issue with Schmitz and LZ Granderson.  The Amaechi announcement is huge. 

Is Amaechi courageous?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But what's important here is the conversation itself.  In a sporting world where invisibility reigns, recognition is the antidote.  I know Granderson has hung around pro athletes a lot more than I have, but if he doesn't appreciate incrementalism --- that without Amaechi's post-career admission there can't be an active player who comes out --- then he's ignoring the nuance of the battle.   I'd also be lying if I said that when I first heard earlier this week that a former NBA player was going to come out, one of the first things I hoped for was a good ambassador.   With Amaechi, we get that --- an intelligent, charming, thoughtful, charitable guy who elevates the discussion.  Any discussion, really.  Should it matter?  Probably not, but practically speaking, Amaechi's public persona is an important selling point.  If you haven't met him yet, you can go here.  

At the risk of sounding maudlin, I'm rarely happier than when I go to a ballgame.  It's a sensual feast: The buzz outside the turnstiles, the sounds, the pageantry.  I'm hopeless:  I love watching sports, always have; I was a fan long before I was gay.  But with the possible exception of the night the Clippers hoist a championship banner in the rafters at Staples, or the presentation of World Series rings to the Dodgers, the moment I look forward to most is the day when I can applaud an openly gay ballplayer during opening introductions.  I think anyone over the age of 18 who sports a player's jersey in public is an unrepentant dork and a drag queen in his own right, but damned if I won't don that guy's uni. Because pride is an inexplicable human force.