Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Jay Leno now Sid Caesar? This Jimmy Fallon is out of control. 

How great was Sid Caesar? His writers were in awe of him and they included Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen. 

The way he would dismiss a joke idea was even funny. A writer would give a premise and Sid would look up like he saw a flapping duck, pretend to shoot it and then watch it slowly flap to the ground.

Make no mistake about it, what Michael Sam did - by outing himself prior to the NFL draft - was courageous. One of the marks of courage is doing something that isn't always in your best interest. 

The mantra of the NFL (No Fun League) is "No drama." And gay is drama. 

Look at the Seattle Seahawks. The volatile and verbose Richard Sherman gets caught giving an emotional sideline rant/taunt that was really not that big a deal, but was made into a big deal by the scandal-thirsty press. 

Boy, was he shut down after that. The only comments Sherman made prior to the Super Bowl were gushing compliments about the Broncos. 

Look at the Patriots. The un-belicose Belichick's personality flatlined years ago.

Unlike Michael Sam, NFL GM's are not courageous. They avoid drama like the plague. In the end, courage is its own reward and what Michael Sam did will be good for him and the league. 

But it will probably cost him. 

Lex's experience with a gay teammate

(Just to make sure, you know when I refer to myself in the third person it is done so sarcastically, right?)

During high school, I was lucky enough to be a member of a virtually undefeated indoor 4x100 relay team. Our talent was in our baton exchanges as well as our speed. 

The fastest member of this team was also the only African American member. He was also as close to an out-of-the-closet gay man as closeted gay men were in 1972 through 1976. 

At the start of our freshman year - let's pretend his name was Henry - Henry did do some wildly innapropriate things: he offered to give massages, stole kisses, rubbed up against guy's butts and offered to pay guys to get naked for him. (Like all of us at 14, he was not in control of his hormones. Like none of us, however, he liked the boys)

Once we let Henry know what we were OK with - and not OK with - he toned it way, way down. He was gay and he was also smart. Basically we all silently agreed to pretend Henry wasn't gay. And it worked. One of the reasons it worked is that Henry was the fastest guy on the team. By far. In track, like all sports, talent fosters tolerance. 

Sure, on the bus rides home from away meets, when Henry would get all wound-up to a song on the radio he liked - Doby Gray's "Drift Away" springs to mind - and he would flamboyantly dance and flounce up and down the bus aisle, we all had a pretty good chuckle at his expense. Here was this guy who, an hour ago kicked everyone's ass on the track, dancing like Flip Wilson's Geraldine.

Sorry, but it was funny. 

But you know who was the harshest on Henry? His black so-called friends. There were only three other African Americans on the team besides Henry. Barely behind his back they called him Henrynah Queenah the ballerina supreme-ah;  whenever they, and their girlfriends,  had a chance, they brutally mocked him at parties. Many times, the three little white boys, as they called us, had to ask them to cool it. If Henry wanted to be in the closet, we would honor that. 

In all candor, in high school we were all very homophobic. It seems bad now, but at the time we thought we were being quite gracious by ignoring Henry's predilections. 

Due to the high difficulty and long practice time, a good relay team has to have good chemistry, and we did. We all were close and loyal. When I was out my senior year with a torn hamstring, the other three were just as upset as I was. Most of us are still great friends. (One has chosen to keep his distance, but we are still friends) 

If this had happened today, I am almost positive Henry would have come out of the closet and it would have been easier on everyone. Helping someone you like live a lie is fraught with awkwardness. 

Henry was a good friend and teammate and stayed one. At the Ten Year high school reunion we were honestly delighted to see each other.  Henry was still in the closet claiming to have a wife, and we pretended to go along, like always. He was a flight attendant and, sadly, passed of AIDS a few years after. 

In retrospect, Henry taught us "three little white boys" as he called us - even though we weren't little -  he taught us a lot. Probably the biggest thing was: being a nice guy, funny and a good friend trumps the uncomfortable intolerance of a "different" sexual preference. 

But being really fast trumps every damn thing. 

If I had any advice for Michael Sam, it would be to be good. Nobody is going to yell after a key sack:

"Nice tackle even though I don't approve of your lifestyle."