Ray Ratto

Ratto: Many Lessons to be Learned from 'Out'

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Ratto: Many Lessons to be Learned from 'Out'

Nov. 9, 2010

RATTO ARCHIVE
'OUT: THE GLENN BURKE STORY'

Ray Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

There are many lessons to be learned from Out: The Glenn Burke Story,our little companys latest production which premiers at the CastroTheatre Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., followed by a town halldiscussion of gays in sport on Chronicle Live at 9:15.

But the one that stands front and center remains this: The progress onthe issue is incremental, so incremental that it is almost invisible.

Oh, there are moments here and there in which one can say, Now here's a step, the most of recent of which is Kye Allums, the transgender athlete playing on the George WashingtonUniversity (Division 1-A) womens basketball team. The school and teamhave welcomed him openly, even with the questions about him identifyinghimself as a man on a womens team, and of separate locker rooms causedby a Washington, D.C., law specifying gender-specific facilities.

But most of the same external pressures that crushed Glenn Burkesbaseball career are still there. Gay athletes in team sports stilldont come out until after their careers are essentially over, becauseonce they do come out, their careers ARE essentially over.

And the triumphs are lost in the massive closet in which most gayathletes remain. Gareth Thomas, the Welsh international rugby player,came out only toward the end of his storied international career, andadmitted, he could never have come out without first establishinghimself and earning respect as a player. And Graeme LeSaux, thelongtime English international soccer player, was taunted for years forbeing gay, when in fact he wasnt. Justin Fashanu, the first openly gayEnglish soccer star (he was the first black man to earn 1 million peryear) killed himself in 1998 after years of club and terrace abuse.

In America, the story is roughly the same. Active players staycloseted, and come out only after their careers are over, largelybecause the baggage is too heavy. More openly gay athletes are women,and almost all play in individual sports.

In short, the gay males in team sports keep their sexuality private asbest they can, and the dynamics by which they can function in teamsports runs in almost direction proportion to their importance to theteam.

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Since Dave Kopay, the former 49er and redskin running back, came out in1975, the advancements for gay and transgender athletes have beenoccasionally noteworthy. Martina Navratilova is probably the mostaccomplished athlete to admit her homosexuality, and is no longer muchof a story when an athlete in an individual sport declares him- orherself to be gay.

But Glenn Burke was a baseball player a quarter-century ago, and what societal gains there have been have happened mostly since then. Burke chose the hardest row to hoe ata time when America had not yet confronted its sexual and genderissues, and keeping true to himself was more difficult then than itwould be now.

Out makes a pretty clear case about the manifest cruelties of ajudgmental society. It may even provide hope to the next generation ofathletes confronted by the question of fear vs. career.

But the Glenn Burke story is only our story. There are dozens of othersthat ended much worse, and you would do well to follow Out with theBBC documentary, Inside Sport: The Last Taboo. Burkes story is partof a larger one, one that moves too slowly and has consumed too manyvictims, gay and straight, man and woman. In that context, hope anddespair walk hand in hand.

Then again, viewed in that context, maybe its better to say despairand hope. Because if anything is to be gathered from Out, it is thathope follows despair, not the other way around.

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.

HOUSTON

The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.

SAN ANTONIO

The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.

OKLAHOMA CITY

The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.

BOSTON

The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.

THE REST OF THE EAST

Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:

SACRAMENTO

Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

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How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

On a day and night when 21 technical fouls were called and five players ejected over 11 National Basketball Association games, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers received none of either in a game that should have created enough tension to warm the Yukon. This clearly makes no sense . . .

. . . unless of course the Warriors, having set a new trend early in the season for agonized dissent, have moved on to whatever the next thing is.

While a simmering uncivil war has bubbled between officials (and the management types who started this whole thing by telling officials to cut down on conversations and calm interactions with players and coaches), the Warriors have been on as close to their best behavior as they can manage.

Since the new year turned, the Warriors have played eight games and amassed only three technicals, one to Steve Kerr and two to players (Zaza Pachulia and, yes, you guessed it, Draymond Green). Oh, they still lead the league with 29 spaced over eight players and Kerr, plus seven ejections led by Kevin Durant’s three, but their seemingly insurmountable lead has been reduced to three over Oklahoma City and Phoenix (Phoenix?) and four over Houston and Charlotte (Charlotte?).

Indeed, you’d think that they could have mustered up at least one Monday night in Cleveland given the hype for this seemingly dying rivalry. I mean, the league even offered up one of its best and most strident officials in Scott Foster, whom Warrior fans are convinced is deliberately mean to the Warriors.

But here, too, is an outdated trope. The Warriors are 14-1 in their last 15 regular season games with Foster, and their postseason record of 7-5 with him is more a measure of him getting the maximum number of Finals games, where the Warriors have seven of their 16 postseason defeats. That doesn’t prove bias as much as it does frequency of use.

But we wander into the woods here. The point is, as the new discussion point is the much-advertised summit meeting between officials and players union officials at the All-Star break, the Warriors have been borderline zen. Why? Who knows? Maybe player performance maven Chelsea Lane is putting tranquilizers into their athletic drinks. Maybe they’ve taken up chanting. Maybe they can turn their ire on and off as they do the rest of their game. Or maybe these are the dog days for mouthing off at The Man.

Except that everyone else in the league seems to be taking up the cause of the revolution, so that last one can't be it.

Now we are willing to accept the possibility that so many day games Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday put the players off their typical routine, although the biggest incident of the evening happened in the night game between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may simply be, then, that the Warriors either have nothing more to complain about, have taken to heart the lectures about their lectures, or they really have moved on to the next thing that separates them from the field.

Maybe never losing a road game ever again. Although, tediously enough, that is a record already held by . . . yes, them.