OPENING GAY (A Conversation)
Daniel Murphy, the Mets second baseman, skipped Opening Day last season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. He got a ton a flak for that in the New York media – as would be expected as they give flak for essentially anything. At the time – and still to this day – I commend(ed) him for this decision. It wasn’t Game 7 of the World Series, and there would/should be many more Opening Days, but that is a moment that you can never get back. So, other than being a slick fielder, swinging a good left-handed stick, and wearing Franklin batting gloves, that was about all I knew about Daniel Murphy. And what I knew, I liked.
Fast forward 11 months.
But first, fast forward 4 months or flashback 7 months; however you want to flip the calendar.
Last July, then-Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Major Leaguer Billy Bean as MLB’s first Ambassador of Inclusion. In case you don’t know Billy’s story (he is not the Moneyball G.M. of the Athletics; this is Billy Bean without the “e”), he played in the Majors for part of six seasons. He retired in 1995 because it was too difficult to hide his sexuality from his family, his friends, his teammates, and the fans. In 1999, at the age of 35, Billy came out publicly. And he has handled the fallout ever since.
MLB, having dealt with the likes of John Rocker, Ozzie Guillen, Yunel Escobar, and Roger McDowell, decided to be proactive. They created the position of Ambassador of Inclusion in an effort to “offer guidance and training and to encourage equal opportunities for gays and lesbians in Major and Minor League clubs”.
Billy’s first few months in the position were relatively uneventful. Then, he accepted Mets’ G.M. Sandy Alderson’s invitation to address the team at Spring Training. Billy came in, gave a short speech, donned a uniform, and pitched the last round of batting practice. All was right with the world. After the workout, some journalists asked Daniel Murphy about Bean’s visit. A quick, but very important, side note: Murphy is a devout Christian. His response, however, may surprise you. Herewith:
“I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.
Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality. We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”
There is so much in that statement, and I truly don’t know what to do with any/all of it. This Blog never intends to be overtly or overly political, and certainly not religious, but I could not keep myself from throwing this out there to see what other people have to say, what you all think.
If we put aside the word “lifestyle” for just a second (which I know you can’t), the statement may be a model of what we want to teach our kids about accepting people who are, who look, who think, who act differently than we do.
If a devout Christian who has “surrender[ed] to Christ” can love someone who they vehemently disagree with, then the lyrics to Imagine may not be an impossible dream. If you can “acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours”, then maybe there is hope for mankind. [Bonus points for anyone who can give attribution to that quote. Link below.]
Unfortunately, we have no choice but to come back to the word “lifestyle”. How much stock should we put into that word and that concept? Is Murphy’s statement the start of a better dialogue and understanding, or is as far as some people will ever go on the issue? Billy Bean seems to think the former:
“After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.
I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start.
The silver lining in his comments are that he would be open to investing in a relationship with a teammate, even if he ‘disagrees’ with the lifestyle. It may not be perfect, but I do see him making an effort to reconcile his religious beliefs with his interpretation of the word lifestyle. It took me 32 years to fully accept my sexual orientation, so it would be hypocritical of me to not be patient with others.
Inclusion means everyone, plain and simple. Daniel is part of that group. A Major League clubhouse is now one of the most diverse places in sports. It wasn’t always that way, but we can thank No. 42 for that. So in his honor, with a little patience, compassion and hard work, we’ll get there.”
I am conflicted, but Billy has considerably more credibility on this issue than do I. So, after hearing Billy speak on the matter, I felt pretty positive; pretty upbeat. And then I switched the channel to CNN and heard a retired neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins, a man who is contemplating a run for President, say that homosexuality is a choice because people “go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay”. And then my head exploded.
I don’t have any answers, just more questions. What I do know is that, fortunately, in my quiet little corner of the world, my kids are being raised in a community where being gay is only different in that it is not the norm. Most kids in our neighborhood have a mom and a dad; but some have a mom and mom while others have a dad and a dad; and my kids have a stepmom and a dad. Regardless of your beliefs on this issue, I think it is important to discuss it openly – out of the closet, so to speak – so that people can make their own informed and impassioned assessments.
Billy’s appearance at Mets’ camp and Daniel’s statement have not received nearly enough media coverage (what with private email accounts, and racist fraternity members, and NFL free agency), but it really should. If for no other reason than the more light that is shone, the better we can understand the issues and each other.
And with that I say, truly unironically . . .
p.s. The answer to the question asked above is at 1:22.