When Sports Transcend the Playing Field

Dooling Collins

Working in sports for several years now, I’ve increasingly come to realize how truly sports transcend what takes place on the field, court, etc. I’ve been following a couple of stories recently that I believe exemplify this and wanted to share them here.

The first has undoubtedly been one of the biggest news stories of the year – Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay active athlete in a major professional team sport (the media has learned to be very precise in its phrasing here). I credit both Collins for his courage and Sports Illustrated for giving him license to self-author his story in its magazine.

While most of us are aware that Collins has come out, I’d encourage you to read his article and some of the ensuing coverage (some found via the link above). His story is a huge step for sports, and I think the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his revelation, particularly from the sports community, speaks volumes for where we as a society are headed. I’d say a personal call from President Obama is pretty substantial as well.

Another story that I came across shortly before the Collins news broke was that of fellow NBA player Keyon Dooling in the Boston Globe. Dooling, who I’ve followed for years now given his Mizzou roots, has publicly disclosed that he was sexually abused as a pre-teen. A concerning incident last summer soon landed him in a debilitating mental health care situation until the likes of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers stepped in to intervene.

After undergoing the necessary care and the likely lifelong healing process, Dooling has now not only gone public with his news, but he has also begun speaking out as an advocate for sexual abuse victims.

As Collins notes in his article, it often takes a major event – in his case the Boston Marathon tragedy – to put things in perspective. I applaud him and Dooling for publicly sharing their stories, thereby allowing us to join them for the ride.

There’s a great deal we can learn from athletes like Collins and Dooling. The lessons are many and come in the form of self-discovery, courage and acceptance, to name a few. We all experience joys and challenges in our everyday lives – some more momentous than others – and perhaps their stories go to show we should let others in a little more often.

Moreover, I always enjoy seeing athletes and others largely in the public eye using their platforms to break down stereotypes and to advance the greater good. I’m confident that others will now follow Collins’ and Dooling’s lead, and we as a society will without a doubt be better off because it.

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