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Collins Move A Sign Of Progress

Soon the announcement by NBA veteran center Jason Collins that he is gay will be passé, and that is a sign of progress. No team sport professional male athlete had ever come out while an active player.

While some are invoking strong comparisons with baseball’s racial pioneer Jackie Robinson, they are quiet different issues. The racial issue, while dramatic, is pretty simple: People of various races look different. The distinctions are not fraught with moral and religious attitudes, with nurture versus nature arguments or with the complexities that accompany human sexuality.

Attitudes about homosexuality tend to be generational. Those 60 and older statistically are far less tolerant and accepting than those under 30. And while Collins is generally receiving widespread support for his willingness to be first, it is hardly unanimous.

A number of athletes and sports-casters, including Masters champion Bubba Watson and EPSN NBA analyst Chris Broussard, have weighed in with a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint that regards any sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and woman to be sinful. Sportscaster Tim Brando is objecting to Collins being described as a hero. TNT analyst and former NBA star Charles Barkley has noted that no meaningful discussion can take place if everyone who criticizes or is uncomfortable with Collins’ declaration is skewered as ignorant or hateful.

It seems likely that in another 10 years this hardly even will merit much discussion or be noteworthy at all, and I can’t help but think that some teenager today who is tortured by a sexual identity crisis will feel a bit more hopeful about the future.

* A seismic shift has occurred in the San Francisco 49ers organization. It is clear general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh have taken an out-ofthe-box approach to the NFL draft. Harbaugh showed in his first draft year that he didn’t care what anybody thought by taking Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round, and that worked out pretty well. This year, he and Baalke traded up to take LSU safety Eric Reid at No. 18, higher than just about anybody had him rated. But the Niners had 13 picks, they loved Reid and went to get him. They grabbed Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine in the second round; if not for injury, Carradine was a mid-first-rounder. Recovering from ACL surgery, he may be on the shelf for much or all of 2013. Later, in the second round, the Niners grabbed Rice tight end Vance McDonald, who is big and productive and who was a third-or fourth-rounder on most boards.

And the 49ers scored with two fourth-rounders, wide receiver Quinton Patton out of Louisiana Tech, a fabulous route runner with excellent hands, and maybe the steal of the draft with South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who is recovering nicely from a catastrophic knee injury. When he’s healthy, he is the best and most explosive back in the draft, and they will let him rehab all of 2013.

There is a pattern here, and clearly the Baalke-Harbaugh plan is to think long term and act without regard to NFL convention.