Good On You, Orlando

And Good For Athletes Everywhere

All of us in the sports press crowd – and yes, I guess that includes teh gays – got a bit of a jolt this week. No, not Teddy’s win, or Romney kick-boxing the President to a pulp…although that comes close.

This is what bravery looks like

Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Cruz left no doubts about exactly who he is this week when he came out as a gay athlete in a taped interview on Telemundo. Less tippy-toeing out of the closet and more busting the door off its hinges, he said unprompted: “I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.” Pretty much says it.

I admit, I don’t follow boxing or MMA Classes much…too Mad Men and all for me. I get all the fighting (or occasional bongo-playing) I need watching insanely strong and fast men dart around the rink on razor-sharp blades.

I don’t know if gay rumors or scandals had followed Cruz for a while or not. His promoter Tuto Zabala, Jr. (now there’s a boxing name) told ESPN he’d heard rumors about Cruz for about a year, and just assumed he was gay, but never asked him. Where this placed on the “Anderson is gay” (duh)  to “Gareth Thomas is gay” (woht?)  spectrum, I can’t judge.

Go get ’em, Orlando

But it appears there was no pressure on Cruz to come out at this point…other than just being honest with himself. “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,” he told Telemundo. “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Let’s just repeat that for a third time. “I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

So far, I haven’t seen one boxer, promoter, bookie, sharp guy, blogger or journalist say anything about this other than: good on him. Won’t affect his career in the least. He’s just the first of many.

So true. In sport (soccer) after sport (wrestling) after sport (tennis and diving and golf and lacrosse and skiing and I’ll stop now) we’ve seen active players come out not to boos but cheers, and with no impact on their performance. Every sport – including boxing – has players who’ve come out after the fact. In the “It Gets Better” column, more and more athletes are coming out while in uniform.

Good for Cruz – good for him being a good person, a role-model to kids, and just honest with himself and his fans. This truth always sets one free.

And so some day, perhaps soon, someone in the NHL is going to do exactly what Orlando Cruz did. Stand up as who he is, with no apologies and no regrets. I expect the reaction will be exactly the same: good on him, good for the sport, everyone will go back to not caring and watching good plays, just goodness all around.

Oh, that and, I expect, that certain first NHLer will have a long line of literary agents waving fat checks to get him to publish his story.

Finally, we have one request of Orlando, please use your skills to kick the snot out of Don Cherry. We bet you could beat the plaid off of him.

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2 Responses to Good On You, Orlando

  1. scottheggart says:

    Woah, woah, woah, I’ll have you know that Don Cherry is a national treasure. Besides the blasphemy, wonderful piece!

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