In our earlier incarnation of this here blog, last spring, I offered the following post:
In the car today, on ESPN radio, I heard Charles Barkley, the retired NBA superstar and outspoken (in itself a wonderful thing, as athletes, and – as the esteemed Daniel Oppenheimer puts it – "especially black male athletes, tend to be punished for being outspoken."), talking to perhaps the only two even vaguely introspective men in sports talk radio (my masochistic habit of partaking in this dankest bastion of traditional American male masculinity will be discussed at a later date), Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. They asked Barkley (without snickering!) if he’d seen "Brokeback Mountain," and if so, what he thought of it. Barkley led off and concluded his response by saying, best as I can remember, "I have a lot of gay friends, and I love them dearly, and God bless them." No, really, I swear it, that’s what he said. It’s the only time sports-talk radio has nearly brought me to tears. A jock saying he has "a lot of gay friends"? Unheard of. "I love them dearly." Unthinkable! And, "God bless them," well that’s just blasphemously beautiful in so many ways I don’t know where to begin – I pray that Pat Robertson was listening.
Barkley went on to say that, his love and blessings for his gay friends notwithstanding, he’s a fan of the screwball comedy and the kung fu flick, and had no real interest in a romance or a western. If it was a gay martial arts flick (“Crouching Brokeback, Hidden Dragon”?) or a gay "40 Year Old Virgin," well that might be a different story.
I wanted to re-offer and follow-up that post today because this week the man sometimes known as the Round Mound of Rebound came out (as it were) formally, in favor of gay marriage. “If they want to get married,” he offered, simply, and once again controversially, “God bless them.”
Thus I offer Charles Barkley, future governor of Alabama, as the jock archetype to bring down the traditional silent, macho, apolitical (if patriotic), misogynistic jock archetype. For those of you who were never lucky enough to see him play, let me just say that he could do almost everything that Bird, Jordan, and Magic could do (and many wondrous nights he did more than they could do), but Barkley, not unlike Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire could do, only “backwards and in heels,” did what he did night after night, undersized for his position by several inches, stuffed with junk food, hungover, and at least fifteen pounds overweight. God bless him.