Put yourself deep inside the heart of someone with a gay son.

Frequently worried. Proud, but sad. Defensive.



But perhaps comforted with Monday's news that journeyman NBA center Jason Collins is the first openly gay athlete in an American major professional sport.

Or put yourself in a mosque, a church, a synagogue or a long-standing children's organization that for dozens or thousands of years has played along to a heterosexual beat. Concerned about the immediate politicization of Collins at the highest government levels?

Collins in his announcement said he is “happy to start the conversation.”

Finally. A conversation. An actual exchange of ideas and opinions.

Most of us know, like and accept gay people the way former College of Charleston guard Anthony Johnson knows Jason Collins, his former New Jersey Nets teammate.

“It takes a lot of courage to come out as a professional athlete in the culture and the society we live in,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I applaud him for showing that courage. I don't think of him any differently than as a great guy and a great teammate.”

Most of us know the difference between acceptance and celebration.

All of us know there is very little conversation going on in our unfortunate world of extremes.

Conversation is, by definition, not one-sided.

Why aren't we more tolerant?

Why are people who consistently demand tolerance typically the least tolerant?

Obama and Culliver

It's difficult to digest some of Collins' brave words in his first-person Sports Illustrated story.

“No one wants to live in fear,” he wrote. “I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have.”

It was also hard to watch former South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver stoned and pilloried at the Super Bowl for saying he wouldn't want a gay San Francisco 49ers teammate, and to know there is no room for disagreement.

A good conversation might involve getting to know and understand Jason Collins and finding out what makes the Chris Cullivers of the world tick.

It's OK to applaud President Barack Obama for his support of Collins. Leadership on a personal level.

And OK to point out that most states and countries don't allow gay marriage. Even if stacked courts tilt the tide, not everyone is all in.

It's too bad that big-time American male sports are so behind in the acceptance of gays — even in the simple acknowledgement they exist — when sports was so out front of society on most integration issues from the 1940s to the 1970s.

And why is that?

It's inspiring to some to have Collins emerge from the shadows as the Jackie Robinson bio pic “42” is on the big screen.

And ridiculous to match Collins' potential plight as a 12-year NBA veteran in 2013 to Robinson's one-man struggle for civil rights as a Major League Baseball rookie in 1947.

Gay SEC head coaches?

Odds are that homosexuals will step forward in American sports over the coming weeks, though it's not certain that Collins quite qualifies as an active athlete (he is an unsigned 34-year-old free agent who has averaged fewer than 1.9 points per game over the last seven seasons).

Odds are against your favorite SEC school hiring an openly gay head football coach during your lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone currently alive.

We think very little about prominent lesbian athletes. It's just not a big deal anymore, and hasn't been for decades.

We make Jason Collins a cover story with strong legs. What's the difference?

Most journalists championed the Collins cause.

But ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard didn't cheerlead during an “Outside the Lines” segment. “I don't agree with homosexuality,” Broussard said. “I think it's a sin, as I think of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”

It will be nice when more people can applaud Collins for his courage, and for starting a real conversation.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff