Ohio State coach Jim Tressel getting way too much credit for his gay interview
Only in sports (and perhaps the military) would one of the most boring figures in recent history giving one of his typically boring interviews become national news.
But that's what is happening with The Sweater Vest — otherwise known as Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel.
Tressel is making news because he granted an interview to Outlook Columbus, a magazine that caters to his city's gay community. Talking to a gay-focused publication is something that none of Tressel's college coaching peers have ever done — something it's hard to imagine any major coach in men's pro sports besides the contrarian, forward-thinking Phil Jackson or the late Bill Walsh doing either.
Ohio State's coach still mostly gave his usual bland quotes. This is a smart guy who works at being bland. But while media outlets from CNN to ESPN focused on the fact that Tressel gave the interview in the first place, they mostly glossed over the fact that the coach actually did drop in at least one interesting quote. Tressel said that he would welcome an openly gay Buckeye player.
"We tell our guys that an authentic you is the best you," Tressel said. "That's truly what freedom means, and the beauty of living in America. People can live their beliefs."
If one wanted to quibble, you could point out that the end of the quote almost makes it sound like Tressel — who's described himself as a Christian conservative in the past and publicly supported George W. Bush in recent elections — is trying to say that being gay is a belief choice. But maybe, that's reading too much into his words.
As Yahoo's Dan Wetzel points out there are more than 10,000 men playing college football in this country and not one of them is publicly open about being gay. Good luck finding an openly gay athlete in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball too. There isn't a single one. Not that many years ago, Mets catcher Mike Piazza felt compelled to hold a press conference to announce that he wasn't gay — an entire press conference in which that's all he basically said.
Under this context of macho paranoia, it's hard to argue that Tressel didn't do something at least symbolically significant.
But he's not exactly backing it up. Tressel has turned down any follow-up interview requests. He will not discuss it with Larry King. He's almost raised the issue and then decided it's not his place (or choice) to talk about it further.
This is how it always happens in sports. Anchors and sports writers will talk about The Sweater Vest's interview for a news cycle and then everything will go back to the status quo.
This is hardly the stuff that progressive groundbreakers are made of.