Bravo to you, Steve Buckley

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

For those of you who don't know my background, I'm what our managing editor G. Michael Dobbs would call a "sports guy."

What does that mean?

Professionally, it means my writing background before joining Reminder Publications a little over six months ago was almost entirely sports-related, whether it was as an assistant sports editor in Vermont, a sports staffer in Fitchburg, a freelancer or a ghost writer.

It means that, oftentimes, my mood is directly related to how the Patriots' special teams coverage was on Sunday, how well the Bruins forechecked last night and whether David Ortiz went deep or struck out four times instead.

It means I cried when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004; I tackled my friend over a couch when the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001; I sat dejected in the stands of the TD Garden after the Bruins dropped Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, though somehow I wasn't surprised they had lost.

It also means that some of the best and underrated writing has come from the world of sports through the likes of the writers at Sports Illustrated, the Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom, John Feinstein of the Washington Post and the Sporting News and the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley, who worked for the Westfield Evening News as one of his early assignments.
People who criticize sports often say that it is ultimately inconsequential and merely something that distracts people from reality ... But there are moments when it transcends to another level. Maybe Buckley's writing of that column can become another one of those moments.

For those who don't read the Herald on a regular basis and don't listen to sports talk radio, Buckley performed a very courageous act on Jan. 6 when he announced publicly in a column that he is a homosexual.

The headline ran on the front page, the column on page six.

Now, for the purposes of transparency, let me also let you know that I am not a proponent of gay marriage. I have my reasons, which are complex and not to the point of this column, but none of them are because I don't like homosexuals or regard them as lesser than I.

That being said, I have compassion for anyone who is struggling with the realization that they are gay and whether or not they should be open about it. I understand how much strength and courage it took "Buck" to come out at all, let alone in such a fashion.

I have seen people close to me struggle with this very decision. I have had a friend come to me with his trepidation and have also seen the pain that can be caused when people, especially those closest to someone, reject that person or refuse to accept that part of who that person is.

For Buckley, especially, the decision must have been painfully difficult. First off, he writes for one of the most conservative newspapers in the Northeast with a readership that very possibly would not be accepting of this admission.

But more than that, Buckley works in the field of sports, which as anyone who has been around a locker room can tell you, can be a very chauvinistic atmosphere.

Buckley still has the same job. He's still going to be in the same locker rooms with the same people. How differently will they treat him with this new knowledge about him?

I hope that the public reaction Buckley has received will continue to be the trend.

In addition to his column, Buckley was courageous enough to face the public live on WEEI radio in Boston on Glen Ordway's show, "The Big Show," which, among other things, features a spot at the end called the "whiner line" in which callers leave messages, often of an outlandish, irreverent and, sometimes, offensive nature.

Both the on-air callers and the "whiners" impressed me with their reception of Buckley — one of respect, one where people understood and recognized the risks he was taking by letting all of us know this side of him. It was heartwarming to see that people could look past the word "gay" and still see that this was the same man and the same talent they admired prior to the Jan. 6 column.

Buckley said in his writing that he hoped to become more involved. Maybe, inadvertently, he already has.

People who criticize sports often say that it is ultimately inconsequential and merely something that distracts people from reality. Admittedly, most of the time, they're right. But there are moments when it transcends to another level.

Maybe Buckley's writing of that column can become another one of those moments.

Perhaps through his writings on Jan. 6 and his willingness to be out there, not hide and answer the public's questions, the world of sports can offer a non-sports related benefit, two fold.

Here's hoping that sports fans who read Buckley continue to realize that anyone among us could be struggling with the same decisions and realizations that Buck has struggled with.

And let's hope that his courage and strength can help those who are in the position of having to make the decision as to whether or not to let the world know they are gay realize that it can be done and that there are good people who will help and be understanding along the way.



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