ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 30, 2013

Join us next Tuesday to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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It's 10 after 11.

Oh gosh, pushed!

Apologies heaped on apologies for the delay!

I think its just fine that an NBA player has declared that he is gay. The public reaction of other NBA players and other public figures has seemed to be very supportive. I just say the movie '42' and the reaction to Jackie Robinson's playing in the MLB among other players and public figures was aggressively negative. So, if the reaction to Collins is a collective shrug of the shoulders, is he really a "hero", or just someone who just has the good fortune to come out when the public mood is in his favor?

I think it always takes courage to take the first step, not knowing what the reaction will be. If the public mood is in his favor, so much the better! And if it's a non-issue, maybe that will show more people that it's a shoulder-shrug, not a Massive Life Uprooter, and they won't need as much courage to follow in his footsteps. But he still deserves credit for being the first over that bridge when the response you describe is desirable but not guaranteed. After all, he had the option of keeping silent and not getting any kind of negative reaction and chose the tougher path.

You were probably waiting to go through airport security.

It's the sequester! They fix the airports, but do nothing for the Compost chat, which I now have to power myself on a stationary bike.

Call if you are going to be late, young lady!

Sorry, Mom!

Are whistlers nerds or geeks? Just how obscure does a hobby have to be before it becomes weird?

I think there are certainly whistling nerds and whistling geeks. I hear "music nerd" more than I hear "music geek" and because whistling's musical, I think I'd say "whistling nerd."

I'm not sure on the second one! With the Internet, you have to dig pretty deep before you find that only one or two people are engaged in a given hobby. Perhaps bronies? But they're just weird, not obscure.

Why don't you buy a bunch of hamsters or rats to power the chat for you? I know some rodents who are in need of a new career.

Sinking ship not work out for them?

I think I've been in DC too long. Given his age, limited minutes, and lousy statistics, he was unlikely to receive a free agent offer to play in the NBA next year. However, now with his huge positive media exposure, he is well poised to receive a good size media contract with some outlet seeking to use his fame. So, kudos to Mr. Collins who has shown the visual ability to notice a coming parade, and the dexterity to march to its front.

Gene Weingarten says a variant of this.

I think the stunning thing about the gay rights movement is how in the course of a generation we've gone from "This Will Destroy Your Career" to "What A Shrewd PR Move." Progress!

Whistling is not a hobby, it is a talent and a habit. My family whistles like it breathes. Why are you trying to make people feel bad about making music?

I whistle like I breathe, to the chagrin of my coworkers, but if you have a convention and international levels of competition, you're a hobby as well as a talent. It's like dance -- you don't have to be a Dancer to dance, just as you don't have to be a Whistler to whistle. Or a Whistler's mother.

No matter how many shrugs he gets as a public response, I'm sure there's still quite a bit of internal surprise (at best). I bet somewhere there's some rabid fan of his that just got his eyes opened in an undeniable way -- 7-foot-tall black basketball stars can be gay too and the guy is still more masculine than, well, just about everybody -- and that kind of makes me want to shake Collins's hand.

Weingarten would insist at this point that he is only 6 feet 8.

And I mean, he's a Wizard, do we have rabid fans?

But as you point out, he still has the potential to be an eye-opener.

But it's not worth the paper it's drawn on.

Oh good, I was hoping someone would go there! +5!

It's LONG past time that gay athletes who play professional sports were free to be themselves. Really, people.

Thank you!

Weingarten says in his chat intro that pointing out the fact that this is actually a potentially savvy career move makes the story more interesting, not less. I guess I don't disagree, but I think especially given the overwhelmingly positive response and the fact that if trends continue this will be a non-issue soon, we should savor what might be the last chance to throw a public parade.

I am not so sure. Let's see how many offers Collins receives, and how fans greet him around the league. If it was such a good thing, how come he's the first? (Sally Jenkins says a variant of this.) I do agree, though, that it's amazing to realize that as recently as 15 years ago or so it was hard for openly gay or lesbian comics or actors or singers to get work.


And I think even if it turns out to be a Great PR Success That Leads To Jobs And Glory, that doesn't mean he wasn't courageous. If he has some sort of scrying glass that let him know from the get-go that it was going to be fine and he was going to soar to victorious new heights of popularity -- well, then, I might say, not courageous. And sure, there were articles and inklings. But we couldn't tell it was going to go so well until he did it. And we're still not sure what the long-term upshot is, as you point out.

A really cynical person would suggest he is just angling for a post-basketball career as some sort of spokesman or commentator. Perhaps he can do play-off analysis for E! with Joan Rivers.

Whoa, really cynical person! And Joan Rivers, really?

Look, my basic attitude towards this is that of watching someone climb a tree to rescue a kitten. "He is just rescuing the kitten for the good publicity," people mutter at the base of the tree. "Kitten-rescuers always get on the news." But when you're in the tree trying to grab a terrified furball, you're not on the news. It's just you and the tree and the kitten. And when you succeed, whether you're on the news or not, there's one less kitten stuck in a tree.

This isn't a precise analogy, because you don't have to walk around with the kitten afterwards and deal with your coworkers and live with the daily consequences once the bright lights die down; it's a one-and-done. Do people who do courageous things get good publicity? Yes. Is that why they do them? Even if it is, hey, there's a kitten who's much happier now than before.



Perhaps I'm just a young fuddy-duddy, but I really don't CARE about a sports player's sexual persuasion, and frankly would be much happier if the heterosexual-ness of the players was less of a constant news item as well. Private business is private business. Does it affect how well they play? No. Oh, and I'm not keen on the hero-worship given to sports players either.

Yes, this! Well said.

How about the mid-80s "poindexters" or shortened to "dexter"?

I think those are serial killers.

The Hax chatters refer to the censors who delete naughty words as gerbils...maybe you could borrow them when they're not busy over there.

But if they're gerbils with censorship skills, will they not resist my efforts to use them for physical strength alone?

I think gay active NBA athlete only has one member...

And if there are any active NBA bronies...

To continue that analogy, maybe that rescued kitten represents other gay athletes that were afraid to come out, but after seeing Jason Collins do it will think, "If he can do it, so can I." Regardless of his motivation, if just one more person feels better about themselves and their place in the world of sports after all of his publicity, then it's a good thing.

But maybe we just haven't been in DC long enough.

I had to look that up. My mind is blown: I had no idea such a thing existed. I wonder if any are basketball players. Or famous. I'm probably going to look at my coworkers suspiciously for the rest of the day.

Ah, the live chat. Celebrating diversity and spreading fear and contempt of bronies in the same breath. Sorry, bronies.

... and Angry Birds?

a) I don't know, but I wouldn't let either of them raise my child.

b) Cheating is frowned upon in Angry Birds.

c) One flies openly in anger, and the other angrily opens flies?

d) I don't know where the Angry Birds were when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

I came closer to being one when I recently learned about "Dr. Whooves" ...

That's actually great!

What's gender ratio at a whistling convention? And is wolf whistling a category is that just for after hours?

It's about 2.5 to 1, M:F, for any interested parties. At least among competitors. Audience-wise and including non-competing performers it's closer to 1-1.

Ironic or creepy? And how do you tell the difference?

Now THAT is the question. So many hobbies start off innocuously as an ironic pursuit and then a decade later you're alone surrounded by your Hummel doll dioramas wondering when everything went pear-shaped. I think any pursuit is ironic until you've made friends through doing it, but in that case nothing I've ever done has been ironic in the least. Deep waters.

And on that note, off to brave the wilds of Internet.

Have a great week! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but not Brony to join me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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