You won’t get much better than this: Jason Collins comes out but Phil Kessel doesn’t. Tim Tebow becomes America’s most unwanted man and the Stanley Cup playoffs open Tuesday night with the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in action.
So much material. So many thoughts.
Let’s begin with the biggest story of the bunch: Kessel not talking. Okay, it’s only big in Toronto.
That the Maple Leafs’ most talented player is choosing to stay silent is not New York Post material. The man has never had a gift for the gab. But now it’s different. Staying behind closed doors and not speaking prior to his first playoff game in four years, against his former team, the Boston Bruins, no less, creates doubt. Makes you wonder if he’s all in; if he’s itching to knock off the Bruins. Great players step up, they take on more responsibility. They do the uncomfortable. This series could go a long way to defining Kessel’s time as a Leaf.
Be nice to ask him how he feels about that. Maybe in a few days he’ll have something to say.
Of course, the story that has the sports world chirping is Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay player in the NBA. Collins’s decision to state his sexuality in Sports Illustrated created waves of commentary much of it supportive in nature, some of it dubious. NFL receiver Mike Wallace wandered into the debate by Tweeting, “All the beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH (shaking my head).” Wallace later wrote he wasn’t saying being gay was right or wrong just that he didn’t understand it. He apologized then deleted the initial Tweet.
The most telling aspect to Collins’s declaration is that it comes with his career winding down. He’s 34, has spent 12 years in the NBA with six teams. He’s also a free agent this summer. Will anyone sign him? NBA managers might say he’s too old and traveled for their needs when they’re actually thinking Collins’s sexuality may be too much of a distraction to have on their team.
John Ameche waited until his NBA days were done before revealing he was gay. When a player at the start of his college or pro career can make that kind of admission without worrying about the repercussions then we’ll have witnessed substanial change. We’re not there yet.
Mr. Tebow’s job hunt
Finally, after 24 hours of repeated rejection, a day filled with numerous NFL teams saying their 2013 plans did not include Tim Tebow, the former New York Jets’ quarterback has been thrown a career lifeline.
He’s been offered work with the women’s Lingerie Football League, as a national quarterbacks’ coach. This is the kind of thing goofy leagues do to attract attention and it always works because the thought of Tebow coaching a female quarterback (in her underwear) how to throw an accurate pass is simply too rich to ignore. How can he teach what he cannot do? And to coach properly, would he have wear underwear, too? Never mind.
If he wants to keep playing, Tebow’s lone chance has to be with the Montreal Alouettes, where general manager Jim Popp said Tebow would be welcomed as a backup to Anthony Calvillo, assuming he can beat out Stephen Garcia, Josh Neiswander, Quinton Porter and CIS star Kyle Quinlan. Considering his recent track record, maybe it’s best for everyone if Tebow held onto the LFL’s contact info, just in case.
Drop the puck
Three NHL series begin Tuesday and here’s what to look for:
Chicago Blackhawks v. Minnesota Wild – Deep-dish destruction, Chicago-style.
Anaheim Ducks v. Detroit Red Wings – If Jimmy Howard falters in net, the Red Wings have only Jonas Gustavsson as backup and no hope for recovery. If Viktor Fasth struggles, the Ducks have Jonas Hiller. With that, and an offence ranked among the NHL’s top 10, Anaheim has the edge.
St. Louis Blues v. Los Angeles Kings – This was a skate through for the Kings last spring. This time, the Blues come in having lost only two of their last 13 regular-season games, having learned to win the close, one-goal affairs and blessed with a goalie, Brian Elliot, who was ridiculously good through April, posting a 1.28 goals-against average and three shutouts. It helps, too, that the St. Louis defence is stronger and deeper. This will be a rougher ride for the Kings.
New York Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist will unveil a new mask Thursday against the Washington Capitals. He previously featured profiles of Swedish movie legends Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Ingemar Bergman. His new mask will pay tribute to his country’s sporting greats Bjorn Borg, Ingemar Stenmark and Ingemar Johansson.
Next up? Borje Salming, Inge Hammarstom and the Swedish Chef. Bork, bork, bork.