Our story a couple weeks ago about former openly gay college football captain Brian Sims received a lot of attention, and Sims himself got tons of reaction. He said he received hundreds of emails and they are still coming in. Brian has spent hours and hours responding to all of the messages, taking the opportunity to reach out to so many gay athletes who were moved by his story. In October, Sims will be working with the Penn State Athletics Commission on understanding of gay athletes. Brian filled us in on the last couple weeks since the story came out.
Outsports: About how many emails have you received and where have they been from?
Brian Sims: I've received about 300 emails so far. To date, I've received emails or messages from [30 states and] Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Singapore, Croatia, England, Philippines, Canada, Turks and Caicos, Costa Rica, South Africa and New Zealand.
OS: What was one story you've heard from someone that really hit home?
Sims: I've had a lot of stories that really hit home. [One was from] a 15-year-old wrestler who came out to his team by sending the article to all of them. I asked him specifically if I could repeat his story or share some of it with redactions and he said no. One other story that hit home was the following, which was forwarded to me by a local judge:
My best friend just realized he is gay (he's 27), after many years of wondering why women "did nothing" for him. He just thought he was asexual and a misfit...now, he realizes he was just afraid to look at men. Once he got past the fear, he realized his strong attraction to men.
What made that story so important to him and me is that my friend is a total jock...football lover...baseball lover...and he played football his whole high school/college career. As this whole thing has unraveled, he feels out of place as a jock, and then, conversely, out of place as gay. He is just your typical meathead jock (no offense to my friend!) who has wanted to play running back his whole life...
This article showed him how there is no stereotype, for jocks or gays, and it just made him break down and cry, he was so relieved that he wasn't alone. He is currently crying at his desk at work.
This is a really crucial time for him, obviously, and he's very emotionally fragile (thank god, he is seeing a therapist). This article just lifted him up so much, it was incredible. It hit him on so many levels, and I just can't tell you enough that you may have almost saved his emotional health by posting that. It was exactly the right article at the right time. For all I know, you may have almost saved his psyche, if not life, by posting that. So I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
He is also worried that he will never meet a guy with his same interests...and I think this showed him that there are many people out there JUST LIKE HIM. He isn't ready to come out yet, but he does want to meet someone with similar interests and he never thought such a man existed.
Know that you did a really good deed! :) Good luck with the campaign, and thank you again.
OS: Have you have any negative responses?
Sims: I've not gotten a single negative response. One gay guy in England was a little pissed that I'm a supporter of gay marriage when PRO-LIFE should be my issue, but that wasn't really on point.
OS: Have you heard from former teammates?
Sims: I've heard from a couple of former teammates, mostly guys that I keep in touch with anyway. They were all pretty happy about the article and expectedly supportive. A few teammates who I can't identify (none of my close friends, to my knowledge) have posted on a couple of different sites about this and it got picked up by www.d2football.com which is the Div II football website. [One response was]:
I played football with Sims at Bloomsburg too and although I don't know who the other teammate of ours that posted above is, I agree with him completely. Sims was an incredibly unique guy to play football with and to have led our team. He was such a part of the character and identity of that football team that it's hard to imagine those years without him. He was always looking out for his teammates and the younger players. Even though he was usually hanging out with the team, everyone knew he was very smart and got really good grades.
Being a part of a team with a guy like Sims is something I'll remember forever. After kicking your ass all day at practice, this guy would show up at your house at midnight to help you finish a paper you had due the next day. It was strange, he was a hot shot in every way possible at Bloomsburg but you'd never have known it if you were around him.
To this day I still have people ask me if I knew Brian Sims and what he was like outside of the classroom. I always respond that he was one of the best football players I ever played with but without a doubt, was the best leader I ever played for. He was an incredible guy in college and when I see him now, he's still the same guy - fun, friendly, and smart.
OS: What would you say to an athlete or former athlete thinking about telling their story to Outsports?
Sims: To former athletes I would say that clearly it's never too late to make an impact by your story. I haven't played football in 9 years and quite frankly, I'd sort of figured that my being a gay football captain wasn't that special anymore. I have certainly learned otherwise. These types of stories are so important to other lgbt kids and athletes who are unsure of themselves but it's almost more important for straight people and allies to hear that this is pretty common and that a non-shaming, kind-hearted reaction can be the norm. Let's give straight people the reason and opportunity to be supportive and not let them stay saddled with the expectation that they have to be hateful or judgmental.
To current athletes, I can only say that I have heard from COUNTLESS former athletes who truly regret not saying something earlier. Sure it's a scary proposition to approach those in "your world" and tell them that you're not exactly like they are, but the truth of the matter is, every coach, player, cheerleader, that you come in contact with, knows a gay person somewhere - the odds are they love and respect them. I can't tell anyone to be a hero, but stepping out as a current athlete is certainly heroic.
Brian Sims can be reached via email.