'Jocks' Author Plays On

(This story was published in 2002).

In some ways, "Jocks 2: Coming Out to Play," Dan Woog's sequel to his book, "Jocks," is much like the first: It profiles various gay male sports fans and athletes from across the country.

The big rewards from writing the first book, Woog says, were "realizing and discovering how many gay athletes there are, and how many wonderful things they're doing, and being able to communicate that to a lot of people." Now that the discovery is over, and gay athletes are breaking down barriers in virtually every sport, "Jocks 2" also represents a strong departure from the first book.

Woog declares in the foreword that a lot has changed since he wrote the first book. The focus on the lives these men are leading reflect that. As collegiate athletes like Mike Crosby, Dwight Slater and Ryan Quinn have come out of the closet, and television networks like ESPN and HBO are dedicating some of their programming to looking at the life of the gay athlete, the idea of gay men in sports has become less unique.

"I think the stories in this one are more compelling than the first," Woog said. "It says, 'OK, now that we know they're here, what are their lives like?' "

Woog is a living example of life beyond the realization. Now 49, single, "and looking," he lives in Westport, Conn., where he is a freelance writer. He also works closely with children on two levels: as a consultant to the English Department at Staples High School (his alma mater) and as an assistant soccer coach there. While Woog coaches not because of an agenda, but for the love of soccer, he also sees the social impact he is able to have on those kids he's teaching and coaching.

"They're old enough to get it. But, at the same time, they're not set in their ways. The fact that they have an openly gay coach is important, I think," he said.

"Jocks" allowed him to reach out beyond Westport to more kids and athletes and let them know that they're not alone. The book's impact has been seen by the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have contacted him - from 15-year-old quarterbacks to 60-year-old runners.

The biggest challenge Woog faced in writing the sequel was finding a representative group of subjects. "The only regret I have, is that I was not able to find as many members of minorities as I would have liked," he said. He even discusses, in the chapters about the Boston basketball and soccer leagues, the difficulty those leagues have in finding minorities to participate.

When asked if there will be a "Jocks 3," Woog his mixed feelings.

"I didn't think there was going to be a 'Jocks 2.' In a way, I hope there isn't. In a way, I hope we get to a spot, three or four years from now, where there are enough openly gay professional athletes that there's a non-issue. Having said that, I try to keep the focus in everything I do away from that professional question because the more important story is the people playing at the high school and amateur levels.

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