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Jared Max made last-minute decision to come out on ESPN Radio

ESPN 1050 host Jared Max says he feels liberated after coming out, was a "schmuck" for not doing it sooner

By Cyd Zeigler

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Max in his new ESPN studio
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Max at the 2010 AFC Championship in Pittsburgh
When Jared Max woke up at 1am Thursday morning, nothing was out of the ordinary. It was raining again as it had all week. With prep work for his 5am ESPN 1050 show in New York, he was usually waking up just as many were filing into the bars in Chelsea. Everything was as it was every weekday…except for a computer document waiting to be opened. Max wondered if today would be the day.

Just before leaving for the studio he turned to one of his cats, the only living thing awake within a block at that hour other than himself.

“Things might be a little different when I get home,” he said.

When he walked into the ESPN offices Thursday morning, a picture of him stared back. He’s new to the station, having left CBS Radio a few weeks ago, and ESPN had just put a new photo of their recent hire on the wide-screen TV in the lobby. In addition to his own morning show, he was the voice of sports updates on the popular Mike & Mike Show during morning drive. While he hated the picture, it hit him that he was one of the new faces of ESPN in New York. And still he wondered if today would be the day.

As he rolled through his hour-long show Thursday morning, the time was coming when he would have to make the decision: Does he use the last seven minutes of his show to read the document sitting in his computer, or does he recap more Bulls-Heat and Yankees-Orioles?

“If I didn’t do it today, I might not have done it for a really, really long time,” Max said. “Thank God I did it today.”

What made today so different were comments by NBA legend Charles Barkely that Max read in the newspaper the night before:

"It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play."

The comments came on the heels of Suns president Rick Welts, former Villanova star Will Sheridan and CNN anchor Don Lemon all coming out earlier this week.

For years, Max had been living in fear that he would be ostracized from the world of sports if someone found out he was gay. He was afraid he would be unable to do his job if he were outed. This morning he took all of those fears, locked them in a box, and shared his secret with his listeners. As he opened up the document he’d written, Max’s usual fun, lively sports talk gave way to a serious, heart-felt topic that nearly drove him to suicide in college.

“Are we ready to have our sports infomration delivered by someone who’s gay? Well you know what? We are going to find out. Because for the last 16 years, I’ve been living a free life among my close friends and family, and I’ve hidden behind what is a gargantuan-sized secret in the sports world. I am gay.”

Before the short seven-minute segment was over, callers were already on the line to congratulate him on finally living his life honestly. In the coming hours he received Twitter messages, emails, text messages and phone calls from colleagues, pro athletes, fans, family, and even the people at CBS Radio he’d left behind just weeks before. Every single message was positive, welcoming and embraced Max’s new revelation.

The big macho voice of New York sports cried throughout the day.

“If I’d only known all the fear and anxiety could disipate by taking care of this,” Max said. “It was weird how easy it was to do this today. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. What a schmuck I am for waiting so long.”

Speaking to him on the phone Thursday afternoon was like talking to a kid who’d just graduated from high school and got a red Ferrari as a graduation present. He was exuberant, gitty, talkative. There was a sense of relief and enthusiasm in everything he said as though he was, at the age of 37, finally living freely.

Truth be told, he’s been living a gay life in New York for years. He frequents Boxers and G in Chelsea, and he’s brought family and friends to Therapy in Hell’s Kitchen. But he’s a radio guy: No one ever recognized him by his voice. When he ventures out this weekend, for the first time he won’t care if someone does recognize him.

Max said it was like he had been walking through life wearing dark sunglasses, unable to see clearly the reality that lied before him. For the first time in days, the clouds broke in New York and the sun shone today soon after his big announcement; Those dark sunglasses that clouded his vision were suddenly lifted.

On his show Friday morning Max won’t even bring up his coming out. He expects to go into the studio and talk about the Mavericks, Bruins and Yankees. But given his own station had him on as a guest Thursday afternoon for 30 minutes to talk about his big news, chances are his listeners just might have some congratulations and thank yous for him when he gets in Friday morning just as the bars in Chelsea are closing.