Every four years the Gay Games brings a collection of athletes from around the world to one location - this year to Cleveland, a short six hour ride from New York City. When the opportunity to attend was presented itself, I jumped at the chance to meet so many LGBT athletes.
As a life-long basketball junkie I wanted to see gay men compete in the sport I love. After some sightseeing I headed to Cleveland State this morning to catch some of the action.
Earlier this weekend I ran across a cluster of hoop players at one of many Gay Games parties. Throughout the night they owned the dance floor with their Wobble and brought the room to a frenzy. I sat back and laughed thinking to myself, how good can these guys be at basketball? It wasn't because they could dance, but because of the WAY they danced. Some had their shirts rolled up like Daisy Duke while others referred to their teammates as "guurrrl." I've had the privilege of being around some great basketball players in my life, and there were obviously none in this room.
Or so I thought.
Fast forward to this morning. I walked into the gym and the New York City-based Rock Dogs were playing against the LA Dream. The game was extremely competitive with the Dogs pulling out a 10-point win. As I watched I realized some of these guys can really ball - I mean REALLY BALL.
Throughout the next few hours I watched a few more games and was impressed with the level of talent and aggressive play across the board.
In judging their athletic skills based on their dancing the night before I realized I was guilty of the same prejudice and stereotyping that drive me to call out others.
I was disappointed in myself for falling into the thoughts of mainstream society. Athletes are supposed to fit a specific mold or act a certain way. These beliefs are what have kept so many on the closet for so long. Jason Collins and Michael Sam fit the mold on the surface; Both are "masculine" by society's norms.
What we need are more athletes like many of those in Cleveland this week: People who aren't afraid to be themselves, dress a little different, use some unconventional language and to quote some of my gay friends, be fierce.
Tomorrow morning I'll be at the gym watching them dunk the ball and knock down treys. This time I won't judge them by the way they act off the court.
I hope to see the basketball players at the clubs again tonight. I might even dance with them.
You can follow Anthony Nicodemo on Twitter @SaundersHoops.