It's impossible to tell the story of Mark Bingham in just 15 minutes. Cal grad. Rugby player. Entrepeneur. Gay. Hero of the Sept. 11 attacks. Kind. Handsome. Raised by a single mom.
ESPN attempts the impossible and scores on Sunday with their short feature on Bingham, part of their lead-up to the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The date happens to fall on a Sunday this year - the NFL's opening Sunday - so ESPN is getting ahead of it by giving a nod to this brave hero a couple weeks in advance.
You have, undoubtedly, heard the story of Bingham before. Wait, you haven't? For real? Then you have no excuse for not catching ESPN's powerful Featured piece about the 9/11 hero on SportsCenter this Sunday.
Bingham's story is told by ESPN largely through the lens of his mother, Alice Hoglan. The producers follow Hoglan from her home to the sites of various Bingham Cups, the LGBT rugby championship named in honor of her deceased son.
One of the most powerful moments of the piece is Hoglan talking about her own anti-gay beliefs before her son came out to him in the early Nineties, still an undergrad at Cal. It spoke volumes to me as someone who has been with his partner for over 13 years but who has never met his father-in-law, who refuses to meet me.
The producers don't just focus on Bingham, but rather the movement that has grown up around his name. The Bingham Cup is held every two years and is, essentially, the world championship for rugby.
"The biggest part of his story was not just one inclusive rugby team," producer Ben Webber said in a statement. "It's the number [of teams] that have formed since his death because of the hero that he was."
With so much that's happened over the last year with domestic terrorism, including the tragic mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Bingham's story is an inspiring reminder of what's possible when a small group of people choose to stand up to hate. Whether it's furthering the profile of gay athletes or igniting the spark of resistance against radical Islamic terrorism, Bingham is an inspiration for us all.
One quick aside to end this post. There's been a lot of talk around the Olympics about the coverage of LGBT athletes by places like NBC and The Daily Beast that just haven't quite gotten it right so much of the time. ESPN may make the occasional misstep, but gosh they get it right almost every time.
People ask me every once in a while who our main competitors are for stories. I say ESPN. The fact that the producers busted their butts to get Outsports a review copy of this segment speaks volumes to me -- they want to reach the LGBT viewer and they want to get it right. The company covers LGBT issues and LGBT athletes with understanding and respect. Their feature this Sunday in Bingham is no exception.