Last night, Carl Nassib became the first openly gay player to take the field in the four major sports for the Las Vegas Raiders. He capped off that night by forcing the fumble from Lamar Jackson that would eventually win the game for Vegas, 33-27, though the Raiders tried their best to give it away. Luckily, the Ravens were just as determined to spit it back up to them. It probably won’t be the last game in Vegas that looks as drunk as the attendees.
It was strange, though not unexpected, that the broadcast team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick were a little gun shy about addressing Nassib, and they didn’t until after they languished praise on Maxx Crosby for overcoming his drinking problem. Not that Crosby isn’t worthy of that coverage and lauding, or that alcoholism isn’t something to be overcome. When it came time to mention Nassib, and what he was accomplishing last night, you could hear the discomfort emanating from the booth. Which is understandable, as these guys simply aren’t trained or equipped to talk about the significance of Nassib’s moment in the same way they are Cover-2s.
Still, Nassib was the story, and while it’s not absent, alcoholics don’t face sections of society, or nearly as large sections, telling them their very being is a crime or having laws made to make their lives harder and bigotry against them easier.
While the hope is that something like this won’t be a story in the future, right now saying it’s not one is simply a way for those to dismiss and ignore the homophobia that still is rampant in our society, and sports especially. It is a story, and ESPN should have done more and prepared its broadcasters for it. Because history was made last night.
That said, ESPN didn’t put enough thought into using a clip of Chiefs fans doing the tomahawk chop yesterday in a video package celebrating fans returning fully to NFL stadiums in Week 1. These kinds of things are really not all that hard to avoid, and yet ESPN’s production team dived head first. So once again, I’m asking too much.
At least Charles Barkley understood the significance: