Tuesday, January 21, 2014

ESPN, suicide and a story I've never told before

I was once assigned to write a feature story on a high profile, nationally known professional athlete who kept getting into trouble. What was wrong with this guy? I talked to former coaches and anyone in his hometown who knew him back when the athlete was in high school.

Through that reporting, I learned a shocking family secret.

The athlete's mother had attempted suicide back around the time he was becoming a local star with a big future. Not only that, but it was the athlete who had actually found his mother following the attempt.

The information may have shed some light on why this athlete had been so troubled. It also turned what was going to be a good feature into a great story.

But before I published it I wanted to find out something about this woman who was not a public figure and was about to have her personal agony exposed. That was a problem because I was not able to interview her. The athlete was refusing all media requests at the time, too.

So I tracked down the brother of the athlete and I asked him the one question I needed an answer to before writing this story:

Friday, January 3, 2014

An NFL coach wants me dead

Anyone who has paid attention to the NFL this season should not be surprised by the Chris Kluwe column posted on Deadspin.com on Thursday. Kluwe described in detail a homophobic coach he claims ended his career as a punter with the Minnesota Vikings.

Clearly, the NFL has taken a step back while the rest of the country moves forward on gay issues. Or maybe the NFL is exactly where it always has been -- to the right of the mainstream with a streak of anti-gay through the core. How else to explain the sudden disappearance from the NFL of gay supporters and at least one athlete in his prime who was rumored to be gay? Just coincidences? Maybe. Maybe not.

Kluwe, a straight ally who was an outspoken supporter of gay marriage in Minnesota, is out of the NFL. So is Brendon Ayanbadejo, another supporter. Both saw their careers abruptly end. Too old? Not good enough? Or too gay-friendly?

What about those football players who were supposedly going to come out before this past season ... until they suddenly crept back into the closet? Or Kerry Rhodes, one of the better defensive backs in the game, who is suddenly out of the NFL after he was rumored to be gay?

And what to make of that bizarre Aaron Rodgers interview recently where he felt obligated to declare "I really, really like women" amid gay rumors?