We live in a world of 24-hour coverage of news. On a bad news day, we sometimes cringe at what is being reported due to the banality of it. But we are also overwhelmed with politics, weather, celebrity rumors, traffic, the list goes on and on. Some affiliates are politically slanted one way or another, which means we’re also getting an opinion on where that particular newscaster stands on a situation. This can fill our brain with information that isn’t necessarily true and we have no way of disseminating which is truth and fiction.
Thankfully, social media has changed all that. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are open forums that can give us up-to-the-minute news. Other sites set up chat groups where a person can have real-time commentary with others having the same questions.
One particular area that has been given a lot of attention recently is homosexuality in professional sports. The movement for equal rights has made great strides forward, especially in the last ten years. There are states that allow for same sex marriage. The military has repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and the definition of marriage is currently under review. However, until recently, the professional sports arena has maintained a silence on the issue. There had been athletes in other sports that had”come out”, but nobody in the NHL, NFL, NBA or MLB had ever announced they were gay. That has all changed in the last seven months.
A professional basketball player announced he was gay, followed by a college football player that is expected to be drafted in the NFL this spring. They announced this on their own terms. They used open forums to bring the discussion to the general public and stated it in their own words. They engaged in real-time commentary that announced that, although it could be seen as a big deal, it really wasn’t a big deal. This is who they are and hey, it shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The traditional media venues didn’t have time to “spin” the subject as these athletes did this on their own terms.
Social media, interactive discussions and real-time commentary allow regular people to get a new kind of “scoop” on what is going on in the world. The influence that a newspaper or television channel has it not quite as wide-ranging as it used to be. To be able to sit down with others and engage in conversation on a topic that interests you has allowed us to open our minds and get the big picture. These announcements these athletes made? Barely a ripple was made as many people thought, “So what.” I’d say that some great strides were made.