and he turns out to be exactly the kind of player you'd expect to be gay.
As I've been pointing out for years, male homosexuals are quite rare in most professional sports, except, tellingly, for the dance-like sports such as figure skating, where gays are common.
You can tell by counting all the athletes who died from AIDS in the 1982-1994 era: many figure skaters, but only about one in each of the other major sports (except boxing, where heroin addiction, perhaps to ease the pain, is more common among washed-up fighters).
And, of course, no AIDS deaths in golf, which has almost zero appeal to male homosexuals.
So, now the media is all excited that an obscure former NBA center named John Amaechi is publishing an autobiography in which he announces he is gay, only the sixth male athlete in the history of any of the big four professional team sports. (Economist Tyler Cowen wonders, rather cluelessly, why that number is so low at Marginal Revolution. I try to educate his readers in the comments.)
What's interesting about Amaechi is that he exactly fits my model -- that sports are most obsessively interesting to the most masculine little boys, who are the ones least likely to grow up to be gay -- of what kind of gay would be most likely to wind up a highly paid pro athlete: a gigantic basketball player.
Amaechi is 6'-10" and 270 pounds. There are so few men in the world that size that the NBA will take even a gay Englishman as a project and try to turn him into a productive player.
Amaechi is an interesting Barack Obama-type: born in Boston but raised in Manchester, England, his father was a Nigerian who abandoned his white mother, a doctor, when he was three. And, yes, Amaechi is … articulate. His sole distinction as an NBA player was being named to the 1999-2000 NBA All-Interview First Team. He's now pursuing a Ph.D. in child psychology and has donated lots of money and time to child charities.
Fitting my model beautifully, Amaechi was completely bored by basketball, and was only in it for the money, "earning" $9.6 million over five seasons.
He told Nigeria World that he had never played basketball until he was stopped on the street as a 6'-9" 17-year-old in England: "I wasn't really a sports fan and I didn't like sweating, or anything that puts physical pressure on me, but I just said yes. Maybe, it's because I'd played Rugby before then and I didn't like it and anything else-apart from Rugby-would do."
Basketball Digest enthused during his playing career:
Erudite Orlando center John Amaechi relishes his standing as the most unique player in the NBA
He reads books on child psychology. He visits art galleries and museums. He looks for seminars to attend when his team has an off-day on the road. He writes poetry--and he writes it well. Yes, John Amaechi plays basketball in the NBA, but he isn't really a basketball player. He is a Renaissance Man. The Orlando Magic have uncovered a real breath of fresh air.
Amaechi is bidding to become one of the better centers in the Eastern Conference this season, yet basketball actually bores him. … He would rather be sipping tea in his favorite coffee shop than scouting one of his rivals on television. His life is too short to be consumed by a game. There is little passion to his play, but a wonderful love for his life. "Basketball does not define me," he says. "It's my occupation for now, but it's not my definition." …
Although the NBA is peppered with players who are there only because it's a very lucrative profession, Amaechi might be the only one who openly admits it. "I'm going to be a better child psychologist than I ever could be a basketball player," he says, matter of factly. … Hey, I don't even like to sweat." … "I'm really not a fan of the game, and I'm not keen on this NBA lifestyle. I'm part of the NBA, but I've never been part of the NBA psyche," he says.
Not surprisingly, Amaechi's teammates were less impressed by his basketball-phobic attitude. The Salt Lake Tribune reported:
"[Teammate Jarron] Collins' memory, though, is that Amaechi wasn't just indifferent toward his job, but irritated by it and the pro sports atmosphere. "He just wasn't interested in basketball, period," Collins said. "I never knew someone who just disliked the game. I would say that everyone has different motivations to play the game of basketball. John was very clear that money was his. But it really was like, he didn't like the game. It's kind of hard if you hate it."
"That's because John Amaechi remains one of the worst players in franchise history. … So on July 19, 2001, the Jazz signed Amaechi to a four-year, $12 million contract. Over the next two seasons - before being traded - the young Brit redefined the cliche, "Take the money and run." Amaechi took about $6 million of Larry Miller's money and didn't run . . . didn't shoot . . . didn't rebound. Looking back, the price tag for his astonishingly unproductive layover in Utah is mind-boggling. …
Oddly, Amaechi suggests the Jazz should have known his level of play might drop after he secured his first big-money million-dollar contract. "Why does the performance of so many players decline after they sign multiyear guaranteed deals?" he wrote. "It's a little thing called human nature. Plenty of guys - Karl Malone and John Stockton are the obvious examples - play hard no matter how much they make. Other guys lack the discipline. Predicting which player falls into which category is the key to scouting."
A few paragraphs later, Amaechi explained: … "The truth is Sloan and Jazz management hadn't done their research - otherwise known as scouting. They could tell you all my court tendencies, how I played the game and why I should fit into the system. But they knew nothing of my character."