Boston Herald Columnist Steve Buckley Talks About Decision to Come Out as Gay Man, What He Believes Future Holds For Him in Sports JournalismJanuary 7, 2011 – 8:30 am by Michael Bean
Welcome to Boston Hearld columnist Steve Buckley’s ‘Coming Out Party.’ His words, not mine, taken directly in fact from the title of his most recent column in which he openly discusses being gay. Part of me is tempted to write about how I think this shouldn’t be much of a story. Just because journalists like Buckley hang around naked men in locker rooms after games means nothing really. Women go into locker rooms too. Straight women. Women who might love to make a pass at one of the athletes she’s been assigned to cover. She doesn’t though because she’s a professional and on the clock. Not sure why it’s any different for a gay man like Buckley. But I digress.
If you’re reading this, you likely have the time to read Buckley’s column rather than hear my less eloquent and personal summation. So, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, I encourage you to read his column in its entirety before reading on here or forming strong opinions about his decision.
Once you’re done, or if you’ve already perused his brave, public declaration about his private life, let’s switch mediums and hear Buckley talk to some old friends and colleagues on WEEI on Thursday afternoon.
Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley joined WEEI in Boston to talk about why he made his decision to come out as a gay man, what he believes the reaction will be moving forward, how he plans to handle a situation in the future where an athlete or colleague might potentially lose his or her cool and resort to homophobic name-calling or something similarly unpleasant and unprofessional, the prevalence of seemingly harmless but often excessive homophobic comments amongst athletes and sports journalists, how his decision to come out is empowering because it has and will continue to allow him to not be angry or as easily offended by the occasional unkind comment, if he’s ever experienced direct and excessive harassment in the past about his sexual orientation, how he at times has felt uncomfortable being on the air on WEEI during the many and often over-the-top jokes segments about gays, and finally, how he’s grateful for all the initial support and feedback he’s received since penning the article.
On how he plans to handle a situation in the future where an athlete or colleague potentially looses his or her cool and resort to homophobic name-calling or something similarly unpleasant and unprofessional:
“It’s a good question. It’s a question my family has asked, it’s a question my mom has asked, it’s a question my friends have asked, and it’s a question I don’t have an answer to because it’s uncharted territory. And I’d be lying if I sat here and said to you that I have a plan, I have a comeback, that I know how to handle that. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I will tell you is moving forward, I plan on having a sense of humor about this, and not falling apart over every little comment. If someone says something that is meant to be a joke, that’s maybe over the line, well okay, I’m fine with that. If 15 feet away somebody says something to someone else that may or may not be directed to me, well I’ll play it by ear. By the same token, if someone comes charging up to me and unleashes a fuselage of venom, well I’m not going to just sit there and take it. How I react to that well depend on the circumstances. It might also depend on who’s doing it. It might be someone I have a good relationship with but just flew off the handle, maybe we’ll talk and we’ll work things over. But I’m not going to fall to pieces over every little slight. I think I’ve been around too long for that.”
On the tendency of many in sports to stoop to homophobic remarks around the workplace, and if that kind of stuff will upset him more or less now:
“If somebody made a homophobic remark before, I might have fallen to pieces, I might have been angry, I might have gone crazy. But if it happens now, I can say now, ‘come on, tell me something I don’t already know.”
If he’s ever experienced direct and excessive harassment in the past about his sexual orientation - in the newsroom, stadiums, or elsewhere:
“The only thing I can remember of note, is in the old days of the old Foxboro Stadium, we would have to stand in the end zone because you couldn’t go through the stands…[interrupted briefly]. Well I mean I heard Alice Cook get derogatory treatment. I mean if you’re making fun of Alice Cook for crying out loud, she’s like the nicest person on the planet. So if you can imagine Alice Cook taking grief, imagine what [Dan] Shaughnessy, [Ron] Borges, me, guys like that would be getting because, you know, we’re opinion makers and no matter what you write you piss somebody off. Well I do remember once standing in the endzone waiting for the game to end, and some guy up 15 or 20 rows in the seats yelled up ‘Buckley is a ___’. More than being hurt or offended by it, I was surprised because it was the first time I had ever heard it. And it was only like ten or twelve years ago. I was like, ‘oh, that’s interesting.’ And it’s funny because you get the posts and you get the anonymous emails, but nobody’s ever come up to me and said anything. Either they didn’t know, didn’t care, or the right person wasn’t in the right place at the right time. But again, to go back to what I said a few minutes ago, were they to come up now, I’d be ‘yeah, good for you, you read the paper, yeah.’ So it’s in some measure empowering because I removed that as a weapon in somebody’s arsenal.”
On if he’s ever felt uncomfortable being on this or other WEEI programs where there’s admittedly lots of jokes about all sorts of people including gays, some of which come out more cruel than humorous:
“Yeah a few times. There have been occasions where something on the Whiner Line would be borderline homophobic, and my error was to just sit there in silence and not participate in that, or I would talk over it. So my way of combatting that would be to talk over it or ignore it. In reality…and I did it a few times, I would go that’s not funny, that’s stupid. But there’s a fine line between humor and something that’s offensive.”