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Monday, April 11, 2011

Toledo is the capital of...

There is an interesting article in the AP today about Eastern Michigan distance runner Austin Hendrix. It's linked to the "Quote of the Day" header at, which is how it came to my attention.

Hendrix is one of an extremely small number of openly gay athletes on the college or pro level. He didn't come out just now; there was an article at last December, and Hendrix hasn't hid his sexual orientation since midway through high school.

Though accepting of him, his parents were fearful of how their community would treat their only son. Their hometown of Sylvania, Ohio, is small, less than 20,000 people, and word of mouth travels fast.
. Actually, no, no it doesn't. You know why? Because I live in Sylvania. Less than half a mile away from the high school Hendrix ran for. While I don't personally know the kid, I know his coaches and a lot of people who train with him. I never knew this about Hendrix.

Sylvania is not a small town. It once was, and where I live is a vestige of that, but it's a sprawling new-money suburb of decidedly blue-collar Toledo.

Interestingly enough, the only current or former NBA player who is out of the closet is John Amaechi. He's quoted in the story. Amaechi also went to high school in Toledo.

Considering the extremely small number of openly gay college and professional athletes, this might be more than a coincidence.

Unless you're from the Rust Belt, you probably don't understand. You'd think blue-collar cities wouldn't be accepting of people different in that way. I don't think it's any easier here than anywhere else, but there is a trump card. What we care about here more than anything is if you can get the job done.

Eastern Michigan is the blue-collar school down the street from the U of Michigan. It's where you go if you can't afford Ann Arbor. And what did his teammates say? More or less, you get the job done and that's what matters to us.

1 comment:

jms said...

My heart ached when I read this article. I was Austins Middle School CC Coach. Nothing but great efforts and fun times with him and his classmates. I followed his career through High school...stellar and admirable. I am sorry to hear he had this underlying struggle during that time. I am very happy that he has been able to become comfortable with his identity which has been labeled by society as "different." We are all different in some way. I don't look at him any differently than before except in knowing he has worked through a struggle and come out on top..just like he trains and races. Good job Austin!! Keep running/racing the race!!! My continued support and respect, Coach Smith