In what is being billed as the first time an openly gay male pro athlete kissed his husband on live TV, pro bowler Scott Norton beat Jason Belmonte in the 2012 PBA Chameleon Championship… and then exchanged saliva with his husband Craig Woodward.
The event was held in November in Las Vegas, but not shown on TV until this past Sunday. On the broadcast, the kiss was played off as if there was nothing unusual going on and depending on your view of which way the world rotates, perhaps there was not. Never the less, when something in sports / the coverage of sports happens for the first time, it is in fact a newsworthy event.
It is extremely important for me to come out to show other gay athletes, both current and future, that it is important to come out to show that we are just like everyone else,” said Norton. “Being gay doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete. I’m also a professional bowler, lawyer, caring, compassionate, strong, and many other things. It’s important to show people that being gay has nothing to do with one’s ability to do anything as a man, least of all compete at the highest level of sports.”
What is more notable to me than the kiss is all the crying that was going on. Norton claims that he had devoted his effort in the tournament to a recently-deceased friend and that was the reason for the self-waterboarding. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen a pro athlete cry after winning or losing. There have been plenty of professional athletes who have expressed emotion after losing a loved one and subsequently “competing for a cause.” There have also been many pros that have simply let their emotions flow after reaching or falling short of a goal they dedicated so much time and effort towards. I’d be lying however if I didn’t say that in this instance, the combination of all the crying, hugging and kissing didn’t make it seem more like Norton won a High School Cheer Competition rather than a sporting event…
And that brings me to my point, whether or not this is in fact “the first pro athlete” to conduct himself/herself this way on TV at a professional sporting event. As Norton stated himself, he is not only pro bowler, but an attorney. I don’t know of any other “professional athlete” that holds down a full-time profession in another field while also being a professional athlete. Is Norton any more of a “pro athlete” than someone like my buddy Louie who has a full-time job and is also able to generate a second income playing billiards against all comers on Wednesday nights at Carmine’s Bar and Grill? I’ve seen Louie take his talents on the road too. In fact, there have been years where Louie made more money playing billiards than at his 9 to 5 job, but that doesn’t make him a professional billiards player, he’s a pool shark…
I’m not looking to disrespect bowling community, the gay community, the gay bowling community, the heterosexual community or the heterosexual bowling community for that matter. (I think that covers everyone, right?) I lettered in bowling as a freshman in High School and honestly, I have no idea if I was the only guy on the team that threw a straight ball. It doesn’t really matter what lane you bowl on, what counts is how many pins you knock down.
I’ve bowled while chugging beer on Friday nights, on heterosexual dates (just declaring like the other guy), at birthday-bowling pizza parties and with my three boys on rainy days. And we do it all just like the pros, without bumpers… You don’t even need your own equipment. You can just show up, rent shoes, grab a ball that fits your fingers, pay for a lane and have at it.
Jerome Bettis is known to have rolled quite a few 300 games in his life and by all accounts is very good. In fact, I bowled with Jerome at a charity function about a year ago and he rolled a 283 and kicked my butt. The guy can flat out knock down pins, but you’ll never find him listing “pro bowler” as part of his bio…
Scott Norton may have been the first dude to cry, hug and swap spit with a member of the same sex on TV after winning a sporting contest, but to suggest that he’s the first “pro athlete” to do so is a stretch. Norton is simply the first man to kiss another man that his state has approved legislation for to call another dude his husband (not that there’s anything wrong with that) on TV after winning a recreational bowling tournament for money.
There have been many who have written that this incident was “ground breaking” and the world is a better place when this type of thing is accepted in society. Depending on your personal belief, society accepting the same sex kissing on TV may or may not be a good thing. I know for many it is. However, when we start calling bowling, darts, billiards, the egg toss, sack racing, beer pong, Frisbee catch, tug-o-war, pushing a peanut with your nose across the floor and pin the tail on the donkey professional sports, the world is not a better place; at least not the sporting world.