I'm sure many of you remember Matthew Mitcham, the blonde, two-hand-waving Olympic platform diver who came out (heh) of nowhere to usurp the mighty Chinese team and win a gold medal. I "heh" because Mitcham was also the only publicly out athlete at the Beijing games—he hauled himself up into the stands to give his partner a kiss after he won, though we didn't see it. Mitcham's is actually a pretty interesting story, so, yeah, why didn't it air? Because of a vast conspiracy After Elton shrieks!Well, OK, not so much shrieks as insinuates, but still AE 's got the bloodhounds out, sniffing around for plots most foul. They call up a rep for NBC Sports—which broadcast Mitcham's medal ceremony online, but not on the television:
“In virtually every case, we don’t discuss an athlete’s sexual orientation.” When it was pointed out that in fact the network does exactly that by telling viewers about Olympic athletes’ various spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even in one case a heterosexual “love triangle” Hughes responded, “Not in every case. Not every athlete has a personal discussion. I could show you 500 athletes we didn't show. We don't show everyone. We don’t show every ceremony.”Right. Loathe as we are, generally, to believe spokesmen, this explanation makes the most sense. I mean, they did talk about other athletes' boyfriends and girlfriends, but, um, minor detail! And was it a bumble that weary journalists didn't recognize that a potentially really interesting story was brewing as Mitcham did better and better in the many, many preliminary and semifinal rounds? Yes, definitely. But it was the second-to-last day of the games and Mitcham did perform badly in his first event, so most likely it had more to do with fatigue and a general sense of "meh" than with any sort of anti-gay bias. An opportunity for a good story lost, yes. But nefarious no-gays! conspiracy? We, sigh, don't think so.
But surely, taking into account Mticham’s stunning come-from-behind victory, the historical significance of his achievement as a gay man, and his own personal history, it seems unlikely the vast majority of those other athletes truly have as compelling a story as Mitcham. Said Hughes, “How do you know that? How do you know that someone on the rowing team doesn’t have as compelling a story?”