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Chip Sarafin's coming out shows changing culture in America

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Chip Sarafin is gay and the best part is that it isn't all that newsworthy.

The Arizona State bench-warmer's story made national news after the fifth-year senior announced he was gay in 'Complete Magazine,' an Arizona-based gay athlete publication. 

The last year saw the high-profile coming out stories of an NBA player (journeyman Jason Collins) and a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Michael Sam, now with the St. Louis Rams). Both of their revelations came with a mix of fanfare, a few bits of nail-biting from more conservative crowds and, above all else, a wave of media attention.

But Sarafin's coming out?

For some reason, while it still became national news - after all, Sarafin is now the only active college football player who is out of the closet - this time it seemed like less of a big deal.

And that is good.

Similar to Sam

Like Michael Sam, who played for a Missouri Tigers team which made it to the SEC Championship Game this season, there were some who knew about Sarafin's secret.

Sarafin first told his Sun Devils teammates that he was gay in the spring.

"It was really personal for me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly," he told Complete Magazinne.

While rumors surely did abound, it's nice to see that in both cases players did not reveal their teammates' sexual orientation to the media. 

Head coach Todd Graham came out with a statement in support of his player, as reported by my colleague Elliot Greening.

But the most important thing is to recognize that these two players - Sarafin and Sam - have rolled out a blueprint for other players who have yet to come out to teammates and coaches.

They've done the hard part in being the first to come out. Players who wish to also feel accepted for who they are, regardless of their orientation, now know that they can receive a positive reception under the right circumstances.

Not that big of a deal

For all the hand-wringing past generations have done over the issue, it really hasn't been that big of a deal for the players who are actually in the locker rooms.

Yes, the showering situation might be slightly awkward, as the old crowd has cautioned. But has that been enough to bother any actual players? No, not at all.

Scott Cooper, a gay linebacker who played for Augsburg College in Minneapolis, describes the typical football locker room in an essay for Outsports.com:

"Imagine a big room that has sweaty, nasty workout clothes hanging everywhere, tape and other garbage lurking in corners, and a toilet area that doesn't exactly smell like roses," Cooper writes.

Yep, I'm imagining (and gagging).

"When you get in the shower, every muscle hurts, the water stings like hell on those turf burns, and your only focus is getting off that damn pre-tape wrap that is stuck to your skin."

Yeah, that does not sound appealing.

As Cooper explains, that nasty image is not a place of romance for a gay man showering with teammates. So for those who were afraid of the locker room dynamic, it's really less of an issue then you'd think.

A changing public

The real issue with gay men in sports was never about locker rooms though.

It was more about an American audience which didn't want to accept homosexual men and women as ordinary, and that becomes a lot harder to do when you're cheering them on as part of your favorite ball team.

The concerns go back to pre-1950s speak, when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder. They are rooted in a mindset that still crops up today, the question of, "Well, what if our children think it's okay to be gay, if their favorite athletes are?"

Indeed - what if?

The early results show that no, it won't result in children "being corrupted" or other such nonsense.  But the introduction of openly-gay athletes might do some good.

It did in the life of one gay woman, who was considering suicide rather than telling her parents about her sexual orientation. She told Michael Sam that when she heard his story, she was motivated to never consider hurting herself again.

And slowly, the American pubic is becoming more accepting.

When averaging the majority of national polls on the subject, the Washington Post saw a large trend of more people favoring the legalization of same-sex marriage and less opposing it. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in June 2013 had 57 percent in support of it. USA Today and CNN had the number at 55 percent.

And slowly, thankfully, that's becoming less newsworthy with each passing day.

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