What Jason Collins did Monday, will he encourage and empower others? Will he be the first in a long string of gay and lesbian athletes who will now announce their homosexuality, proud and public with it? Or will Collins be a meteor shooting across our sky, bright and entrancing, only to fade away, alone in his luminescence?
Will Jason Collins matter? That's the short of it. From what we are experiencing in the days following his announcement — reaction is coming from major sports and media outlets — he does. But in an information age in which the news cycle is measured in minutes, if not seconds, how long will Collins and his courage carry the day?
"I think initially people will sit on the sidelines with a wait-and-see attitude," said Evelyn Cheatham, a member of the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission. It's as if we are still wrapping our minds around his admission and all the possible scenarios resulting from it.
In some way or another, we all are like Julia (Stamps) Mallon, the All-American runner at Santa Rosa High School and Stanford. Stamps was asked to be a bridesmaid for Collins' wedding to Carolyn Moos in 2009, a wedding called off. Mallon, 34, was and remains close friends with Collins and Moos. They all were at Stanford together.
Mallon was Collins' guest to see him play in the NBA in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. After the game she would notice the wives and the girlfriends gathering, waiting for the players to emerge from the locker room. She never noticed a man waiting for Jason. She said progress will be measured when Collins' partner will be waiting as well.
"This story has so many angles to it," Mallon said.
It is those angles that will largely determine the long-term impact of Collins and his message of tolerance and understanding.
One of those angles surprisingly is technology, the electronic medium that too often rushes to judgment, spreading false information and shallow, knee-jerk reactions.
Within hours Collins was receiving praise and encouragement nationwide.
It wasn't just President Obama devoting time to speak publicly.
It was Indians veteran Jason Giambi, A's manager Bob Melvin and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, all offering hosannas through social media. It was the Boston Red Sox extending an open invitation for Collins to throw out first pitch at Fenway whenever he felt like it.
"The show of support," said Mark Fabionar, the administrator for SSU's diversity program, "has been overwhelming. Yes, we should praise technology for what it's done in this case."
Technology has, at least for now, muted a backlash. But sports has never operated in a vacuum.
Teams go out of their way to incite loyalty, passion and expression from their followers. In theory that works. In practice, especially if there are beers involved, the theory is ignored.
"There is a segment of fans who felt compelled to use homophobic slurs to fans of other teams," said Dr. Don Romesburg, a Sonoma State assistant professor and department chair of Women and Gender Studies. "They will also do the same thing to players of the opposing teams."
It is Romesburg's hope, as it is Fabionar's, that Jason Collins has created a moment of pause for a fan ready to utter a degrading remark. A pause to remember.