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It will be another six months before we know whether former Stanford basketball star Jason Collins is a sports pioneer in reality and not merely in theory. It's another six months before the next NBA regular season opens.

There is no desire here to rain on anyone's parade. But until Collins plays in another NBA game, the impact of his history-making announcement in Sports Illustrated last week, when he became the first "active" male pro athlete in a major North American team sport to reveal his homosexuality, will be reduced to marginalized symbolism, an answer to a trivia question.

Collins' coming-out announcement comes out during the NBA playoffs, of which he's not a part, having finished the regular season with the woeful Washington Wizards. So, although technically he's an active NBA player, he's currently, in reality, inactive. And, when the postseason ends, he'll be a free agent.

As a bench player who will turn 35 early next season, with increasingly diminished playing time and nearly invisible statistics over the past several seasons of a 12-year NBA career, it's not exactly a slam dunk that Collins will ever truly be the first openly gay male active in a major North American team sport. It's more like a jump ball.

Of course the idealist in us wants to praise Collins, wants to believe he will find a place on an NBA roster next season, wants to see his story turn into a wonderfully inspirational narrative about how being true to your individual nature trumpets diversity and triumphs over society's and sports' backwardness and bigotry.

The idealist in us wants to believe that Collins, as an openly gay NBA player, will be accepted by teammates and opponents and fans alike — to such an extent that the story quickly becomes a non-story. Wouldn't that really be something?

The hardened realist in us, though, realizes it has taken nearly 40 years since retired 49ers running back Dave Kopay publicly outed himself for an "active" male pro athlete to do the same.

Nearly 40 years later, and we've come to know of only a few former athletes who revealed themselves, after retirement, to be gay: in baseball, Billy Bean (not to be confused with current A's general manager Billy Beane) and the late Glenn Burke; in football, defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo and former 49ers and Raiders offensive tackle Kwame Harris; in basketball, former NBA player John Amaechi and in soccer Robbie Rogers, who last month said he was retiring but is now reconsidering.

The absurdist in us recalls it wasn't that long ago that high-profile athletes such as heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis and All-Star catcher Mike Piazza felt obligated to publicly say they weren't gay.

One of the most interesting revelations in last week's Sports Illustrated actually came from Jarron Collins, Jason's twin brother and a former NBA player. In an essay accompanying Jason's story, Jarron writes he "had no idea" his twin was gay until Jason told him last summer. The depressive in us realizes how deeply hidden Collins kept his sexuality, how absolutely necessary he believed it was to keep it a secret.

The naif in us figures it's not really that big of a deal, or shouldn't be, that a pro male athlete is openly gay. The naif in us figures it's merely common sense, and a sense of fair play, to not really care one way or the other about someone's sexuality. It's their business, not ours. No harm, no foul, in basketball lingo.

The naif in us figures what would really be shocking, and newsworthy in a sensational way, would be if a professional American athlete, male or female, came out as, say, an atheist. Or (gasp!) a socialist ... or at least a pro-Adbusters anti-consumerist.

Wouldn't that be something?

Imagine Tiger Woods or Dale Earnhardt Jr., for example, or LeBron James or Buster Posey or any pro athlete who supplements his income by shilling for shoes or credit cards or junk food or cars or whatever the corporations are pushing, and instead "came out" against capitalism's relentlessly ravenous and ruinous appetites.

Imagine, say, a pro athlete coming out as a peace activist. Sure, there have been anti-war athletes, most famously Muhammad Ali. And, more recently, the former baseball star Carlos Delgado and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash made relatively strong, if abbreviated, anti-war statements. But wouldn't it be something special if a professional athlete publicly revealed passionate, well-informed anti-war beliefs on a consistent basis?

OK, that's naive. Idealistic. Pie in the sky.

Let's be satisfied that an NBA player had the guts and strength of character to come out as gay. That's real progress, or as real as progress gets these days.

But let's hope that in six months Jason Collins is in reality an active NBA player and not merely a historical footnote.

Robert Rubino can be reached at RobertoRubino@comcast.net