Paving Their Own Way: An Interview with Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, Jr. of Outsports.com
About three years ago, Jim and Cyd created Outsports.com, an on-line community for gay athletes and sports fans. Their lives, and the lives of gay men and women who love sports, havent been the same since.
Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, Jr.
Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, Jr. love sports. Jim shoots hoops and Cyd is a former high school track standout. Both men love football. They also share something else in common: they�re both gay.
About three years ago, Jim and Cyd created Outsports.com, an on-line community for gay athletes and sports fans. Their lives, and the lives of gay men and women who love sports, haven�t been the same since.
The pair has appeared on radio shows from Los Angeles to Huntsville, Alabama. Their reach has even extended across "the pond": in 2001, Jim was interviewed by BBC radio for a special on homosexuality in sports. Back home in the States, Outsports has turned up in print in the pages of The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, NY Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Jim and Cyd have been consulted by Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Indeed, Outsports and its creators have given a voice to a heretofore silent community of gays and lesbians.
Having found that voice, gay sports fans are using it to the fullest. The Outsports Discussion Board is used not only to talk about the Super Bowl or World Series, the Final Four or Wimbledon, but also to share the successes of local teams, many of whom compete in leagues where all of their competition is "straight."
The Discussion Board has been used to create new teams, too (NYC started a flag football team this way) and to call attention to egregious instances of homophobia, racism, and sexism in professional and college sports. If there�s a coach making disparaging remarks about gays and lesbians, check the Discussion Board and you�ll find a way to e-mail your feedback to the coach AND to the people who pay him.
Next up for Jim, Cyd, and the Outsports community is their first national convention. Gay athletes and sports fans will meet in Los Angeles the weekend of February 12, 2003 to meet and spend time with such sports pioneers such as Dave Kopay (the first pro football player to come out, after he retired) and Patricia Nell Warren (author of The Front Runner, a love story between a gay collegiate track runner and a closeted coach). Also on the agenda: an LA Clippers game and an afternoon of softball or football with other Outsporters.
PopMatters convinced Jim and Cyd to take a break from the convention planning to talk about Outsports.com, how it�s grown, and how it�s made a real change in the lives of gay athletes.
PopMatters: What prompted you to start Outsports? Outsports: There was simply no place on the Web to meet other gay sports fans. Now, there is.
PM: From what readers of Outsports tell you, what kind of climate exists today for gay and lesbian athletes?
O: It's a very mixed climate for gay and lesbian athletes today. Some are out to their straight teams and have complete acceptance; others are pushed into the closet on a daily basis. We're finding, though, that with each passing year, there's more and more acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes across the board.
PM: What kind of feedback have you received?
O: The feedback we've received has been overwhelming. From a high school basketball player in Indiana struggling with his sexuality, to the featured sports columnist of the New York Times, we have been flooded with positive feedback as to what we're doing in building a community at Outsports.com
PM: There was controversy around John Rocker�s heated encounter with patrons in a gay-friendly restaurant in Dallas this year. You received a lot of e-mail about the situation. Can you comment on what those messages were like?
O: Most of the negative e-mails we have received came after Howard Stern's interview of Jeremy Shockey. Shockey said some stupid things about gays in the NFL and we called him on it. The ensuing batch of 300 or so e-mails accused us of everything from undermining the First Amendment to sentencing ourselves to hell. The language many used isn't suitable for print.
PM: You've written a lot this season about NFL players and comments they've made in interviews about gays. What is your perception of homophobia and heterosexism in the NFL?
O: It's something that hasn't been addressed by the NFL before. This was the first season where they were being held accountable for what players were saying, and for their anti-gay policies. With time, the players and the teams will come around.
PM: Through Outsports, what exciting things have you been able to do? What people have you been able to meet?
O: The most exciting stuff we've been able to do is best exemplified by the two lead columns on Outsports.com right now--both from collegiate athletes paving their own way out of the closet. We're reaching young gay athletes who are finding out, through Outsports.com, that it's OK to be gay; and, through them, we're helping straight athletes understand the same.
PM: What are your goals for the future?
O: We want to have an effect on athletics. For too long, the "straight, white, good-old-boys network" has run sports. Now, we're starting to break into that. And we're heralding those people who, like us, won't be satisfied until homophobia is stricken from sports, until it really is completely OK to be a gay male athlete in the United States.