What a difference 31 years makes.
It was in 1982 on the Today Show when Glenn Burke told Bryant Gumbel and a national audience that he was gay. That was just a year after Glenn Burke's playing career ended thanks to his Oakland A's manager, Billy Martin, telling other Athletics' players that Burke was a "faggot" and wouldn't play for his team. The highly touted Burke, a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers' pennant winning '77 team, was done with baseball forever.
So what if Burke had come out today as a current major leaguer?
Some fans, some managers, and perhaps, some teams, would not have embraced him in the same way as some others. But you can bet some cities, particularly San Francisco, would have if he could have helped them win just one more game than they would have without him. But one thing is for certain no matter where Burke would have played--there would not have been the ugly chants, threats or possible beatings that he may have had to deal with in the late seventies and early eighties.
Other gay athletes will come out now. It'll be four NFL players here, two baseball players there, a hockey player. Thirty years ago when Glenn Burke came out publicly as a retired player, it would have been huge news for a current player to do the same. Now it really isn't. Collins will do his 10 interviews a day for a few days and then fade into society's ever-changing landscape in which the majority supports gays.
But any comparisons to today's news and with Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier is unfounded. It's not even in the same stratosphere. But that certainly would not have been "as much" the case in Glenn Burke's days. That 5-tool player whom Dodger coach Jim Gilliam described as having Willie Mays-type talent was blackballed from the game because he was gay.
How times have changed.