My name is Brian Sims. And the story that most people like to hear me talk about is, I was a college football player, and how I sort of came out to my college football team. I’m very fond of telling people that my team came out to me, I didn’t really come out to them.
I was in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, at Shippensburg University, for something called Jell-O wrestling. They take about 400 pounds of red Jell-O, make a make-shift wrestling rink and it’s a bit of a free-for-all for a day, kind of a drunken festival. And I was with three guys from my football team–my quarterback, my defensive end and one of our wide receivers, and my quarterback and I…I think we were walking back to the car to get beer, quite frankly, out of the trunk. And out of nowhere, the guy turns around and goes, “Yo, Sims. You gay?” And it completely caught me off guard and I really quickly said, “Yeah, man, thanks for asking.” And we both sort of stood there. It was one of those things where it felt like 5 minutes; it was probably 5 seconds. And he says, “Cool, man, thanks for telling me.” And we just sort of kept on walking like it hadn’t happened. And we got to the car, picked up some beer, walked back.
My next three months were probably the most surreal time in my life. I couldn’t go anywhere without one of my teammates pulling me aside for that quiet moment, that, “Hey, man, just wanted to let you know, I heard and it’s really cool with me, I got no problems with that, sorry about anything I might have said.”
And there are, there 56 guys that make a traveling squad but probably 80 to 90 guys on a football team. And I could tell early on that my team had been talking a lot. What was happening was, the guys I knew well–the other starters on my football team–were talking to everybody about it and apparently it was going pretty well. And then we were up on the practice field one day and we had all these high school kids down doing some drill, they were down on all four’s, spinning in a circle, something that’s probably not going to make them better football players but we needed to kill time, and my position coach who clearly hadn’t heard yet yells out loud from probably 40 feet away while this kid’s down on all four’s, “Yeah, this is Sims’s favorite drill!” thinking he was just making a dig on me. And what happened was pretty shocking to me.
My teammates who were out there and heard it all sort of froze for a second. There’s, you know, 50 guys up on this field, probably 300 high school football players and everybody just stopped dead in their tracks. And clearly my coach had no idea what was going on. I knew exactly what was going on. And these guys sort of started to converge on him. And I ran up, kind of broke it up, I don’t think he had any idea of what was going on. And after practice, I went to go talk to him to sort of explain what was going on and he walked right past me, didn’t say a word. And I’m thinking, you know, I’m thinking, “Ah, geez…”
The next morning we’re all in the lobby of a dorm room waiting to go back up to the practice field and in walks this coach and again walks right past me and he walks up to this table we were all sitting around and stands up on the table and he says, “I need everybody’s attention. Yesterday I said something really fucking stupid. I’ve spent my career teaching you guys what it means to be teammates and yesterday you guys had to teach me what it means to be a teammate.” And that was it and that was the end of it. And it was still the sort of defining moment for me. I knew my team would be alright when they had to pull my coaches aside and say, “You better be alright with this because we all are.”
I’m From Valparaiso, IN. “Many people make up this myth that “gay” people aren’t masculine enough to play sports. I have always had this interest in boxing. I went 18 years sparring with men, both gay and straight, learning how to box and do defense, offense, etc…”
I’m From Galveston, TX. “You know, I like football.”
Oh god. Football? Really, Mr. Robertson? Are you sure you want to talk to ME about this?
“And I was at the football game last Friday night, along with my wife. And I have to say, Mister Hanley, I was mighty surprised when I saw the halftime show.”
Oh. That. The halftime show.”
I’m From Bloomsburg, PA. “I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know how or when,” Sims said. “I feared it would change the dynamic in the locker room. You’re spending four or five hours a day with your friends, and that’s what I played for. I cared that my team would still be comfortable around me. I was concerned that in the locker room guys would be uncomfortable around me.”