Gareth Thomas is a rugby player and the subject of the best article I have read this year by SI's master Gary Smith. The article details Smith's reasons as to why Thomas is the World's Bravest Athlete - namely that he is:
"6'3 and 225 pounds of muscle. He's broken his nose five times, fractured both shoulders and lost eight teeth. He's drunk his mates under the table and brawled by their side. He's been named to the Welsh national rugby team more times than any other man. And, among active players in major professional team sports, he's...the only openly gay male athlete."
What follows is another example of why Gary Smith may just be the best magazine writer - possibly writer - of his generation. Time and again Smith has captivated his readers with a tale they did not even know they wanted to be told. His prose takes one beyond the game and his stories are so gripping, so powerfully haunting and so evocative that they are nearly impossible to put down.
He has written some good ones (about Mia Hamm, the last Yankee) and some great ones (about a black coach in Amish country, about a first nations basketball team, about Andre Agassi) and every time one of his stories appears in SI it is a cause for joy. He has two collections of stories out and his work has been featured in "The Best American Sportswriting" more times than any other author.
With this story, he lives up to his stellar reputation. He gets inside the torment Gareth Thomas faced in fighting to come out, and he asks why, no one in American professional sports has come out while they are still active. We live in a society that accepts everyone (except for a few fringe religious nuts...er elements) and it is time we got past our preconcieved notions of pro athletes.
Thank you again, Gary Smith, your writing is truly precious, not only for its entertainment, but also for its message.