As society continues to evolve from Neanderthal to something resembling the advanced state of being we all claim to be wherein all are treated equal so long as you play by the rules, professional sports remains in the dark ages.
Or in the closet, so to speak.
For years, homosexuality has been verboten in locker rooms around the world. Words like gay, sissy, and that other "f" word have been used as terms of derision by fans and athletes alike who pride themselves in their machismo. This despite the fact that there is no evidence--scientific, empirical or otherwise--suggesting that a person's sexual preference has any impact on their athletic ability.
Homophobia remains by far and away the stupidest of all the known phobias. If you disagree with me on this, I want you to try a little social experiment. Turn to the person next to you on the train/bus/wherever and say "I'm afraid of gay people" and the list your reasons for feeling that way.
Chances are the following moments are bound to be the most uncomfortable of your life.
And yet, of the few pro athletes who have come out of the closet in all the major sports, every last one of them has waited until they retired to do so. While society has evolved rapidly, the pro sports culture has been more reluctant to do so. Teams like the Cubs are publicly throwing their support behind the equal rights movement in the form of the landmark "It Gets Better" video but no active athlete, be it for fear of backlash in the locker room or the public eye, has taken a step out of the closet and onto the field.
With President Obama recently becoming the first sitting president to publicly support same sex marriage, it's time that changed. If ever there was a perfect time and a perfect city for a professional athlete to come out of the closet, it is Chicago in 2012.
Our most historic sporting venue sits mere steps from one of the most iconic gay neighborhoods in the world. Our pro sports teams proudly march in the annual Pride Parade. Those of us who were there for the 2010 edition won't ever forget seeing the Blackhawks proudly march the Stanley Cup down the parade route.
Chicago doesn't just embrace our diversity, we openly celebrate it because let's face it, as people who choose to live in a city who's weather can best be described as "menopausal," we're all a little different from the rest of the world ourselves.
If a Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Bears, or Blackhawks player were to come out of the closet, he'd be placed on a pedestal with some of our city's most beloved heroes regardless of whether he was a superstar or the last guy off the bench.
And then we'd go about our business. Because again, it's 2012. And it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight because in Chicago, if you're one of us, you're one of us.
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.