If Michael Irvin can say it, you should be able to

Out Magazine’s cover story this month (August 2011) features Hall of Fame NFL wide reciever, ESPN radio and TV talking head, and general Man about town.

Why is Irvin important to Out Magazine? He has spent a healthy chunk of his adult life carefully crafting an image as perhaps the least gay man to ever wear spandex and a half shirt professionally. His history of womanizing and the air of ‘Pimp’ surrounding him was grand enough to encompass the entire Dallas Cowboys organization during their 90’s glory run. His image and personality were enough to smooth over several drug and ‘character’ missteps.

Since the end of his playing career, Irvin has wrapped himself tightly in his religious beliefs, frequently speaking on the place of his fairly fundamentalist view of God in his life, family and recovery from past missteps.

None of this leads to a very positive piece, and cover, in Out. And, before you get the idea, Irvin isn’t outing himself.

Irvin has chosen to go public with the story of his older brother Vaughn, who was gay. Vaughn’s preference was known, but not discussed within the Irvin family. Michael maintained this status throughout his increasingly public rise to the NFL and beyond.

Irvin has chosen to bring out this piece of information for I’m sure several reasons.

First, lets face it, Michael loves him some Michael. I’m sure there ARE other magazines clamoring to put him on their cover…I just haven’t seen them recently. There isn’t anything wrong with this. You don’t become ‘The Playmaker’ without a sense of self promotion. And few have managed their public image as skillfully as Irvin.

Second, Irvin has spent a lot of time and effort somewhat publically working on himself, his marriage and working to help people with the same issues as his recognize and accept the help available to them. He speaks regularly to groups, religious and otherwise, not as the leader to fix things, but as the public face saying ‘This isn’t right, and you don’t have to be this way.’

Third, Irvin has achieved something many never believed possible. A level of stability and stature not athletically connected. His ESPN show is consistent and well thought of. His private life is in a much better place simply by way of  actually being private. Things in the land of Irvin are looking up.

And Irvin has never been one to miss his position as a valued voice. The work he has done on himself, and the stability he has brought to his life give him a solid foundation to take on a cause desperate for a voice. His past gives him the personal connection to the issue that makes it real, and his past image makes speaking up risky enough that it is intriguing.

Out Magazine is interested in Irvin because Irvin is interested in backing one of Out’s biggest dreams. Irvin says its time to get past homophobia in sports. He is willing to lay his substantial voice, personna, and support behind any athlete who wants to come out of the closet in major sports.

Thats a big deal for Irvin, for Out, for Sports…for all of us.

I admit it, I’m an Irvin fan. I find him a consistently interesting guy. But, this is another level of interesting. This is a big leap, even for a leaper like him.

He says its time to get over it.

He’s right.

We should all pay attention.

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