05/24/2011 10:47 am ET | Updated Jul 24, 2011

Where Are The Gay Professional Athletes?

The sports world went into a mini-tizzy this week when Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed that he's gay. He gave an open, frank interview with ESPN on the subject shortly thereafter. Welts' coming out is an important step forward, one that hastens the dialogue around an old question: When will the first active player from a Big Four (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) sport come out? The general vibe--one spurred by Welts and the almost simultaneous public declaration by former Villanova basketball star Will Sheridan--indicates that it will be soon. What's remarkable is the fact this "open athlete" salon is a reality at all. We've got openly gay politicians, clergy, and (recently) service members--so why this enormous stigma surrounding the gay male professional athlete? Conventional wisdom suggests jocks are typically dumber and more pious than the general population, but that can't be substantiated. The real issue probably comes down to cocks 'n' balls. Players shower naked, and that's a major source of insecurity for many straight men. It unsettles a macho culture and that's a real problem for many; we've seen it before. The A.V. Club decided to read the tea leaves and rank the sport-by-sport likelihood of an inevitable Big Four outing. The method is unscientific by any measure, but let's rub the queer crystal ball anyway.