Ryan O’Callaghan was out for only a few months after he had been asked to bring about’Note to Self’on a few of America’s biggest morning TV shows.
Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Biden and Kermit the Frog are only a few of the famous names to have showcased in previous episodes, writing and voicing letters of guidance to younger versions of themselves.
Talking directly to camera, O’Callaghan connects instantly. As a lineman, he played with to the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs 50 games, but there is no talk of glory times. Only the ability to possess hindsight is a blessing in itself. When CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King composed her foreword of’Note to self’ letters, O’Callaghan was said by her specifically. “It is not easy to select a favourite, but I keep coming back to Ryan’s letter over and over. Nobody would ever consider that burly, tobacco-chewing NFL lineman and guess he felt broken and alone so ashamed of being gay that he’d even started planning his suicide.”
O’Callaghan says his self-worth was low as might be “if you’re gay, you are as good as dead,” he remembers considering his career summit in 2006 and 2007, the year the Patriots went undefeated in the regular year – which makes it tough to equate that anguished, closeted football player from ten years or so ago with all the assured, confident figure of today. He is not inscrutable, but as a storytellerhe easily shatters expectations. It’s one of the reasons why he felt forced to compose’My Life On The Line’, his autobiography published this week.
“I have had the capability to alter a great deal of remarks,” he informs Sky Sports, speaking from his home country of California. On the book’s cover, a sweating O’Callaghan stands in a Pats jersey, a 6ft 7inright handle built to shield quarterbacks – the macho man, but one with a wary look in his eyes. From the memoir, he explains the origins of the fear that gripped him how his physicality pushed him into football, why he kept his cupboard door so closely shut, if the spiral struck and what saved him.
Composed with Cyd Zeigler, ” the author and co-founder of this powerful LGBTQ sports site Outsports, the book starts with O’Callaghan outlining the origins of his fears – the regular homophobia and hypermasculine culture that abounded since he climbed up in conservative Redding, over 200 miles north of gay-friendly San Francisco. He ascertained that his secret must never be found out by his family or he’d be a disappointment. He lays out a play-by-play of his strategy to hide in football’s plain sight, building trust but also suspense via his frank and sometimes heart-breaking reflections on the spirit-crushing price of self-avoidance with the reader.
Now that he truly knows himself, O’Callaghan is able to explain where a number of the issues lie for a whole good deal of homosexual and bisexual men in surroundings such as team sports. “One man said that I’m definitely the most palatable homosexual man they’ve ever met. That’s far from an suitable point to say – but I know where he is coming out of.
“If it requires someone meeting a guy like me, who carries himself in a specific way, to kind of open their eyes, then that’s fine. But I’d like to find out that guys like me, who are masculine and big, have it simple from the gay world. There’s a lot of couples that can’t walk down the street with their boyfriend holding hands without getting something screamed out of a vehicle. It would take someone with a great deal of courage and, quite honestly, stupidity to mouth off to me like that.”
O’Callaghan’s physicality was a part of his protection. At the University of Californiahe spent his time”keeping up appearances” – placing on unnecessary weight, sporting the baggiest clothes he could find, attempting to repel women while his friends and team-mates sought out their own company. However the part of the disguise was the game. “Football was my cover to being homosexual,” he states. “Lots of people do things to hide that, just like dating a woman – but I only have zero attraction to girls whatsoever. I never have. I can’t figure it out for the life of me”
He titles that chapter’The Beard’ . “I wasn’t confident enough that I’d do a excellent enough job deceiving a woman I was straight. I thought that would blow my cover, so that’s why I chose football.”
By indicating that camouflage such as his is not unusual in the NFL today, After a interview, headlines were made by O’Callaghan. “There is a really large likelihood that one guy on every team is either gay or bi. I made that comment with a small expertise, simply because I have had guys come to me. But fundamental statistics will state that too.” He’s unsure whether the vast majority of soccer fans are surprised by this, or whether it makes for an eye-catching headline. “Everyone reacts differently, but there are still a lot of people who do not know that gay people are available in all shapes, sizes, types… not everybody’s a stereotype. Actually most gay guys are not exactly the stereotype.”
His own devotion to conformity, or that which had been perceived to be’normal’ (“the following word I’m not a big fan of”), nearly broke O’Callaghan. A significant shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire 2008 year and having already made a pact with himself turned into a matter of life and passing. Back in 2009, he also joined the Chiefs and with started managing pain with marijuana back in his Cal times – that he writes of how”it dulled a lot of the aches and pains… it made my entire body feel great in a way the Vicodin just disguised” – that he knew he had been running the chance of discovery by the drug testers. They got him in 2010. Not long later, he became increasingly dependent also sustained a partially torn groin at training camp.
Patriots legend Rob Gronkowski has talked in favour of relaxing the NFL rules on weed and CBD oil. But even though 11 US states have legalised marijuana for health and recreational functions, O’Callaghan is not expecting change to come shortly. “They are in a difficult spot when it comes to cannabis usage, even though there are some states where there are groups where it’s legal.
“The NFL can do exactly what they desire, but it might be tough for them to just say’yes, even if you perform to get a California or Colorado team, or whoever else where it’s legal, you can smoke weed’. You try to have policies which are blanket across the entire league if that might entice some guys to pick a group over another because they can legally smoke marijuana as who knows?
“It is no secret that a great deal of athletes smoke bud. However, to do it legally and have it? I think that is still a while off, and might need to be directly linked to federal laws.”
O’Callaghan became addicted to the NFL narcotics. “I am taking an absurd quantity of painkillers, up to 30 pills of various strengths,” he records from the publication. He fears other footballers could be going down a similar road. “There’s still the same pressure to have the ability to practice, and perform on Sundays. Management is looking for someone who’s younger, or a bit cheaper, and in case you’re not practicing and playing, you do not have value.
“So men are going to do what they have to do. I don’t know if the number of painkillers that they urge has changed or not because I playedbut I think realistically I can state that men are still getting prescribed what they need or desire.”
The results of O’Callaghan’s addiction were invoices running to tens of thousands of bucks (he barely saved some money for his retirement, as he did not expect to be about to pay it) along with the exacerbation of his complicated mental health problems. He has no NFL fire now as it was only ever a means to an end; athletics generally hold limited appeal for him, even though he admits to an inkling of interest in NASCAR. Yet he retains the devotion, and also respect for football, what it requires to be a group.
Gronkowski, who retired having won three Super Bowl rings along with several other accolades, is one such player. “He’s a tremendous athlete,” says O’Callaghan, who abandoned New England annually before Gronkowski has been hailed. “I’m familiar with the injuries he’s had to deal with, the concussions and everything else.” He has sympathy for Andrew Luck, who unexpectedly stop the Indianapolis Colts mentioning the cycle of rehab and injuries. Luck is older than’Gronk’, also O’Callaghan was a era if his career ended. “I can’t blame someone for wanting to have the ability to play together with their children when they’re 50 years old. It’s not a selfish move at all to be aware of yourself. You have got to, since no one else is going to.”
Through discovering his own sense of self, O’Callaghan has found his voice – and that the NFL is still listening. He was asked by commissioner Roger Goodell directly for advice on how to support players that were closeted, also the response encourages O’Callaghan. “You can not go and tap on these players onto the shoulder, so that I explained how being visibly supportive helps – and at the past two decades, the NFL have had floats in the New York Pride parade. They sponsored the parade itself this year, and in addition to the float, they had me around the NFL Network to really talk about it to their supporters. In earlier times they have just done things under the radar and lightly. But now they’re performing more in the eye, and that is only likely to help.”
He is also hugely grateful to the Patriots multi-billionaire owner Robert Kraft, who has given”a generous donation” into the new Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation that will provide scholarships and mentorship into LGBT+ pupils, chiefly athletes. O’Callaghan says every dollar earned from’My Life On The Line’, speeches and appearances will go into the finance, but it will take a whole lot more to create a culture in. “You can’t simply write a check and say decent luck. I would rather have a few folks that we really see, link up with, and mentor – to assist them along the way – instead of simply financially.” He simplifies the job of the Play Project, initially found at the NHL where each team would love to see more collaboration in the sports activism sector generally, and currently has a player ambassador to direct on addition in 2012.
The morning talk shows and media chances have given a stage to inspire young athletes to reach other people to O’Callaghan. He’s been invited to discuss free agent Ryan Russell coming out as bisexual. He’s prudent to the assortment of responses and opinions to anything regarding novelty in athletics; he mentions that there was likewise an assortment of views around the quarterback’s motives for quitting and the time of Luck’s retirement. “Fans aren’t necessarily thinking of the player as someone. They’ve got to realise that we’re all humans and everybody’s going through something”
O’Callaghan considers nothing short of a beloved one telling him’it’s OK to be gay’ would have been sufficient to prevent him and for him to prevent anything that went with this particular adventure. But when people are only indifferent, does this have an impact? “Well, there is the’who cares?’ Response like,’who really cares, we adore you way’. But then there is the”who cares, it’s not a big deal, I do not care about your private life’ response.
“For those people, they are the ones it’s almost more important to achieve as they can find something about the battle for equality which still exists”
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