Are TV viewers ready for an openly gay sports broadcaster? Yes, says the Boston Herald's Ed Gray, who last week became the nation's most prominent self-outed sportswriter when he published a column headlined OUT AND PROUD. "I certainly think it will happen soon," says Gray, 55, a horse racing beat writer who has also covered the Patriots and the Red Sox during his 20 years at the paper. "Once major league sports address the issue of homophobia, I think you will see real changes in the sports world. Leagues have to set a firm policy which will hold athletes or anyone in the organizations accountable for making homophobic statements." In his Sept. 30 column Gray wrote, "I'm out because I refuse to continue hiding from the truth that an openly gay man has as much right as a straight man to play sports or report on them." Gray says he has received hundreds of supportive e-mails from newspaper colleagues across the country as well as from employees of several Boston-area sports teams (but so far none from active athletes). Television consultant Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports, also thinks an openly gay sports broadcaster is on the horizon. "I remember when we debated whether we should have women in the locker room, women as analysts and women as commentators on the men's games," Pilson says. When a gay broadcaster arrives, he adds, "it will not cause a ripple. The public and the media are ready."
Burt Reynolds has been tapped to host ESPN Classic's weekly sports-movie series, Reel Classics.... Fox's regular-season baseball ratings jumped 8% in 2003 (a 2.7 rating compared with 2.5 in 2002), giving the network its best numbers in four years.