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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Word Is, He's Got A Nasty Backdoor Slider

Athletes seem to have a way about making headlines in a bad way through their promiscuity. Everyone from Shawn Kemp to Kobe Bryant has seen their name in the press in ways they don't want. The NFL's Darrell Russell was one of these notable cases. Russell, who was also suspended by the league for over a year for a drug violation, had charges dropped against him in 2002 regarding his videotaping two friends raping a woman.

Now another athlete is making headlines involving sex and videotape. It isn't nearly as serious as rape, although it's certainly bizarre. 23-year-old Kazuhito Tadano, a pitcher in the Indians' minor league system, apparently appeared in a gay porn video three years ago while he was a college student in Japan.

Like Mike Piazza's 2002 press conference to announce his heterosexuality, Tadano made a point to say, through an interpreter, "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that fact up right now."

Unlike Piazza, though, Tadano has been bold enough to admit to engaging in homosexual activity on the tape, a revelation that will certainly ruffle some feathers as Tadano makes his way up the minor league ladder. There has never been an openly gay player in any of the four major professional sports, and while Tadano professes to be straight, the tale of the tape at least nudges the door a little closer to being opened by an athlete who is prepared to come out.

Tadano has apologized to his teammates twice in the minor leagues, and he has been received well by the Indians organization. That's a turnaround from the Japanese leagues, where the commissioner effectively blacklisted him from being drafted, despite the fact that Tadano was a good enough college pitcher to merit a first-round selection.

The video in question is apparently only available on the black market in Japan, although a Japanese tabloid did run stills from the video a month before the draft. Makes the Star and the Enquirer look a little more respectable...

Tadano has found a way to thank the Indians for taking a chance on him: by putting up solid pitching numbers. In all three levels of the minors last year, he posted a combined 6-2 record with a 1.55 ERA and three saves.

Yesterday's admission and apology from Tadano came after the Indians fielded so many requests to interview him that they felt it was necessary to get the issue out of the way before spring training. Among other things, Tadano said, "All of us have made mistakes in our lives. Hopefully, you learn from them and move on.

"I did participate in a video and I regret it very much. It was a one-time incident that showed bad judgment and will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball, and going to college and my teammates and I needed money.

"Frankly, if I were more mature and had really thought about the implications of what I did, it never would have happened."

One problem that Tadano won't have to worry about that an American in his situation would is that of hecklers.

"I don't understand English, so it doesn't really matter."

***

Those of you who watched American Idol last night might have noticed one Matt Rogers, a big goateed dude who was the last person to audition on the first day of tryouts in Los Angeles.

Unlike most of the Idol hopefuls, the guy can sing. What sets him apart even further is that Rogers happens to sport a Rose Bowl championship ring. Dedicated college football fans might find it easier to recognize him if he had a helmet and a purple No. 77 jersey on. He was an offensive guard on the 2000 Washington team that won the Granddaddy of 'em all over Purdue.

On that team, Rogers was a senior transfer from Iowa who checked in at 6-5, 290. So it's a good thing that he made it to Hollywood. Otherwise he might have kicked Simon's ass.

Rogers, who sang James Ingram's "Just Once," played on an offensive line that was flanked by current NFLer Jerramy Stevens and helped protect another current NFLer, Marques Tuiasosopo. Wonder what they thought when they saw him belt out an operatic aria to celebrate his selection.

He probably won't win the competition, but here's hoping he goes far. The man could bench press three Clay Aikens and halve Ruben Studdard's time in the 40.

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