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Gay and proud: Megan Rapinoe is the current face of athletic excellence

And this is what she said as the tournament began: “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team — it’s never been done before, ever.” 

U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe
United States women’s soccer team member Megan Rapinoe holds the Women’s World Cup trophy after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport, Monday, July 8, 2019, in Newark, N.J.   
Kathy Willens/AP

At this moment, Megan Rapinoe is arguably the biggest sports star in the world.

The pinkish-purple-haired, 34-year-old U.S. women’s national team midfielder is basking in the glow of guiding her team to its recent World Cup championship with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final Sunday. Rapinoe had a penalty-kick goal in the game and was named the winner of the coveted Golden Boot and Golden Ball trophies.

She’s the leader of this superbly talented and confident U.S. squad, which now dominates world soccer like a colossus over the seas, and as such, her words and actions are declarations for the world to observe and analyze.

And this is what she said as the tournament began: “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before, ever.”

Then the gay and out Rapinoe, whose girlfriend is WNBA superstar Sue Bird, added, “That’s science, right there.”

I’ll take her word for it about nobody in women’s soccer winning without lesbians on their team, though I wonder how anybody knows that for sure. But the science part of her comment needs, well, science behind it. Science is a real thing, not an opinion, not an observation.

If “Gays rule!” — as out U.S. player Ashlyn Harris likes to shout — then the questions in my mind become how and why, and what does this mean to the world in general?

It’s obvious there are many lesbian athletes in sports such as pro basketball, which has a number of women who have come out and who have implied they won’t hide in closets anymore, that the time has arrived for all LGBTQs — and any other initials that represent sexual orientations other than plain old heterosexuality — to step out and be free.

The WNBA even markets itself to the lesbian audience, which is pretty easy with such out stars as Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne and Angel McCoughtry. The Sky have a married lesbian couple, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, who tied the knot in Seattle late last year.

Both are guards, and the fact they’re on the floor together, driving the team, makes one wonder about the possible intrusion of domestic life into game plans. In the Sky’s recent win over the Sun, the couple combined for 55 minutes of play, 27 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, four steals and an astounding plus-30 in the plus/minus column.

Obviously, same-sex personal issues must be dealt with by athletes in the same way that straight athletes deal with heterosexual issues: Leave it all behind when you play the game.

But if lesbian dominance is “science,” as Rapinoe declared, what is it all about?

Billie Jean King used to say that being a lesbian back in the day — and therefore an outcast — made it reasonable to isolate oneself in a sport and on a field or court where you weren’t wanted anyway.

Now, with a whole generation of girls having grown up under the umbrella of Title IX, American women have soared ahead of the world in many sports. Indeed, as the U.S. soccer stars chant for “Equal pay! Equal pay!” with the men, they should realize that not only do they deserve it, but so do other women in other countries where funding is often reduced rather than expanded.

Times are changing. Fast.

We have a gay female Chicago mayor; a gay male presidential candidate; a gay, out, superstar black rapper (Lil Nas X); the first out lesbian couple to play at Wimbledon (Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen); and out TV celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow changing the scene.

The irony of many in our country wanting to go back in time to when America was “great,” a time that never really existed, except at the expense of those who were not in power — minorities, women, immigrants, gays, transgender people, etc. — can’t be lost on those who see this wave of freedom-demanding as inevitable and unstoppable.

I’ll trace it to the 1960s, when a philosophical rebellion against old strictures and protest against an insane war started the social freedom train rolling. It rolls on yet, and lesbians are having their moment in the engine room.

Why they fill sports rosters — be it genetics, hormones, sociology, rebellion — is interesting to me. Maybe we’ll find out with studies, if anybody is doing them. If anybody thinks it’s worthwhile.

As Rapinoe tweeted after the big win: “Science is science. Gays rule.”

But they don’t rule in men’s sports. Maybe there aren’t that many gay superstar male athletes, closeted or not.

We’re still waiting for that huge dude star to declare his homosexuality.

Maybe there isn’t one. It just makes me wonder if someday science can tell us why or why not. As you know, people, science rules.