For decades, the United States, home of a sports mania that has eclipsed all other forms of entertainment and information, has wondered what sort of social earthquake would erupt when a superjock acknowledged his sexual orientation was not hyper-hetero. How would this country, which spawned self-proclaimed Casanovas such as Wilt Chamberlain and Muhammad Ali, cope with a superman who not only didn't want every woman, but didn't want any of them?
Here's how: Virtually every person in the country with something to gain by supporting Collins, did so. Why? Because there is nothing to lose.
President Obama telephoned Collins.
His wife, Michelle, tweeted, "We've got your back."
Bill Clinton, expert opportunist, told the Twitterverse, "I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend."
This is the measure of our country's progress: Supporting an athlete who comes out is a safe and popular move.
The anti-gay element, the gay bashers still exist. They always will.
The difference: Ten years ago, gay bashers were allowed to wallow in their hatred with a chorus of like-minded Neanderthals. Today, gay bashers either are denigrated for the cretins that they are; or they are ignored, out of uninterest or sympathy.
Chris Broussard, a fine NBA reporter but a laughable moralist, called Collins a sinner on ESPN.
The world snickered.
Meanwhile, Russell Brand, the male Paris Hilton, flirted with Collins on Twitter.
Nets teammates Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez lauded Collins' bravery and professionalism.
Martina Navaratilova called him a lifesaver. That might be the most relevant thing to be said.
Navratilova, who was outed in 1981, suffered the loss of millions of endorsement dollars and dozens of friends. She endured the wrath of conservatives and Christians even as she ascended to the greatest career of anyone to play her sport to that point.
She paved the way for a legion of women to own their sexuality in their public and private lives. Brittney Griner, the latest Greatest Women's College Player, came out this spring . . . and signed a megadeal with Nike, which, it should be noted, also cheered Collins yesterday.
Collins mentioned the issue of suicide in his SI opus.
The assertion is that, since an NBA player told of his painful voyage of self-deception and pain and self-discovery and bravery, others in his situation - especially young teens struggling with the same issue - can be emboldened. If that happens, Collins is the best sort of hero: one who spares others their miseries.
The impact of Collins' declaration has been overstated. He is nobody. Anonymous.
Magic Johnson accelerated the HIV and AIDS conversation because he grew the NBA. The same would not have happened had Terry Teagle contracted the virus.
No star male athlete ever has come out, though only the least realistic among us would contend that stars aren't gay, too. Why?
Fear. Money. Responsibility, whether misplaced or not.
Star male athletes risk millions of dollars in endorsements and contracts and becoming locker-room punch lines.
They are brands unto themselves, small companies that keep a platoon of people employed. Collins never has been such a brand.
Collins has been six fouls on two legs, a 6-10 side of beef assigned to disrupt the offensive efforts of good players by hacking a Shaq or flopping for Dwight.
Which brings up the issue of Collins' status, and his timing.
The NBA season is over for Collins and his Wizards. He will face no fallout in any arena in the near future; maybe never.
Collins is a 34-year-old free agent with negligible value. There is a real chance no team signs him next season. He might be a casualty of institutional homophobia; that is the claim of marginal NFL players and gay-rights supporters Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, who might be out of work.
Collins also might be a casualty of his age, abilities and roster limits. For the moment, he technically has taken no greater risk than David Kopay or Roy Simmons or any former professional who came out after the spotlight died.
Then again, perhaps the NBA will be shamed into making sure Collins does have a job this fall . . . a job he might not otherwise have had. Intriguing, no?
As it stands, Collins' news was less incredible than inevitable. Such is the reality of enlightenment.
Had Collins been moved to come out at, say, 24, with a decade of employment ahead, the depth of his bravery would be breathtaking. Even Collins acknowledges this.
Instead, it is only admirable. And, in this day, it is unremarkable.
Isn't that wonderful?