The Men Interview Pro Bowler, Scott Norton
by Eric Carlyle & Matt Fish, Men on Sports
In the world of professional sports very few athletes have come out during their career. Scott Norton is an exception. As a Championship bowler on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour, Norton is out and happily married.
Scott, why bowling?
I grew up around the sport. My mother, Virginia Norton, is in nearly every bowling Hall of Fame. I grew up watching her so I spent most of my childhood inside a bowling center! She inspired me to shoot for the stars and to work hard to achieve my goals. And of course, it didn’t hurt to have a Hall of Famer as a coach.
With a bowling legend for a mother, did that make it easier or harder for you when you decided to pursue a career as a professional bowler?
Having a mother, my mother, as a bowling legend did make it more difficult in the beginning. People expected the best out of me because of my pedigree. So when I didn’t perform well, people would be very critical; but if I performed well, it was merely expected. As I have progressed in my career, however, it has become easier and easier to shed those thoughts as people are beginning to look at me as being separate from my mother. Now, instead of “Oh, you’re Virginia’s son,” I even hear some people saying “Oh, you’re Scott’s mom.” It is a nice change to be recognized on my own merit.
Speaking of things being easier, do you think it was easier to come out as a bowler than say, if you played a team sport?
It’s hard to say that it’s easier. First, bowling is traditionally a little more blue-collar, and as such, it tends to have a lot of those personalities involved. Additionally, we go to small town USA much more often for bowling tournaments than the MLB or NFL does since most of their teams are in metropolitan areas.
Bowling is also very lonely. In a team sport you think you’d have the support of your teammates whereas I’m on my own out there, literally. I’m the only out professional male bowler so sometimes I do feel like I’m living on a bit of an island. When I bowled in college, I was in a team environment. Being out to them and having them accept and support me helped me be even stronger than I was by myself because I knew I had people behind me.
How accepting is the professional bowling community of your husband, Craig? What about the fans and sponsors?
Most people are great with us. Craig gets to be a spectator and he gets along with most of the tour players’ wives very well. Whenever he’s not there, I always get the question “where’s your hubby?” so it’s nice to see that people enjoy both of us. I do get a fair amount of LGBT fans that come out just to see me, as well. That’s nice to help foster a competitive spirit in them to achieve their goals, too. It’s also nice to see that coming out did have a positive impact on their lives. Sponsors, for the most part, have been great although there have been exceptions.
What would you tell other gay professional athletes who want to come out to their teammates but haven’t done it yet?
The biggest thing I would say to gay athletes who perhaps haven’t come out is that you’re only hurting yourself. It does make life a little more difficult being out, but it certainly must be worse hearing some of the homophobic slurs and macho talk going on in the locker room and just having to shake them off, pretending you didn’t hear it. Today most teams would be super supportive of any athlete on their team, and I would think it would be a liberating experience for the gay athlete. It certainly was for me.
Being gay aside, you were the PBA’s 2010/2011 Rookie of the Year. What does 2013 look like for you?
2013 promises to be an exciting year. I will be travelling around the world for many different tournaments as the PBA looks to expand into a global market with their partnership with the World Bowling Tour (WBT). I am leaving Oct. 1, 2012 to go to Vienna for a WBT event, and will be going to Japan in January for a tournament there in addition to the normal tour schedule. Keep an eye out – I predict things are going to get interesting. And hopefully with some personal success, we can bring more attention to the equality discussion and inspire youth around the world to accept and love themselves for who they are.
Men on Sports is a collaboration between Compete Magazine co-founder, Eric Carlyle, and former NBA athlete and LGBT sports ally, Matt Fish. Visit Compete Magazine at www.CompeteNetwork.com.