Phone reception was spotty on the island. But, last Tuesday, a message came through from my friend Jim: One of our gold-medal-winning teammates at the Gay Games was dead. Anthony Castro, all of 19, had died in a car crash (He is second from the left in the team picture below). He was a remarkable kid - an openly gay high school quarterback, wrestler and swimmer at less-than-enlightened Banning (Calif.) High School - and Jim and I had meant to feature him on Outsports.com for the last year. Unfortunately, it was this terrible circumstance that finally drove us to do so.
My strongest interactions with Anthony were at the Gay Games. I had played pick-up with him in L.A. a couple times and had seen him at the Gay Super Bowl. But it was playing with him that I got to experience who he was. Our first game in that tournament, he kind of stunk it up. Dropped passes, blown coverage. But by the end, he was the MVP of the championship game. When it counted the most, when he had to lay the most on the line, he did so with maturity beyond his age. It's the mark of a great champion. And hearing from people who knew Anthony better than I, their experiences of him - shy, humble, and an incredible force in competition - were the same.
It's been comforting to see some major media outlets pick up the story of Anthony's life. My friend LZ Granderson at ESPN wrote about it today, the day of the funeral. The Advocate and Gay.com and Andrew Sullivan all wrote about him. The comfort comes from knowing that, despite the tragic loss of such a wonderful life, others may now hear of Anthony's story and be affected by it.
I got this news on day three of my vacation, and I'm glad I did. It gave me the next four days to reflect on my own life, the direction of it, and what people might say about me if I was the one perishing in that accident. His death has certainly given me some things to think about.