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Unfounded rumors only add to Joey Votto's burden

When I saw the story, I almost decided to ignore it. Better to pretend it wasn’t there than to give it any credence. But then I figured something needed to be said.

In case you didn’t know, there have been rumors floating around regarding Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto’s trip to the disabled list. Before returning to action tonight, Votto had been out with what was officially termed “an undisclosed stress-related issue.”

It’s a lame, mysterious description, for sure. And whenever we are confronted with lame, mysterious information, what do we do? We become a sewing circle, or a bunch of old dudes in a barber shop. We gossip. We speculate. By we, I mean all of us. Fans, writers, journalists, bloggers. Everyone.

The speculation got personal. The innuendo invasive. The word on the message board/blogosphere was that Votto is gay.

No proof. Just some twisted logic: Votto + stress = gay baseball player. To which I say two things:

1. No one should believe such words unless Joey Votto utters them himself.

2. Even if he does, who cares? Does it matter in the least?

If a gay athlete wants to come out of the closet, let him do so -- on his own. He should never be forced to come forth simply to answer rumors.

And a straight athlete shouldn’t be put in a position where he feels the need to say “I’m not gay … not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Because there isn’t anything wrong with it. But it’s personal. And it’s nobody’s business.

As writer Jeff Pearlman, a man far more eloquent than myself, put it …

A ballplayer should come out because it’s important for America to see that gay does not mean weird or freaky or diseased. But nobody needs to be forced out via rumor and innuendo. It’s not fair and it’s not righteous.

I can only hope that Votto didn’t feel the need to answer the rumors when he came forth on Tuesday with incredibly personal details about his absence.

Votto said that he has struggled dealing with the death of his father in August. He was distracted by baseball, but when he went on the DL in May with an upper respiratory infection, he became overwhelmed, and the emotions of his loss came crashing down. He struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. He saw doctors. He called 911 in the middle of the night for a trip to the hospital. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.

“It finally seeped its way into the game. I just had to put an end to it. I really couldn’t be out there. It’s difficult to explain what I was going through. I couldn’t do it. I physically couldn’t do my job. That’s what I’ve gone through.

Votto spoke of his love for his father, and the stress of being the oldest son and feeling as though he was now responsible for his family. He said the pressure was so great, he felt like he “was going to die.”

It would be a terrible ordeal for anyone to deal with, let alone a public figure, a man who lives in the spotlight.

There is no need for any of us to add to it.