Britney Griner, Glory Johnson and how life imitates art

Britney Griner (center) accepting the Wade Trophy.

Britney Griner (center) accepting the Wade Trophy.

Just when I think stories about gay athletes who are rivals and lovers – the subjects of my novel series “The Games Men Play” – may be preposterous comes news of the marriage of W.N.B.A. stars Britney Griner and Glory Johnson. 

Glory Johnson. Photograph by Sergeev Pavel.

Glory Johnson. Photograph by Sergeev Pavel.

Griner, the center for the Phoenix Mercury, is the league’s top blocker; Johnson, a forward for the Tulsa Shock, the league’s No. 3 rebounder. They hit it off away from the courts and, despite a bump in the relationship that resulted in both being arrested on domestic violence charges (and suspended for seven games), married on May 8 in Phoenix.

It was a story I read with great interest, because the heroes of my forthcoming second novel “The Penalty for Holding” – Quinn and Tam, rival quarterbacks – consider marriage. (Griner and Johnson were also rivals during their college years, just like Tam and Mal – the third figure in my quarterback triangle – are.)

Adding a twist to the Briner-Johnson story: Johnson is straight.

Why would a straight woman marry a gay one?

“Britney is different,” The New York Times’ article quotes Johnson saying. “From the beginning, I could trust her. She’s extremely caring. It was a different feel.”

Of course, you might say, it’s possible that Johnson is in denial of her sexuality. But there’s a more intriguing possibility: That whom we love has less to do with gender than individuality. Or as Ellen DeGeneres once noted, You fall in love with a person.

Here’s wishing Griner and Johnson – who will now use the surname Johnson-Griner – a happy marriage.

As for my characters, well, you’ll just have to read how it all turns out, won’t you?