Here is my take on the Michael Sam situation. While some would call it old, I like to think Sam’s courage in coming out BEFORE the draft about his sexuality will help many others shake the boulder’s off their shoulders in the future. Yes, his sexuality has nothing to do with his play but it will affect his draft position and has given him the chance to help many others. Athletes, especially football players in a testosterone filled environment, can’t just say this and hope nothing changes. Unfortunately, that is the world we live in. Sam’s story never gets old. If you didn’t see this on Arch City Sports last week, here it is.
Two weeks ago, Missouri football player Michael Sam came out on National Television and said he is gay. Since then, every media pundit, sports fan and many other million or so souls on this earth have weighed in. Support has come out in droves and everybody has a take on this. The majority of the comments that aren’t supportive are people wondering why this is news in the first place, which is a good question.
Michael Sam coming out and stating his sexual preference to the world is news because there are so many people out there who can’t accept or root for gay athletes and don’t even support gay marriage. They make this a debate and one that will wage on until being gay or not isn’t headline news. This is a story because of all the conservatives and red states who can’t wrap their head around a fact that a football player is gay and can still be great in the game of football. Heterosexual athletes don’t need to come out during an ESPN interview. In 2014, gay athletes have to make a statement about their sexual preference and that is one of the many things that isn’t yet right and balanced with this world.
I won’t overload you with football statistics or politics here. I am not a huge college football fan and won’t bust out my mock draft here because that isn’t the point right now. The point is that Sam did something heroic and something many athletes would be terrified to do. That needs to be appreciated and talked about. Imagine telling your parents your secret and how hard that is and then imagine telling your friends and teammates. After you have digested that scenario, imagine telling the entire world and every NFL franchise that you are gay and dealing with the mega storm that comes with it. There is nothing easy about what Sam did and making light of the statement he made would be a bad move for any football fan or regular person just reading a story. Look deeper.
Being a football player carries a responsibility that few other sports can match. It is America’s most popular sport and one that brings in the highest ratings every year. Baseball and Hockey are very popular but fans don’t spend hours tailgating outside the stadium hours before every home game like loyal believers to a cult. There are people out there that think Sam did something ordinary and that it didn’t require national news attention. Trust me when I say that everybody who did support the story wishes that were true. I sit here and hope for a day that gay athletes don’t need to step up on a platform and reveal themselves like they are entering a contest.
What Sam did do was give strength and compassion to all the closeted gay football players and athletes around the world sitting in their rooms right now trying to figure out a way to tell the world who they really are and not hide anything any more. Sam helped every single one of those people when he told ESPN on Sunday night that he was gay and that his teammates supported him and several NFL coaches, players and owners supported him. A weight undoubtedly fell off hundreds of thousands of athletes’ shoulders that night. Sam gave hope to the idea that one day this won’t be news. For now, in this imperfect yet noble world, it is news and worth spreading around and talking about.
I do believe the theory that Sam’s sexuality should have nothing to do with where he plays football in the NFL and how good he is. However, I will admit his statement will alter and change the spot and direction that awaits him. It’s easier for an NFL player to come out because they are at the top level and have already made it. A college player is only hoping to make a living in the NFL and is still reaching for that opportunity. Sam coming out now before the draft and before a team can select him is noble, smart and appreciative of every football team in the league.
Sam is an All American Defensive End and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the year for Mizzou and he should have no problem finding a decent spot on a team this year. Teams should be happy to have him on their team. Sam is a leader on the football field and a man possessed by a talent that is legit and will help NFL teams win games. Whether he likes it or not, he is also a leader and spokesperson for all the closeted gay athletes and gay players in the world. He is a voice for them, and that voice will shine far and large no matter where he plays. That is the true story and the true fight of this man.
Michael Sam’s statement was a trailblazer for athletes around the world, but his true fight remains on the football field. All he can do now is play and make a name for himself. That is the story to look at ahead. Can Sam play well enough to step outside of his new image or will he be confined inside this story forever? Will we one day associate Sam’s stance for all gay athletes as a side note to his true talent like we once did with Jackie Robinson’s pathway to all African American’s playing baseball in the majors? Michael Sam changed his life with a few simple words last weekend. His true fight starts this summer and into the fall and winter as he makes an attempt to be a worthy member of the National Football League and leave a different mark on the world.
His story is definitely headline material right now and while that may be an unfortunate thing to many, it is a door opening one for not just every athlete but person in this world. People are talking about it right now and how it is good or bad for the sport or how it is meaningless or meaningful. Appreciate this dialogue and conversation. You never know because one day this kind of conversation may make a statement like Michael Sam’s a moot point for CNN breaking news.
Until that precious day, I am going to sit here and look ahead to what Michael Sam can do in the NFL. His ride has only begun.
“I understand how big this is,” he said. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”-Michael Sam(Taken from an ESPN interview conducted by Chris Connelly)