Friday, January 2, 2015

The Dilemma of Michael Sam

Remember when Michael Sam appeared like any other NFL prospect who was anticipating the ever elusive reward of future in professional sports after an illuminating college career? Remember when he came out as gay, setting off a firestorm of media -- both social and traditional -- with every from grandmothers to NFL hall of famers voicing their opinions? Remember when everyone cared that Sam was drafted (at the 11th hour, mind you) by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay NFL player in the league?

Of course you remember. Because as quickly as it seemed LGBT individuals were progressing in other aspects of public life with the open welcome of a gay man on a professional football team, that's how quickly the rug was pulled up from under Sam; Dallas dangled the carrot, but alas, they yanked back the string. Now we currently don't have Michael Sam as the gay NFL prospect, or the gay NFL player. We now have Michael Sam, a guy still being made relevant for all of the wrong reasons.

There are NFL players, and then there are celebrity NFL players. The latter are players who -- for better or for worse -- become public figures off the field while still showing up on Sunday and showing the rest of the world why they are paid the millions they are. And then there are the Ray Rice - Johnny Manziel type of celebrity players who let their celebrity status eclipse their talent. But even still, these are players who have proven themselves in a professional game. Hell, they've at least played in a professional game. Sam has not.

Is it his fault? Of course it isn't. Coming out as a gay man ahead of the NFL drafts was one of the boldest and most courageous things he could have done. But, I would be lying if I said it was 100% smart of him. A league that is notoriously anti-gay -- with that actually being the mildest of the NFL's shortcomings -- and you have an individual saying, "Screw you... I'm going to push your antiquated asses into the next century." And of course we have the resident homophobes using bible scriptures and ignorant "gay man in a locker room" remarks, but let's be honest: A. Half of those bible thumping players ignore all of the other crap that inconveniences their lives, and B. Half of them look at themselves as being such desirable pieces of ass, and that no gay man would ever be able to resist trying to ravish them.

But I digress. In the wake of many notable public figures coming out, there is a reason I find Michael Sam's decision to do so to be both profound and self-serving. It is profound because it really does show our LGBT youth that there is a place for them in the hurly burly world of sports. We can tackle, do layups, hit home runs, score goals, and whatever the fuck it is hockey players do. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that Sam's coming out was both calculated and intended to get him more attention over other NFL prospects. From a business standpoint, I see nothing wrong with doing so. However, when you package business ventures under the guise of "equality", it becomes hella disingenuous. 

Look at that hot shit right there.... plastered on TV for all to see. Who the hell cares, though? If seeing two men kiss on TV gives you a vitriolic rumbling in your body or makes you tingle down there, then that's your hangup, not theirs. And while this moment, I do not think, was meant to be some kind of "agenda" driven ploy by Michael Sam, ESPN had to know what they were doing... and I applaud them for it for no other reason than showing a gay man overcome with emotions and having a genuine moment of love with his boyfriend. Everything around Michael Sam had a business side to it... the endorsements, the documentaries, the constant media coverage. Kudos to you, Sam... but in my opinion, the lights blinded you from your real goal.


Let's be honest. He wasn't terrible at the combine, but he damn sure wasn't good. He's not signed to any football team currently, and what we have of him now is an Oprah documentary (that I don't think should have been released until after his first season), and replayed TMZ clips of him implying that his homosexuality may be why he isn't signed. And he might be right about that... but I also contend that half of these owners wouldn't care if he had a collection of severed heads in his basement. Most of the time, the owners despise their players but also know what they bring to the table, and ultimately, currency trumps any personal issues they may have about that individual... paging Donald Sterling.

What I feel is that Michael Sam did exactly what many of us say we don't want: He gave his sexuality the starring role in his saga. What should have been secondary became the primary focus of almost all coverage of him. We in the LGBT community want our role models, but more often than not, we just want to show everyone else that we can be their equals; our sexual orientation or gender identity is irrelevant. Unfortunately, it appears that Sam's being gay is the only thing he has going for him at this moment, because outside of that, there is virtually nothing in the mainstream media about him anymore. But isn't that like MSM these days? Make something the center focus for months and then suddenly drop it like a hot potato. 

I've seen him play in old college game footage. Michael Sam has definitely got the talent to be in professional sports, although he is on the small side for his position. Then again, I'm some gay dude writing a freaking essay about another dude who has done things that I could only dream of doing in my lifetime. This is all just my opinion, but I stand by it...

Not done quite yet...

We have another issue that I would like to address that I think has led to a lot of reservations in regards to taking on Sam. We have an over-saturated market that is looking for the next big story and wants updates and round-the-clock news, especially about something as salacious -- but really not -- as an openly gay NFL player. And then we have the various LGBT organizations trying to make Sam into this gay messiah, even though he barely even made it into the NFL. There was a lot of using going on here... by everyone involved. All trying to use Sam for their own self-interests, not really caring about Michael Sam, the person.

Whew, this was long, but it was something I had to get off of my chest. This is a man who has stood up to adversity, both while growing up and while being open about who he is, and no one can take away what he has accomplished. We cannot, though, lose sight of the fact that those we elevate are not necessarily able to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the titles we bestow on them. Furthermore, we should also realize that these are people who are thrust into two different worlds: the world of sports and the world of sparkling bright lights of Hollywood.

I think he needs to step out of the light and remember that the grid-iron is where he'll be making his living. That when the dust settles and all is said and done about who he dates in his personal life, his legacy on the field is what will ultimately stand the test of time. 

Okay, I'm done.  

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