MIchael Sams is an All-American defensive lineman from the University of MIssouri. He was the 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and considered a top pick in this year's NFL Draft.
Sam has terrorized quarterbacks since his days at Hitchcock High School in Hitchcock, TX and his bone-jarring sack of Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf in the fourth quarter of the 2014 Cotton Bowl led to a fumble recovery that clinched the game for the Missouri Tigers.
On Sunday night, Michael Sam revealed publicly what has been an open secret for years; he is a proud gay man.
Sam's father, Michael Sam, Sr. was celebrating his birthday at a Denny's in Texas on Thursday when his son came out of the closet to him via text message.
Dad's reaction was less than enthusiastic. “I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” Sam Sr. told the New York Times. “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment."
He went on to say that he was old school, a "man-and-a-woman type of guy” and that he loves his son and wants him to succeed in the NFL.
The elder Sam summed it up philosophically, “As a black man, we have so many hurdles to cross,” he said. “This is just one he has to cross.”
When I first heard Sam's revelation, my initial reaction was, "So?" I mean, c'mon, we're watching the Olymics over here.
Thinking about it later, I decided that Sam's post-proclamation draft prospects were probably significantly slimmer than they were when his sexual orientation was just an open secret. Interpret that how you will, it's a function of human nature.
In an enlightened society like ours, everyone deserves to be treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or proclivity. What anyone does in their bedroom and with whom they do it should be neither a matter of public condemnation nor a basis of employment. Even the Army can ask and tell now with no negative consequences.
I have friends whom I suspect practice some pretty bizarre stuff in their boudoir, but I try not to think about it. I try to stay focused only on my wife's likes and dislikes in that department and do everything I can to make sure that she is a happy camper. As the old addage suggests, a happy wife is the key to a happy man.
Sam isn't the first guy to "come out". Last year Jason Collins of the NBA's Washington Wizards disclosed his homosexuality. The difference, though is that Collins came out at the end of his career, not pre-draft.
If I owned a football team, Michael Sam's sexual orientation might be of no concern to me. I might wonder, though exactly what the purpose was of his self-outing. After all, I don't remember anyone in last year's draft coming out as heterosexual.
I might be concerned, though that Sam's added value to my team might not outweigh the potential problems looming down the road.
For a start, I'd be concerned about unwanted scrutiny from the press. They're going to have Sam and his team under a microscope, putting their own spin on otherwise mundane events.
Always ready to weigh in on all things biblical, one or more of the ever-vigilant, self-righteous groups affectionately referred to as the religious Right will want to boycott or sue somebody. Like the Taliban, they think that everyone else should live by their religious beliefs
Legal implications are ever-present in 21st Century life. If things don't work out for Sam, if he doesn't get the field time he thinks he deserves, he might be tempted to play the gay card. Even if he's not tempted, there's a lawyer somewhere who will be glad to lead that charge.
And then there's the fans, some of whom may not be the most liberal, homo-friendly group. Especially as the tailgate parties wind down and beer kegs run dry. Heck, even his dad lost his appetite when he heard the news.
Right, wrong or indifferent, these are the business decisions facing owners and managers going into the NFL draft come May. Sam was a standout player in high school and college, but that doesn't always translate into a successful NFL career. He was bigger than most of his high school team, he'll be a tad on the small side in the NFL.
The guys in the back office have to make hard, unemotional choices. We all know how things go when we do our thinking with the wrong head. It's one thing to take a chance on a young guy with potential. Taking a chance on a mountain of potential problems is another.
The more I think about the Michael Sam proclamation, the less brave I think it was. Plenty of gay men are going about their lives, neither hiding nor brandishing their sexuality, much the same as their heterosexual counterparts.
Isn't that really the point? It's nobody's damn business what anyone else does with another consenting adult (or adults). Was proclaiming his sexuality an act of bravery or a step backward for an enlightened society like ours?
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