Identity Politics into the NFL Draft (Guest Post)

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With one of football junkies’ favorite days of the year fast approaching, the big story that the left wants to focus on concerning the NFL draft is – identity politics of course! One of the players eligible for the NFL draft is University of Missouri defensive end, Michael Sam. What made Mr. Sam so newsworthy is that a few months ago he declared publicly that he is gay. For a brief period this became a semi-big story in the media. I found the most interesting take come from Dave Zirin.

For those of you unfamiliar with Zirin’s work, he writes for The Nation on sports topics that may intersect with leftist politics. He also contributes to the sports site Grantland (run by Bill Simmons, aka “The Sports Guy”), where he is there to balance out the sometimes thinly veiled left leaning political views of their writers by also providing the extreme leftist opinion on political issues relating to sports. Last February in The Nation Zirin lamented:

Yes, the crazies in Westboro Baptist Church and some of the more reptilian swamps of the right-wing blogosphere have let loose with the homophobia, but the mainstream has been silent. It is not just Fox. Doesn’t National Review or The Weekly Standard have anything interesting, or even uninteresting, to say about any of this? Nothing? Really?

Yes, this leftists could not comprehend that maybe most Americans, particularly conservatives, don’t view the entire world through a gender-racial-climate-grievance of the week lens. National Review’s Jim Geraghty offered some insights on Michael Sam by referencing another openly gay athlete:

You may recall Jason Collins was invited to the State of the Union, and you may recall references to “NBA star Jason Collins.” The term “journeyman” is more accurate, as he played for six teams, four since 2009. His career averages are 3.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, .9 assists per game, .5 steals per game. Undoubtedly, you have to have talent to play 12 seasons in the NBA and play 713 games in those seasons, starting about two-thirds of them. He averaged 20 minutes per game (an NBA game is 48 minutes). He’s good, but not a star. Collins was a free agent when he came out of the closet, and no team has signed him since. Some will insist that reflects league-wide homophobia, but that interpretation neglects the fact that age 35 is the end of the shelf life of an NBA center. But “journeyman NBA player discloses his sexual orientation at end of his career” is a less dramatic story, and so most of the media deemphasized those aspects of the story.

A large chunk of the media will insist upon interpreting every triumph and setback for Michael Sam through the lens of his homosexuality and their belief that he’s a flashpoint in a battle between “tolerance” and “intolerance.” But the career of an NFL player can rise or fall on a thousand different factors and twists of fate. Do the coaches use him correctly? How complicated is the defensive system, and how quickly can he pick up the signals, terminology, and strategy? Is he in a system designed to showcase his natural skills, or are the coaches trying to use him in a new or different role that takes time to learn? How good are the other players on the team at his position? Does he twist an ankle or tear an ACL? Sam seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but how does he handle the pressures of being a professional athlete?

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated watched game tapes of Sam and saw a player with definite potential for the NFL, but by no means a sure thing

Follow the link for Bedard’s complete breakdown of Sam’s game. Yes, Michael Sam was an excellent college football player, but success in college sports is no means guarantees success at the pro level. For any of the younger readers out there, or those not familiar with pro football, google the names JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, or Tony Mandarich. My guess is that Sam will be drafted somewhere in a late/middle rounds and last maybe two to three seasons as a situational linebacker and special teams player.

Personally, I’ll be rooting for Sam, but not because he’s openly gay. Prior to his senior year of college Sam approached his coach and informed him that he was gay. His coach offered his support and asked Sam how he wanted to proceed. Not wanting to be a distraction to his team, as Missouri’s 2013 season would have surely become a Sam-centric media circus, he chose to keep quiet and then openly come out after the season was over and it wouldn’t affect his teammates. Instead of selfishly grabbing the spotlight Sam instead respected his team and let them play out the season, and only called the spotlight on himself with the quality of his play. If nothing else, Sam’s unselfish attitude will help him in life regardless of how his professional football career turns out.

Back to Zirin’s column, and couldn’t hide his annoyance that most conservatives’ interest in Sam was not for reasons that someone like Zirin deemed proper:

The New Republic’s Cohn even put out a plaintive tweet asking people on the right, “What do conservatives & Republicans think about a gay player in the NFL? Honest question, hoping for positive answers.” He did receive a curt tweet or two in response, mostly of the, “I don’t care as long as he can play football” variety.

Imagine that. Judging a man based on the worth of his word and his actions that back them up, rather than on his race, gender, or sexuality – what a novel idea. Who knows? If Sam has an outstanding career maybe the left in this country will learn to look past their own bigotry and celebrate Sam as a great player rather than have to label him a great gay football player.

Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog

Blogging by the credo of "Making the world a more offensive place, one blog post at a time", Brother Bob started writing posts around the beginning of the Obama presidency over at Brother Bob's Blog. A born-again Existentialist and self-professed libertarian with conservative tendencies, he has ironically chosen to live in the Washington, DC area - deep behind enemy lines. He has always loved history, and spent eight years volunteering as a tour guide on weekends, giving over 200 tours to roughly 2,500 mostly foreign guests. His tours were highlighted by stories generally not found in the history books or most other tours, such as the importance of the Battle if Antietam, the origins or Arlington Cemetery, and dispelling the myths of FDR's New Deal. Although his favorite subject to blog about is Economics, as seen in his Economics for Politicians series, his posts try to address angles that other conservative writers and the mainstream media (naturally!) miss. "There's no point in putting up a post on a subject that someone smarter than me has already written". He believes in the "Happy Warrior" approach, and tries to inject humor in his posts, sometimes successfully. Two such examples are his posts comparing the modern left to the horrible Star Wars prequels, and analyzing the laments of a DC woman in search of a feminist boyfriend. Brother Bob lives with his very patient wife known as Sister Babe, and their fantastic son. Little Bob. Little Bob is also the reason that being a tour guide came to an end, as spending Saturdays raising a son takes priority over giving lectures to foreign visitors on the folly of Keynesian economics. BB is also grateful for the opportunity to take his place among the outstanding writers at Flopping Aces, appreciates every person who takes the time to read his posts, and especially those who join him in the conversation in the comments.

5 Responses to “Identity Politics into the NFL Draft (Guest Post)”

  1. 1

    Nanny G

    I hadn’t followed his college career so I have to ask:
    Is he THAT great a player?
    Is his sexual orientation going to be too distracting for a team?
    Put those two together and he may be low in the draft.
    It could be that late pick team may get a real blessing of a terrific player, or not.
    I bet he goes later rather than sooner in the draft.

    One of the top ten draft pick stories was how Aaron Rodgers was picked so late and turned out so good.
    We might see that again with this guy.

  2. 2

    FAITH7

    “Yes, Michael Sam was an excellent college football player, but success in college sports is no means guarantees success at the pro level.

    This could not be truer. I have a friend who’s son is, great guy, focused, did very well in college and played great with the college team. Went on to hopefully get work and ‘maybe’ get ‘picked’ and get into one of the pro teams. I heard he did work with one of the pro teams for awhile, mostly when they do their practice months…but nothing materialized further as far as I am aware. ..Now, I can say something snarky here, but, I will hold my tongue….

  3. 3

    oil guy from Alberta

    A smart general manager avoids as many distractions as possible. He should draft to fill weaknesses with the best athlete possible. The prospect should be very eager to learn and adapt to their team systems. In conclusion, there are other defensive ends.

  4. 4

    Nanny G

    @oil guy from Alberta: A smart general manager avoids as many distractions as possible.

    A very good point.
    Even this man, himself, went to his college coach, came out to him alone then followed his advice to stay quiet about his sexuality during his college years playing on the team.
    That cat is now out of the bag.

  5. 5

    Brother Bob

    author

    @Faith7: From your tone it sounds like your friend’s son was pretty cocky about his pro prospects and got taken down a peg. Although he couldn’t be happy with the end result, getting invited to an NFL training camp is still better than most college players do.

    @oil guy: Nailed it. Even though Sam came out, he is trying as hard as possible to make it as a pro football player. he could be hyping up the fact that he is gay to achieve sainthood among the left and guarantee a role in the media after football. Which leads me to…

    @ Nanny G: Sam actually did the opposite. His coach offered his support & Sam chose to keep it quiet rather than selfishly make his and his teammates’ final season all about him. In fact, in the runup to the draft the sports networks wanted to follow him with cameras, make a big deal about him, etc. Sam declined in order to make his potential pick about his football skills and not his personal story.

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