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