If you follow my writing at all you’re probably aware that I’m from, and live in, Texas – the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to be exact. So it pretty much goes without saying that I’m also a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. And as some of you might be well aware of, they recently signed Michael Sam to their practice squad following his release from the St. Louis Rams.
Which is great. Not just because the Cowboys desperately need help on the defensive line, but because I do want to see Sam succeed. Heck, I want most NFL players to succeed (even though I know that’s not possible). To reach that level of success is a dream many of these guys have had their entire lives. Why shouldn’t we hope that they all make it, even if we know that’s impossible?
But if Michael Sam doesn’t make an NFL roster, I think most of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the media.
Let’s be real about what kind of NFL player Sam will most likely be. He’s undersized, not overly fast and doesn’t have the most elaborate collection of pass rushing moves. But that doesn’t mean he’s not talented enough to make an NFL roster and contribute in some way. Even if it’s just as a situation pass rusher who only plays 10-15 snaps a game, that’s a valued commodity to most NFL teams. And I do believe he’s talented enough to be “that guy.”
That being said, those kinds of players aren’t all that uncommon. In fact, those are typically the guys who play the “NFL player carousal” where they’re in the league for 5-6 years, yet ended up on 12 different teams.
They’re also the kinds of players where any type of distraction simply isn’t worth it to an NFL team. Where teams might tolerate much worse behavior from one of their superstars, they’re simply not going to put up with any kind of non-football related distractions from someone who’s easily replaceable.
And I think that’s where the media is really screwing over Michael Sam.
He’s gay, we get it. I think his short time in St. Louis proved that he wouldn’t be a distraction inside of an NFL locker room. Most players simply don’t care.
But you know who does seem to care about his homosexuality? The media. ESPN in particular.
Coaches in general aren’t big fans of the media. Sure, they answer a few questions, and do their required press conferences, but they typically don’t enjoy it. So when they have a guy on their team who’s a fringe player, a player that brings about a swarm of unwanted media attention, that puts the player’s career at risk.
Doubt me? Just go ask Tim Tebow.
Tebow is talented enough to be a situational player for an NFL team. But the headache that comes along with “Tebowmania,” along with the incessant press coverage that often surrounds him, more or less nullifies any value he might bring to a team.
For most coaches, the added headache of the increased media coverage just simply isn’t worth it for a player who might not even play every week.
And that’s why Tebow is an analyst for the SEC Network instead of playing for an NFL team.
Which is what I’m afraid could possibly happen to Michael Sam. The media, ESPN especially, has obsessed so much about his sexual orientation that some teams simply won’t want to deal with the added media attention. I honestly don’t think any NFL team cares one bit about the sexual orientation of its players. But I do think some avoided signing Sam because they didn’t want to deal with the media obsessing about him week in and week out.
Over a long NFL season, that can definitely wear on a team.
So, what do I have to say to the media? Leave Michael Sam alone.
We all know he’s gay. But guess what? That has nothing to do with what type of NFL player he can be.
The story is over. Players don’t care about his sexual orientation. In fact, many of them defended him from the ridiculous media coverage, such as ESPN’s “report” on Sam’s shower habits. Because, you know, that’s “news.”
You know who cares about his sexual orientation? You do.
And if anything, this over-the-top media attention that could possibly lead to Sam having fewer opportunities in the NFL is only serving as a deterrent to any other player who might want to stop hiding who they are and come out as an openly gay player.
Because at this point there’s no longer a question about “how will an openly gay NFL player be accepted in the locker room.” We already know the answer to that. Now it’s about how much obsessive media coverage is a player, and an NFL team, willing to tolerate for simply being who they are.
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