NOW…Just Play Football!
~ Amy Lignor
Michael Sam. This is a man whose name is all over the place this morning. He is a football player – a very good football player, who knows how to get the job done on the field. In other words, he is a perfect pick for most teams in the NFL that, no offense, are rock-bottom and need as much help as humanly possible.
Over the weekend, history was made. Okay…I get this part. Having the first openly gay player in the NFL is something that will go into the history books, where people can pat themselves on the back for FINALLY understanding that who you love at home doesn’t have a darn thing to do with how you play professional football. Really, guys…it has no bearing whatsoever on how fast you can run, how high you can jump, and how you can help a struggling defense (and God knows there are tons of those right now).
Michael Sam is gay, yes. You know what else he is that is far more important? A consensus all-American at Missouri; The Associated Press’s defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference; and, basically a true football player that almost every team with a horrible defense (again, there are lots), needs. However, even with all these actual football qualifications, he was passed over and passed over and passed over during the draft, and I am assuming it was not because of his talents or skills. It took almost seven hours of picks. It came down to the final day. He was the 249th player to be selected. And saying the draft was almost over is not an understatement. Sam was picked and then only seven other players were announced before Radio City Music Hall said goodbye to the NFL.
Everyone talks about the fact that the NBA took an openly gay player in February – Jason Collins of the Nets. Therefore, why was the NFL so old fashioned? Idiotic? Ridiculous? (Pick an adjective here and insert). Why would they be so against having an openly gay player – WHO CAN PLAY – in their ranks? Well…apparently the barometer here, considering Sam went 249th on the last day of the draft – speaks volumes. Yes, they are ready to follow in the NBA’s footsteps, BUT…they are going to make sure that they hem and haw more than a bit before doing the appropriate thing. And, what I mean by appropriate is, once again, choosing a player based on credentials. This is one move by the NFL that had me, a HUGE fan, wondering why exactly they would be bothered by who Michael Sam lives with when they should be upset by how many teams stink, stank, stunk this past season.
Michael Sam is one of the most well-known defensive players on the map because of his exceedingly amazing work with Missouri. And the St Louis Rams – whether they finally rightfully said: “Forget it. I need the player who can help me and I really do not care one iota who he’s in love with.” Or, they wanted to make history (which they actually could with Sam, as he wins the MVP award at the Super Bowl. I don’t know which. What I do know is that the Rams actually made a good decision. And when you look at the draft, guys and gals, there weren’t a whole lot of them made.
Yes, the newspapers and internet keep saying that there was a “loud, sustained round of applause from the sparse crowd of fans at Radio City Music Hall,” when Sam was selected. However, there will be a major sustained, major loud celebration when he steps on the field and actually brings the Rams where they need to be in order to be major contenders for the Lombardi trophy. That’s the point.
Are people going to squawk and whine about Sam’s home life? Sure. We are still – even though we have gotten a bit better – a world where things like sexual orientation actually matter more than the person you are, the soul you have, and the hard work you do. But, what should happen here is that everyone in the nation who loves football should be beyond proud that a real sportsman is entering the NFL ready to get the job done!
Note from Rams: “We drafted a good football player. Yeah, there’s going to be a little extra attention for a couple of days, but we have a very mature team and certainly not going to let any kind of distraction affect this football team.”
Note from Fans: “Congrats, Michael! …Now let‘s focus on playing FOOTBALL!”