Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So, Micheal Sam...

Ramblings Post #253
I questioned whether I would post this, as it's a fairly sensitive subject. But it's one that's not supposed to be. His orientation shouldn't matter if he can play the game - it's that simple. But despite how simple things should be, we as people have this odd thing where we makes stuff harder than it has to be because ...reasons?

Let's be clear up front:  My expectation of Micheal Sam's NFL career is that after a good showing at the Combine where he proves he more than just a pass rusher, he gets drafted right around the place Kiper figured he would go before his announcement last weekend. That he goes on to a good career, is a pro bowl regular and if the stars line up right and luck falls his way, he ends up on a team that wins the Superbowl. Then after retirement he gets an analyst seat somewhere - ESPN, NFL Network, etc - and twenty five years from now he's either telling us why the corner was wrong to bite on the fake and just got burnt or offering his take on why the Lions still haven't got to the big game. Apologies to Lions fans.

But then there is now.

I've read the Slate article about how he's an "opportunity" for a team to make a statement and gain a new following. Because as we all know, your average fan who happens to be gay will just up and change teams in support. Um, no. Sorry, but the thousands of football fans who happen to be gay are still just football fans, and I doubt that a die-hard Steeler, Raider, Raven or Dolphin fan will change in affiliation if Sam is say, drafted by the Cardinals. They'll cheer, check his stats and watch his highlights, but that's about it.

Further, although his openly gay status is a viewed as a distraction, as one veteran has pointed out teams deal with unexpected distractions all the time so this should be no different. And he's right. But, this viewpoint overlooks the real question, the consideration that the team knowing it will inevitably have distractions it did not see coming, would it be prudent to bring one in intentionally? Could be good to get in front of it. Could be bad if it gets out of control. It's a toss up really. 

But all that aside, GM's are wary because as the selecting team you place yourself in a situation where the already murky "Football Decisions" are all second guessed or maybe even shaped by his presence. Let me explain. Now I'm going to assume that the NFL is like most of America and the reality is that in all likelihood he isn't going to be the only gay player on the team, just the first out one. He's not new new, just new. And I'm going to assume that whatever team drafts him that he will be accepted into the locker room. I'm guessing overwhelmingly, but... not absolutely. On a team of 51 players, there is a chance that 3 or 4 players will be uncomfortable with his out status. Their reservations will be irrational, but nevertheless real reservations with the potential to upset team chemistry. 

Now, the reality is that unless Sam is a obvious total bust, he cannot be cut or traded. This would be a PR nightmare for the team. A Football Decision made for reasons other than football, right at the front end of his career. And the question Is Micheal Sam worth three players finds itself answered before its even asked. The second string LB who is suddenly uncomfortable or that fourth wide receiver who has a problem actually are important pieces to a teams success. Now they have to go. And in an era of football where a injuries are a frequent fact of life, those 3 or 4 players, who already know the systems, could be the difference starting the off-season early and holding together a playoff run. Or what if the uncomfortable player is a starter?

A lot of people talking about opportunities for societal shifts in perception have to remember the NFL is about football (and money), not any one group's agenda or an individual player's personal ideals.  This is a league has previously found players who want to continue their education lacking in commitment and dinged them accordingly. But, if this young man's commitment is to social change and not wholly unto that which is football, can he be also dinged? Not without accusations of homophobia. As a GM, why would you voluntarily subject your team to that?

Even the man who normally cuts through the dross, Jon Stewart kinda missed the point. Mr. Stewart seemed to think the question was opportunity, wondering how racists, dog killers and the like were NFL material and somehow Sam was not. But this is a sport where men run into each at top speed so it understands violence, and criminal problems ain't even brand new to the league. As a GM you're the good person giving a guy a second chance, and if you cut a guy convicted of sexual assault, nobody cares. But you try cutting the "gay Jackie Robinson." Apples and seahorses, mate. It's not about opportunity - bottom line, Micheal Sam should get a chance in the NFL - it's really about the situation after he gets the opportunity, and how it will affect the team's Football Decisions trying to meet a not football agenda.

That said, my Cowboys could draft him. Think about it, Jerry Jones just does not give a damn what you think about his Football Decisions. You see Garrett's still the coach, right?

Barkeep, some brown. We all gonna pray the NFL does right by that fella...


Charlene Lyon said...

I applaud Sam. He didn't have to come out but he did. And, I applaud you. You didn't have to write this eloquent piece on the subject, yet you did. he will be on the right side of history for sure, especially if he is as good as he was and better.


A Cheeto Named Larry said...

This was about sports and I read ALL THE WAY THROUGH because you made it so interesting. And I happen to agree with your points. AND you're a Cowboy fan. Sold!

umashankar said...

I don't know about those teams, and I don't know those men (yeah, I live under a mountain called India) but I'd be damned if I don't know the league politics, and the hunger for TRP. Cricket is the rage around here, but it all means just the same, and I know it can get dirty. In a place where sexual preference has fallen foul of the Supreme Court, it'd be really interesting to see if one of ours pulls out a rabbit. I am sure however, it would spell disaster to their price tags.