Monday, May 12, 2014

Michael Sam's Kiss Shows Us Our Sports World Is Changing

As the 2014 NFL Draft came to an end, two storylines seemed to be emerging; one comical, one serious and a little bit serious.  The comical one was whether any Texas Longhorns would be drafted.  Some thought this was a result of Texas' recruiting failures over the years.
If it truly was the result of recruiting failures, it was also a failure of recruiting services. From 2009 to 2012, Rivals consistently ranked Texas incoming classes as top five.  Now that Nebraska's three years removed from the Big XII, I haven't followed Texas that closely. I suspect that the problems in Texas had much more to do with development than with talent acquisition.  Fortunately, that's something that incoming head coach Charlie Strong knows how to do; his Louisville team had three first round draft pick...from recruiting classes that scored in the forties, according to Rivals.  That'll take the sting out of the #texasShutout in the NFL Draft moving forward.

The other storyline was Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. The SEC defensive player of the year and all-American was thought to be a second-day draft pick going in, but didn't go until late in the seventh and final round. Some attributed it to Sam's poor showing at the NFL Combine. There is some merit there, though Sam did post significantly better numbers at the Missouri Pro Day.

The elephant in the room, of course, was Sam's revelation in February that he was gay. NFL types all wanted to say that it wasn't a factor, but deep down, everybody knows that had to play a factor. Especially as NFL teams dug deep to take flyers on 1-AA and non-BCS conference players while ignoring the SEC player of the year.

Eventually, the St. Louis Rams decided to take a chance. It was a safer pick for the Rams, with Columbia being just a two hour drive away. Missouri Tiger fans are going to be more supportive of their guy, and that'll limit the fallout from people who somehow think that sexual preference has any impact on a player's ability to sack the quarterback.

Sam agreed to allow ESPN into his draft part and show his reaction to being drafted. We can only assume that Sam was extremely nervous and uptight as the possibility that he might be shunned in the draft became more and more likely.  So when Sam did get the call from the Rams, the emotion was unmistakable, and became one of the most memorable sports moments we've seen.

When the clip began, we saw Sam standing with a friend, which didn't seem any different than any other draft party we've seen over the years.  Watching the two interact, though, made it clear this was different. But yet, really the same. There was a hug.  There were tears of joy.  There was a tender, celebratory, emotional kiss.  We've seen it before...except this time, it wasn't a male and female, it was two males.

Some people might have found it offensive. That's their opinion...and that's all it is. It's Sam's life, and his business how he wants to live his life. If you have a problem with it, that's your problem, not his.
Bomani Jones kind of captured my thoughts on the matter as it happened.
I haven't seen men kiss like this before in real life either.  I suspect this was the first time something like this every happened on ESPN...and it won't be the last time.  If you don't like it, that's your problem because unless you are on the other end of the kiss, it's really none of our business.

Look to your own moral belief structure to guide you as to what is right and wrong for you. Whether that's religion, atheism, or agnosticism, roll with whatever beliefs you choose. This is America, where we're allowed to believe what we want to believe. (Except apparently in Alabama for some twisted reason.)

If you don't like someone like Michael Sam playing football, that's your problem. And you'd better get used to it, because more players will be open about their personal life moving forward.  In the 1930's and 1940's, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in sports. In 2014, Sam broke the LGBT barrier.  And over time, it's going to mean less and less.

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