Get ready, haters. He’s coming to get your team!
FULL DISCLOSURE: As an avid baseball fan and blogger, I can’t stand the “He’s the Jackie Robinson of [insert this industry or sport].” Yet there is really no other way to describe the addition of Michael Sam to the NFL and the St. Louis Rams.
And before anything is said, can we just kill the noise about Jason Collins? He was a so-so player (at best) despite being drafted by the Nets in the first round. After travelling the continent as part of five different teams, he received attention in the twilight of his career for making an admittedly b0ld decision that still had very little to do with the way he played the game.
Again, Michael Sam is not that man. Let’s learn who he is…
First, debunk the theories.
- The Rams did not draft Michael Sam for the headlines or a PR hit. If you know anything about football, you know that this team led by Jeff Fisher had a stellar draft. Michael Sam was part of that mold.
- Jeff Fisher did not need a “PR win” anyway. Fisher is known as a “player’s coach.” He relates to his players and brings the most out of them. He already has a great reputation, so no, Sam is not going to help improve his image.
- The NFL coaxed the Rams into the pick. Nah. According to NFL expert reporter Ian Rapoport, Michael Sam would have had four offers to consider even if he had not been drafted by the Rams.
Now, let’s discover the man behind the “movement.”
So, if that doesn’t get you all warm and fuzzy for mankind, then we can’t be friends. Of course, Sam celebrating with his significant other got the dander up for a few dozen (and anonymous haters, because you know, haters are known for being so courageous). That doesn’t matter. Let’s get back to the original comparison…
In 1947, the majority of people who loved baseball didn’t care that the greats like Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson, had superior skills–they just had a hard time dealing with the fact that these guys were black. Today, Jackie Robinson is a hero. Today, Jackie Robinson is a trailblazer. Today, Jackie Robinson is venerated in the great game.
Back then, he was just a guy who wanted to play the sport he loved–color be damned.
Michael Sam is like that too. Here’s a guy–a 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in the hardest conference to play defense in the world–who just wants to play football. And since color is no longer a biggie, people have a hard time with the white guy he is kissing in the video.
Michael Sam isn’t crying because he is gay. He is crying because he was drafted in the first place. Go run and tell Jadeavon Clowney, who went first overall and wept like a schoolgirl who just lost her first crush. Of course you won’t do that because you know Clowney will beat your ass.
Why can’t Michael Sam do that as well? NEWS FLASH: He probably can.
“The team chemistry will falter if he is on the team.” “I don’t know if our fans can take it, and they may stop coming to the game.” “Our stakeholders just can’t imagine a guy like that playing this sport.” Wait. Are we talking about Jackie Robinson or Michael Sam?
And therein lies the rub.
After people saw that Jackie Robinson could make the turn from first faster than anyone in the game, catch a ball like his mitt was filled with glue, and make contact with the ball like he had telepathy, they kinda forgot that he happened to be a black guy and focused on the fact that he was a damn good baseball player. For a while, Jackie was known as the (black) guy who played so well for the Dodgers. Then, after integration hit baseball, Jackie Robinson became that
black guy who led the team to a pennant.
For a while, Michael Sam will be pelted by questions, bum rushed with microphones, and hated by many. Then, when he knocks a few quarterbacks on their tails, he will be seen as “that gay guy who sacked the QB.” Those conversations will go on for a year or so, and then people will forget about his partner in the video.
And–God willing–if Sam’s skills translate to the pro level, he will eventually just be known as “that
gay guy who dominates the offensive line.”
Following that, there won’t be any more “coming out of the closet” speeches or big huzzahs at the NFL draft. He’ll just be another guy in the locker room.
Yes, Sam has already gotten a lot of attention. He even received a congratulations from the president. (It happened to Jackie Robinson too, and if you know your history, the guy that congratulated him in the 50s wasn’t black.)
Jackie Robinson was just a guy…a very talented guy. Much like Michael Sam.