Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 comments Now Rick Telander Smells a Conspiracy Surrounding Michael Sam

Remember back when Bruce Jenkins smelled a conspiracy surrounding the fact Jason Collins wasn't signed by an NBA team? Well, the Nets eventually did sign Collins. Now Rick Telander smells a conspiracy surrounding the fact Michael Sam was drafted too late in the NFL Draft. This is much like how Internet hero Chris Kluwe was suspicious that he was released by the Vikings due to his support for gay rights rather than the fact his punting skill had declined during the previous season. There are conspiracies everywhere it seems as it relates to this type of issue. I can buy Kluwe's conspiracy more than I could buy that surrounding Collins and Michael Sam. Sam did get drafted but that's not enough for Rick Telander. Despite any evidence to the contrary, he smells a conspiracy that Sam fell because he prefers men over women. I think the NFL is a results-oriented league and a team would draft any player who could help them win games. Possibly I'm naive.

My guess is Michael Sam fell two to four rounds in the draft because he is openly gay.

And that's exactly what it is. Four rounds though? Sam fell four rounds? I don't know at what point over the past few months he was going to go in the third round, but I missed this completely.

I know he’s a ‘‘tweener’’ — at 6-2, 261, he’s small for an NFL defensive end, and with ‘‘stiff hips’’ and a bad 4.91 40 time, too immobile for a pass-covering outside linebacker. 

"Sure, he doesn't have the physical characteristics that teams look for in a defensive end, but that doesn't explain at all why he wasn't drafted by a league that over-relies on physical characteristics to determine whether a player will succeed in their league or not."

Yes, he did run a much better 4.73 40 at his University of Missouri pro day. And he increased his vertical jump 5 inches. And he tipped in 2 pounds heavier at 263 pounds.

Those still aren't the ideal numbers for a player who is a defensive end/outside linebacker in the NFL. Unfortunately, that's the bottom line. Jackson Jeffcoat was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, ran a 4.63 40 time and was 6'3" and 247 pounds at the Combine. He didn't get drafted at all. So it's not like there isn't a precedent for guys like Sam to not get drafted even after they have won postseason defensive awards in a major football conference.

But weaknesses and in-between stuff aside, getting drafted in the seventh round as the 249th player selected, well, that’s about as blatant a statement as you could have about him being gay and out.

Yes, if you ignore all of the football-related reasons that Sam didn't get drafted until the 7th round then he definitely didn't get drafted because he is gay and out. It's just like if you ignore all of the football-related reasons that Teddy Bridgewater did get drafted, he was totally taken in the first round because he's not gay. It's very obvious.  

Maybe Sam is useless. Maybe he’s a first-wave cut.

Maybe he's not. Maybe he will make the teams who passed on him regret doing so. That's the good thing about professional sports. Sam will get an opportunity to show the other teams they made a mistake. No need to cry for him.

But this guy was an All-American, the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, which is the toughest conference in the land, a man who had three three-sack games. He was liked by his teammates, played all-out — and did I mention the triple-triple sack stat? NFL teams covet sacks the way squirrels covet acorns.

Jackson Jeffcoat had 13 sacks and he was not drafted at all. He also plays in a major conference where he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. There has been no indication he is not straight. How can the fact he wasn't drafted be explained?

Sam almost didn’t get drafted. There were only seven picks after him. The last dude in the draft is called ‘‘Mr. Irrelevant.’’ What if that had been Sam? Problem on so many levels.

I'm sure Michael Sam would take great offense to this since he wants to be treated like every other NFL player. To get offended because he's "Mr. Irrelevant," as if this is in some way a commentary on his status as openly gay man is a little bit nit-picky. It would only have been a problem if it were made to be into something that it wasn't.

So kudos to former Bears safety and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher for doing what other teams wouldn’t do. Fisher took Sam, he told USA Today, because, ‘‘In the end, we just want to win football games.’’

He added that he hadn’t met with Sam personally, but, ‘‘I feel like I know him already because of all the attention his courage provided.’’

Yes, kudos to Jeff Fisher and the Rams. They took a chance on a pass rusher in the 7th round who just happened to be gay, which brings increased scrutiny onto the Rams. 

But here’s the deal: Sam passionately and weepily kissed his boyfriend after being chosen, and if you weren’t taken aback a little at the sight of it, you’re not being honest.

Okay. I was not taken back and I'm being honest. My roommate for freshman and sophomore year of college was gay. I saw much more than kissing at times. But hey, I guess it says a little bit about Rick Telander that he was taken aback a little at the sight of it, but feels the need to lecture everyone in the NFL on how they aren't open-minded enough to draft Michael Sam prior to the 7th round. 

Such an image has never occurred before in the long annals of the macho NFL. It made one pause. Think. Reflect. Ponder.

Yes, but images like this have existed in the world prior to Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend. Think. Reflect. Ponder. Realize that. 

It was like seeing a woman swim from Cuba to Key West. Like watching Stephen Hawking write a best-seller. Like observing a black man win the presidency.

I mean...I don't want to understate the impact of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend but a woman had never swam from Cuba to Key West before and a black man had never won the presidency. A man had kissed another man with a camera on him before. Maybe not in an athletic forum, but it had happened before. 

Life is not a reality show. Unless citizens want it to be. Michael Sam should not want it to be.

He doesn't want it to be a reality show, it is a documentary. What's interesting is I think this column was written before Michael Sam announced he was doing the reality---I'm sorry, documentary about his journey and Rick Telander makes a reference to life not being a reality show. 

The real, and only, question should be: Can he play?

The guy who writes an article about how Michael Sam wasn't drafted earlier claims the only question should be whether Sam can play or not. So, if that's the only question then why does it matter where he was drafted and why he was drafted there? 

Sam has not done many interviews. Which is good.

Michael Sam has done interviews when he wants to do interviews, but a beat writer for the Tigers football program described how she (and other writers involved with the Tigers program) found out Sam was gay, kept his secret all year, then Sam refused to speak to local media about the topic even after announcing he was gay, thereby forcing his teammates to answer the questions for him. I'm not criticizing and I could not find the link, but this female beat writer told a story of how the local media always thought they would get the interview since they kept the secret and covered Sam on a day-to-day basis, then he told the story through various media outlets and still refused to talk to the local media. So not doing many interviews is good, but there is a downside to this. 

The Rams do not need to start waving the rainbow flag. Nobody needs to change what they do.

By "nobody needs to change what they do," does Rick mean "evaluate Sam fairly as an NFL player"? If so, that's what NFL teams did and that's why he fell to the 7th round, not because of his sexuality. There is a case to be made that Sam would have been a 7th rounder anyway and he was projected to go in Rounds 5-7. He was drafted in Round 7. 

Yet the Rams could be hooking into a large and powerful crowd if it snags the gay and lesbian sports fans, or just all the interested folks, the ones who have made Sam’s Rams jersey the second-best seller among rookies (behind only Manziel’s Browns jersey, but ahead of All-Universe Jadeveon Clowney’s Texans jersey).

It's almost like they knew what they were doing and made a smart football, business and social move by drafting Michael Sam. 

The political-correctness police need to calm down, too. 

You mean the people who say Michael Sam wasn't drafted earlier because he's gay? You mean, you?

The ones who turned possibly senile (according to Barbara Walters and his wife) Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling into the apotheosis of racism have to crank their jets down about five notches.

For a senile person he sure hasn't shown signs of being senile in the past and he's pretty good at functioning and suing the NBA while being senile. 

It’s crazy that Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted ‘‘OMG’’ and ‘‘horrible’’ after seeing Sam’s kiss —and then was fined and suspended for it.

It's not crazy. The Dolphins are Jones' employer and they can find him, reprimand him or do whatever they would like to him within reason for statements they don't like. That's the nature of the employer-employee relationship. 

What, you can’t even express feelings anymore without the language police nailing you?

What, an NFL team can't objectively evaluate an NFL player without sportswriters like Rick Telander claiming they didn't draft a player because he's gay? 

So you’re in the locker room, in the shower with him. A gay man.

What do you do? What does he do?

You act like humans with decency and pride and respect. All of you.

Oh sure, I believe Telander's words would translate into these actions. After all, he was taken aback by seeing Michael Sam kissing another man, so I'm sure he personally would have no qualms showering in the same room as Michael Sam. Not coincidentally, Rick Telander will never have to back up this lecture with actions.

End of story.

Michael Sam was projected to go in the 5th-7th round and he went in the 7th round. End of story. I like how Rick tries to play both sides by calling out the political-correctness police while also randomly speculating as to why NFL teams didn't draft Michael Sam.


Eric Long said...

Rick Telander summary: Dammit! Michael Sam wasn't good enough to be the first openly gay first round pick. Let's blame him being gay for going in the 7th round! And for him not letting me interview him! More garbage. "Sports writing" makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

What idiots like Rick Telander don't understand is that all of their writing about Michael Sam, and the huge deal they make about him, makes it tougher for NFL teams to draft him. Let's be honest, once you get in the 5th and 6th round, you start talking about guys who might not make your team, or who might only make it on the practice squad. Who the hell wants to be the team to feel the media's wrath if they actually have to cut Michael Sam? That has to play into your decision. If I had Sam and some other player rated the same in the 6th round, I'm taking the other player simply because I don't want to deal with the circus of being criticized for cutting a 6th round pick. By treating Sam like a messiah, they make it tougher for him to make it in this league. All of these cameras and stories for a 7th round pick? No thanks. I mean seriously, who wants the headache of being criticized for cutting a 7th round pick? Certainly not I. I'd much rather take someone else who I think is just as good and will provide none of the headlines if I have to cut him. It's not because I'm a homophobe, like Rick Telander thinks, it's because Sam isn't nearly good enough to justify that headache.

You can draft literally anyone else in the 7th round, cut him if need be, and no one will care. Draft Sam and then cut him, though? You'll be called every name in the book. Who needs it.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, it makes me sad too. The bottom line is Sam is a tweener who got 9 of his 11.5 sacks in three games. It's not that the NFL has something against him, but he didn't have a position necessarily and his ability to adapt to the NFL was questioned by scouts.

Anon, that's an excellent point also. It's probably not a point a lot of people would want to acknowledge because then it does go towards teams evaluating Sam on his off the field issues (which isn't an issue when they are negatives and knock a player down a board, but being gay isn't considered a negative so it shouldn't theoretically hurt Sam) and not what he does on the field.

I'm personally glad a team drafted Sam, but cutting him is a problem. If they have to get rid of him then that could be bad publicity. Just look at Chris Kluwe. He keeps thinking he was released b/c of his views on gay rights, when if you look at his numbers, his salary, and the fact he's a punter (a position which can have a lot of turnover) it makes sense why the Vikings went cheaper. Still, the thought is he was released b/c of his views.

HH said...

Don't you sometimes feel that some of these people WISH that Michael Sam was drafted late because of his sexual orientation so that they can parade their outrage and moral superiority for the rest of us?

I mean, these hicks must be discriminating against him, right? they're not enlightened like we are, right? Right, everybody? We're special and better?

Bengoodfella said...

HH, that sounds pretty jaded, but as a person who doesn't mind being pissed off from time to time I can see where some of these people do wish Sam had been an UDFA. I actually think that may have been a better situation for him possibly.

Moral outrage is fun!