(Cory is on vacation in the south of France thisÂ weekend, so I will be filling in for him. Ok, maybe heâ€™s not in the south of France, but he is without a computer. Looks like youâ€™re stuck with me either way!)
Simply mentioning Michael Samâ€™s name right now is enough to spark an emotional debate among football fans (and non-fans alike). Last week at the 2014 NFL Draft, he became the first openly gay football player to be drafted by a professional football team. Some people are lauding his courage, some people are disgusted by the move, and then there are others who are asking, â€œSo what?â€
Who cares if heâ€™s gay? Isnâ€™t this supposed to be about football? He was drafted just seven spots higher than No. 256, Mr. Irrelevant, so why all the coverage? And can I please watch 10 minutes of ESPN without hearing about Michael Sam or seeing yet another replay of â€œthe kissâ€?
To be fair, these people have a valid point; however, itâ€™s rather interesting that this group of fans come from both sides of the â€œgay rightsâ€ aisle. Those who donâ€™t have any qualms about sports players being gay couldnâ€™t care less about the issue, yet those who protest the idea donâ€™t want to see any coverage of it, period. Just make it go away and get back to football.
Now, I realize that this is not really a story specific to the Green Bay Packers, so I hope you will forgive me on that front. Nevertheless, this story is fairly historic and does have ramifications for the rest of the league. And thatâ€™s why it matters.
Sports have always carried an air of ultra-masculinity. Real men are tough. Real men are strong. Real men can take a beating and get back up. Real men sweat. Real men like women.
Real men arenâ€™t gay.
Truly, this is why the hardest thing for a gay male athlete to do is to be honest with his teammates. It paints himself as feminine, as someone unworthy of playing a manâ€™s sport. He opens himself up to criticism, taunting, and exclusion. And not just by his teammates, but also his coaches. Will they give him the same opportunities and instructional attention as the others?