COMMENTARY — The games aren’t the story.
The NBA playoffs are formulaic. Home teams gobble the majority of the victories, trading only momentum disguised as stories about how the losing team will respond rather than the winner outplaying the loser. WARNING: this trend will continue until the talent portion of the competition–the Miami Heat.
Then there’s hockey. Yeah, nobody outside Canada, Boston or Pittsburgh really cares about the Stanley Cup, except Buffalo, where hope is always a dream away. Heck, the Subway Series and CC Sabathia’s knee are bigger stories in the Big Apple than the New York Rangers. And if it weren’t for the sudden death of Martin St. Louis’ mother and his Mothers Day performance, SportsCenter would have found ANYTHING else to kill time instead of hockey.
Like Michael Sam.
ESPN and NFL Network were both there to exploit that tender moment. Usually cameras don’t go inside the homes of players taken after the third round. But the America’s reaction justified it, followed by 48 hours worth of content and leads for every talk radio show west of the Mothership.
Gay Guy Drafted. Kisses boyfriend. http://youtu.be/WvY7KNLz0f4?t=30s
Re-enacts previous moment with cake. Twitter amok. Players punished for tweeting their disapproval. Yeah, those sensitivity classes will learn ’em.
Such public relations idiocy. And of course, leave it to a Miami Dolphin to set the tone. Defensive back, Don Jones, posted “OMG” and “Horrible.” Was it the cake? Doesn’t matter. The NFL and the ‘Phins don’t care. They’re all following the commish’s march, opinions burned like books in public effigy.
What’d you expect? Even before Sam was drafted, NFL Network‘s Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock discussed the possibility of the Missouri grad’s sexuality leaving him undrafted, so thinking someone wouldn’t tweet his displeasure is like assuming the NFL handed out a “no homophobic tweeting” memo.
The fine, suspension and recant of Don Jones isn’t a violation of the First Amendment like a foot-in-mouth site like Deadspin would have you believe. He wasn’t arrested. There are consequences for your words in a business, even if it is the NFL. But the Dolphins have already had their share of issues from the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin chaos of 2013. The lawyers already had a plan ready to roll-out the first moment someone hit send to offend. He did and they did. And now they’ve crafted a statement on Jones’ behalf that fools no one. Not even Michael Sam.
Speaking of which, Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, a team from the same state the defensive end played his college ball. Conspiracy theorists already think the NFL asked the Rams to draft him if he were still available in the final round as another shield-shining move so the league wouldn’t look worse allowing the leading sack artist in college football’s toughest conference going undrafted because he’s gay. They already handed-out drug suspensions earlier in the weekend–the Browns top WR Josh Gordon (perhaps a year) and the Rams own pass-catcher, Stedman Bailey.
Seven rounds spread over three days could feel like a lifetime for Michael Sam, who is used to carrying more than just pads on his shoulders. By the time the tears fell from the former Tiger’s eyes onto the shoulders of his boyfriend, fans had already forgotten Johnny Football falling down the draft tree and hitting every branch coming down–most notably the one Jerry Jones waves in Dallas.
No, the games weren’t the story this weekend. The gay guy was. And it’ll continue. Perhaps HBO’s Hard Knocks will follow the Rams this season by NFL order to assure Sam’s story won’t end at the end of summer; that he’ll make the team and earn the respect of his teammates regardless of whom he loves.
Or, he could just make the team the way he made opposing SEC quarterbacks cringe when he ran them over.
Either way, you now have your Tim Tebow story of the 2014 NFL season. The same way the NY Jets introduced their former backup quarterback during before the Ravens-Niners Super Bowl–an unprecedented move to call a presser for a guy who was never the No. 1 QB on the depth chart playing sports’ most scrutinized position–the Rams will introduce their seventh-rounder Tuesday at Rams Park.
Jadeveon Clowney will draw eyes. Johnny Manziel will steal his moments. But Sam will be the subject in the nation’s heartland, and the local and national media will be checking the story’s pulse until a final decision will be made on the dude from Mizzou.
Trust this writer: Sam will finish 2014 with the Rams. Likely on his merit alone.
But if he can’t cut it, he’ll still be there.
The NFL, nor do the Rams, want to become another story like Don Jones.
They all, including Sam, would like to keep the stories on the field.