Coach’s Corner: Michael Sam Is Better Than You

In a recent public interview Missouri Tigers All-American defensive end Michael Sam announced that he is gay. Yes, an SEC football player who most certainly will be drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft, announced that he is gay. There is no question that this announcement was an historical event in the annals of sport and it is being recognized as that by media outlets all over the country. It took tremendous courage for Sam to come out as a probable NFL roster guy and it will mark the first time that an active NFL player has come out while participating in what is probably the most homophobic of the major sports. Football is homophobic and it defends itself regularly.  The locker room is usually football’s biggest defense of its homophobia because of  that good old ambiguous term, chemistry.  The common thought has always been that NFL locker room chemistry could never survive the presence of a gay teammate.  It just couldn’t work. Nevermind the fact that several former NFL players have come out after their careers were over. None of them had any locker room problems. None of them attacked a straight teammate. No reports of harrassment towards a straight teammate.  Nothing.  Just football. Nevermind the fact that women’s locker rooms have gay and straight players.  Always have.  It works just fine in women’s sports. But of course, that’s different.  So because of this, Michael Sam’s announcement was most definitely historic and courageous and that makes him a very special guy based on what he is about to encounter on his NFL journey.  To me he is not only special, but he is also better than you (and me) and here are five reasons why:

1. He is Black

Black men are notorious homophobes.  You know it and I know it.  I don’t really know why, but I do know that as a black man, Michael Sam has to be very strong mentally to have juggled his conflicting lives as a gay man and a football player. Under that pressure, he excelled.

2. He is from Texas

Texas is the football capital of America. Friday Night Lights.  Playing the ultimate tough guy sport in the ultimate tough guy state. I don’t know if people where he’s from knew that Michael Sam is gay, but either way that had to be tough. Could you do it?

3. He told his Missouri teammates

Not only did Michael Sam tell his University of Missouri coaches and teammates that he was gay, but he also told them it wasn’t a secret. Knowing all the trouble that gay people have in this country and in that sport he trusted a large group of people, most of them young, in this time of social media, with life changing information.  That is, in a word, special.  He trusted that his teammates would protect the information and respect his privacy and they did.  And he protected them.

4. He is going to the league

The NFL Combine. Check.  Individual team workouts. Check. Prodays. Check.  Team interviews. Check.  Now add all of the media scrutiny certain to follow Michael Sam to each one of these events.  The pressure from advocacy groups to represent them. The anti gay groups protesting at every turn. The things he knows other players will be thinking when he shows up. And that’s before he even makes a team.  Then it will really get tough.  He knows it.  And he choose to do it anyway.

5. He played in the SEC

This one has nothing to do with Michael Sam being gay.  He is 6’2″ and 260lbs. He was a first team All-American, co SEC Defensive Player of the Year and he led the league with 11 1/2 sacks.  He led his Missouri team to a 12-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory.  He will be drafted and he will likely be on an NFL roster next football season. 

 

Michael Sam is a very good football player and he is better than you.  And…he is gay.

How Football Is Shaping American Culture

Football is now by far the most popular sport in our country. As Howie Long said, “Baseball is America’s past time but football is America’s passion”. In my mind this has never been more true than it is today. The NFL ratings are topping the all time viewing marks on a weekly basis.  There’s an NFL Network, an NFL Mobile App, and each Super Bowl is the most watched show of all time. College football ratings and attendance are at an all time high, college bowls are paying out incredible amounts and college coaches can retire after one contract.  Even high school recruiting is a business and signing day is covered like the NFL Draft.  So it stands to reason that the football consuming public would follow daily football stories like soap operas. And these stories, football stories, are beginning to define our culture. 

Take for example the most recent stories.  Richard Sherman’s rant after the NFC Championship Game that garnered so much attention and now the story that Co SEC Defensive Player of the Year and certain NFL draft pick Michael Sam, is gay. These stories matter to us, but why?  Because the responses to these stories represent how America feels about on going controversial issues, like bigoted perceptions of black men/athletes and gay rights.   Bingo, just like that these issues become national topics of discussions and the delivery system; football.

Let’s dig a little deeper. The NFL concussion issue.  This issue of the long term brain damage that occurs based of repeated concussions is a big enough deal that the NFL actually settled a law suit with former players (currently being reviewed by appellate court) for several hundred milliions. But for the rest of the country at issue is youth football and whether or not we are putting our kids at future risk by allowing them to play football. With hundreds of thousands of kids participating in youth and high school football, this is a huge parenting concern.  And the new show on cable called Friday Night Tykes shines a spotlight on how parents push their kids in sport.  Parenting is always a concern for our country and for these two particular parenting issues, the delivery system; football.

There are many issues that football has highlighted for us in the recent past including, gun ownership, marijuana use, mental health issues, drunk driving, and the need for labor unions…to name a few. All major topics of discussion for our country right now brought to you in football context, every week during the NFL season and beyond.  Each of these topics makes America think about, discuss and then choose a side based on these things affect us. Our responses are real actionable responses because a lot of the issues are real issues we face daily.   A reality show in the truest sense. And it really hits home.

Jay Bilas argues for colleges to pay student athletes | The Chronicle

Jay Bilas, ESPN Analyst and former Duke Blue Devil, says flat out pay college athletes. I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but here are 5 things I would do:

1. Pay athletes a percentage of jersey and t shirt sales, not individually, but across the board.

2. Allow athletes to profit from their own likeness individually,  i. e. endorsements, autographs, appearances…etc.

3. Waive the ridiculous rule forcing athletes who transfer to sit out a year. Coaches do it regularly without consequence.

4. Pay lifetime medical expenses for athletes when their injuries occurred while participating in sport during their college career.

5. Allow athletes to retain eligibility should they enter the draft and are either unhappy with their draft position or fail to get drafted.

That’s my take. Below is a link to a Jay Bilas article with his take.

http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2013/10/08/jay-bilas-argues-colleges-pay-student-athletes

And My #1 SuperBowl Party Appetizer Is….

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs! Here’s a quick easy recipe courtesy of Snack-girl.com. Makes 20 meatballs.

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1lb 99% fat free chicken breast,  ground

1 cup buffalo wing sauce (Frank’s Red Hot works)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleaning. In a large bowl, mix onion, garlic, bread crumbs and salt. Add chicken breast until blended.

Divide meat into four equal sections. For each section, roll 5 balls and put on baking sheet until you have 20 meatballs. Bake for 15 minutes until cooked through.

Add buffalo wing sauce to a small sauce pan or small slow cooker. Heat sauce until warm and add meatballs. Stir to coat meatballs. Serve hot with toothpicks.

For those counting calories, this recipe nets 44 cals per meatball. Smerls31.com has something for everybody!