Monday, February 10, 2014

Four Michael Sam Points, Or Being The "Right" Kind Of Gay

Stop Looking At His Pants
So NFL prospect Michael Sam, an All-American DE at Missouri, came out today, and I'd like to thank him, in that it got the world to stop paying attention to the Winter Olympics. I think the nation should unify around the great and good story here, in that we can all agree, this is more important than people commuting down a mountain, or jumping on ice.

I caught the news on a hotel treadmill -- traveling for work again, and trying to catch up to the fitness goal for the month -- and several points struck me as ESPN went into Full Bore Coverage Mode.

1) Acceptance of The Gays in sports will be just like acceptance of The Gays in the rest of America -- demographically split, with The Young People wondering just what the hell is wrong with The Old People. They are right. This will be, more or less, the new racism / intermarriage test, where you get to see if you are going to go with the bitter old people who are convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket (it has, for, like, ever), or the young people who are, um, whatevs. Sam's teammates knew and didn't care, and supposedly kept it quiet for six months. Which leads me to Point Two...

2) Sam had to be one hell of a teammate for none of his locker mates to out him for the last six months. Seriously, how hard would it have been for some backup who wanted playing time to leak this to an old reporter, get it out there, and maybe create enough of a firestorm to get Sam to take a leave of absence, rather than deal with the God Hates Shellfish people? A secret was kept by, seemingly, dozens of late teen / early twenty-something guys who have potential NFL paydays awaiting them. This is a modern miracle.

3) Sam's right to come out with this before the draft. There are, simply, good and bad places to be gay in this country, and some of the latter have NFL franchises. If you don't want to be closeted, don't work in the Bible Belt if you can avoid it; if Sam got himself on a team in a blue state or coast, he probably just put years on his NFL life. Assuming, of course, he gets one; the ESPN people were saying he was a 3rd / 4th round level guy, which is to say, someone who is going to be very lucky to be in the league in 3 years. And that's true of everyone involved, not just the celebs.

4) Finally... I'm glad that Sam's out there; Jason Collins was getting lonely as Lone Gay Male Athlete in a Team Sport in America, and the awkwardness of the support group just dropped nicely. (Oh, and by the way? Collins is still unemployed. Whoops.)

But I'd like to point out something here, notably that Sam only gets to be Socially Acceptable Gay. That's the kind of gay where you admit your condition like it's some kind of handicap that you are proudly owning, and then agree to never, ever, discuss any of the icky icky details. Is Sam monogamous, or is he keeping his options open? Is he going to go to Pride Parades and engage in any kind of public behavior -- you know, the way any straight guy might on any number of social media feeds? Will we get to meet his partner, and will there be a wedding? Will they do interviews, reality shows, maybe a book deal? What are their thoughts about starting a family, and will his spouse be welcomed by the team that drafts him, to serve in the usual player's spouse role of charity organizer?

I'm going to skip ahead and give you all the answers now. Sam's gayness will never, ever be seen as anything more than a faith exercise. You will never read about his partner or his practices, and if he plays the field, it will not be photographed or discussed; hell, the NFL will probably discretely tell him that if he wants to remain employed, he better be as closeted as hell while being gay in plain sight.

You see, gays being open about their lives only gets to go so far before it enters that magical world of Distraction (oh noes! not a distraction! teams never win with those -- just ask Seattle about that awful Richard Sherman Distraction!)... and we're at least a couple of decades away from no one treating their spouses or practices with the same touch they give for the straights. We will reach True Equality in this country when people who have many sexual partners are seen as equally sketchy, no matter what their gender or orientation may be.

And until then, we'll muddle our way through the best that we can, hailing the pioneers even as they follow a game plan that's nearly as rigid as being closeted. The path of progress is rarely a smooth one, folks...

1 comment:

Tracer Bullet said...

As a self-described dyke explained to me decades ago: It's okay for men to be gay so long as they don't have sex. It's okay for women to have sex so long as they're not gay.

Ads In This Size Rule