Have you ever had a commercial that just kind of stuck with you. This one, which I managed to dig up from the interwebs somewhere, is trying to sell you soda, chips and bro-ness.
Here we see some men getting very awkward upon accidentally touching each other while watching a football game. But when their team scores, they jump up in a wild embrace. I remember watching it years ago, thinking, “Come on, stop being such pricks about it.”
That aired some 10 years ago, but could have easily been released yesterday when we saw Michael Sam come out. And he’s likely to be the first openly gay — stressing openly here — NFL player ever. Shattering one of the final barriers, professional sports, for good. But why was the NFL one of the last to accept us?
They say it all has to do with masculinity, or uber-masculinity. But I find that hard to believe. After all, if it’s masculinity you want, you don’t have to look much further than the armed forces, a place we’ve managed to fully penetrate already. Others say the NFL isn’t exactly MENSA — they’re not picking from the Rhodes Scholar tree, so maybe we shouldn’t ask so much of them? But what about Richard Sherman? We all remember his post-game rant after the playoffs, right? He’s also a Stanford grad. Maybe he was just playing the part of the tough, take-no-prisoners NFL player on the field and for the camera.
So is it all about performance and the rolling camera? Let’s get this out of the way: if the market demanded a gay football player, we’d have had one by now. If gay men cared about sports that much, it would be different. But we don’t. Don’t get me wrong; I applaud Michael Sam’s courage, though I doubt I’ll ever watch him play. If he’s denied a spot in the draft, or even if he’s drafted later than expected, then it’s political and they’d have a fight on their hands. But for now, the NFL remains a closed industry. And they don’t need the help of the gays to sell tickets and jerseys. And boys, whoever they like, will play their parts as boys. And who knows, maybe I’ll start watching.
It should be noted that not all had positive reactions to Sam’s coming out. “1.) your business is your business I don’t care! 2.) When did this become a heroic act?” Giants defensive back Charles James tweeted yesterday. “I just want to come out and let everybody know that I am … straight as hell,” James announced. Patrick Crayton, an NFL free agent wide receiver and former Dallas Cowboys player, tweeted, “Oh wow!! There goes the NFL.”
Let’s just close with this tidbit. Take Sam Wheeler, a wrestler at Kent State, who, after a little Twitter temper tantrum yesterday over Sam’s coming out had his account revoked.