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Patrick Hruby

Michael Sam: A Guide for the NFL's Perplexed

The NFL has questions about its potential first openly gay player. I have answers

Sports on Earth

With All-America defensive lineman Michael Sam poised to become the first openly gay professional football player, the National Football League has questions. Fortunately, we have answers.

Presenting the first-ever Sports on Earth NFL advice column:

Help! My team drafted a gay player, and now our locker and meeting rooms are chemically imbalanced!

– A NFL player personnel assistant


No worries. To address NFL locker room chemical imbalance, (a) check your facility for MRSA; (b) make sure that prescription painkillers and Toradol shots are being distributed and administered with careful medical supervision and in compliance with FDA regulations; (c) consult with a qualified endocrinologist if players are reporting excessive or unwanted side effects from PED use; (d) add pool chlorine tablets to your hot/cold tubs as needed.

Now, what was this about a gay player?

Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?

PS — Grown men should NOT hav [sic] female tendencies. Period.

– Jonathan Vilma

Never look directly into the Gorgon’s face, and invest in the best goddess-endorsed mirrored shield you can afford. Alternately, you could stop flattering yourself; realize that locker rooms are about as sexy as fracking work camps; comprehend that being attracted to men does not mean being attracted to all men; consider your average end-of-the-workday thoughts and worries — about blown assignments and sore hamstrings and remembering to pick up dry cleaning and what the heck am I going to have for dinner tonight, anyway? — are the same thoughts and worries everyone has, and that a gay teammate “looking” at you is probably wondering if he forgot to turn off the stove that morning; and otherwise get on with your damn day like a grown man.

You’ll have to figure out which course of action makes the most sense.

As for grown men not having “female tendencies,” that’s a harsh — but not entirely unfair — one-line review of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Junior. (You’re talking about that movie, right?)

Nothing against gay people, but if a team drafts a gay player, every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media is going to show up, from Good Housekeeping to the Today show. Why would a team do that to themselves?

– A former NFL general manager

Good point. By the same logic, why would a team hold press conferences, or arrange for player interviews, or allow coaches and players to have television and radio shows, or play games in stadiums with press boxes, or play games in stadiums with spectators, or advertise its presence, or otherwise do anything to attract or sustain public attention and interest, given that the entire raison d’être of professional football is to amass yards and touchdowns, and everything else is simply a life force-draining distraction, even if that’s what actually pays the bills?

Just look at the Super Bowl: 111 million viewers, 25 million tweets, an annual media day that attracts everyone from Regis Philbin to a guy dressed as Waldo and an overhyped game that inspires Good Housekeeping chili recipes. Is it any wonder that only two NFL teams out of 32 bothered to show up?

We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows. IMO.

– Mike Priefer

Strong take. If football coaching doesn’t work out, you may have a place in Russia’s parliament. IMO.

Need advice, fast: What should I do if Michael Sams has off-field issues and brings baggage into the locker room?

– Herm Edwards

What kind of issues are you talking about? A death in the family? A bad breakup? A gambling problem? A new puppy chewing through everything in his apartment? And what about this baggage — is it fishing gear? A bunch of recyclables? Does it contain a handgun or liquid containers larger than 3.5 ounces? Is Barry Switzer involved? You’ll have to be more specific.

Also, who is Michael Sams?

At the NFL league office, we back the idea of an openly gay player, but also think the league is three to five years away from accepting one. Now what?

– A high-ranking league official

Relax. Don’t always try to control everything. Besides, you can still kick the can on brain damage, your non-profit tax exemption and the Washington Redskins nickname, at least until Congress gets fed up.

Listen, if you are a regular player, just a normal, everyday football player getting ready for the NFL draft, you don’t discuss your sexuality. It’s not an issue.

– Mike Francesa

Yes, far better to have your agent answer questions from NFL scouts about whether you have a girlfriend or have been seen with women, especially if those questions potentially violate the league’s anti-discrimination policies.

There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of an openly gay teammate. There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality. It shouldn’t be, but it will be.

– A NFL assistant coach

NFL players deal with crippling pain, physical violence, chronic stress, nagging anxiety, job insecurity, cutthroat competition, intense performance scrutiny and the distinct possibility of ending up as middle-aged dementia ward patients on a daily basis — so maybe, just maybe, they can both handle and deal with the scary, world-shattering idea of sharing an office (and hell: perhaps even a beer!) with a co-worker who someday hopes to settle down and bring a nice guy home to his parents.

On the other hand, maybe professional football players really are too immature to get along with anyone whose romantic preference isn’t exactly like theirs:

@MikeSamFootball #respect bro. It takes guts to do what you did. I wish u nothing but the best

Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 10, 2014

You know how I dealt with having a gay player on my team? I told everyone that if I heard one person make reference to his manhood, that person would be out of here before their ass hit the ground. That was 45 years ago! And I’m dead! What’s taking these people so long?

– Vince Lombardi

Great question.

I’m a college graduate. I have a great job in an NFL front office. I’m comfortable in my skin. I own my truth every time I break down film and make player evaluations. I have lots of thoughts about openly gay professional football players that I’d like to share with the media without running it through our PR department. But I’m afraid to tell the world who I am. What should I do?

– Every anonymous NFL executive and scout asked about Michael Sam

Keep quiet. If the Michael Sam story has taught us anything, it’s that the football world is three to five years away – at least – from accepting an openly quotable NFL front office employee.

Read the original article at Sports on Earth