Tony And Sam

It’s rather absurd seeing former NFL coach Tony Dungy receiving such hyperbolic criticism throughout the news and sports media.

A few days ago, the Tampa Tribune ran a story about Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player.  In the article, Dungy was quoted as saying “I wouldn’t have taken him.  Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.  It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”

Tony-DungyMaybe it’s because Tony Dungy is a Christian, and his opinion on gay marriage is no secret, but the immediate assumption by so many in the media has been that Dungy’s comments were criticism of Michael Sam’s sexuality, and Dungy, of course, has been denounced as homophobic, despite several attempts to “clarify” his statements – because in this day and age, what you say matters much less than what the special interest groups pretend they heard you say.

The ironic thing is, the media storm that has focused itself on Dungy in the wake of his remarks has proved his point: no NFL coach who is truly focused on football would want to deal with the inevitable turmoil sure to envelop each and every decision related to Michael Sam…and in the end, it has absolutely nothing to do with his sexual preferences.

Now, I know virtually nothing about Michael Sam apart from what I have read in the media: he is the NFL’s first openly gay player, he is an activist for gay marriage, and while he was good enough to be drafted, he definitely is not the next NFL superstar. Were he the next Jerry Rice, then he could probably justify his complaints about it taking so long to draft him, but combine a middle-of-the-road player with his activism, and it makes sense that coaches would be wary.

Consider, if you will, a similar case from not that long ago, albeit on the other side of the spectrum. Tim Tebow became the quarterback for the Denver Broncos amid a media frenzy. Here we had an openly Christian NFL quarterback, somewhat of an oddity in today’s world. The sports media approached him with skepticism, wondering if he would live up to the hype. Christian football fans were excited to see someone who shared their views leading a team. But what the nation soon found with Tim Tebow is that in football, skills are much more important than ideology, and as proud as American Christians may have been to see an openly Christian quarterback in the NFL, Tebow just wasn’t that good.

But it took time to learn that lesson, and in the interim, the Broncos were hyper-analyzed through the entire season. If the sports media criticized Tebow over a loss, they were denounced as anti-Christian. If there was talk of benching or trading him, it was religious bigotry. The over-analysis was fairly nauseating.

How much worse will it be for the coach who has to deal with the politics of Michael Sam? The gay lobby in America today puts up a huge stink over every perceived slight, and can and will end careers over misinterpreted comments or actions.

How long can a coach hope to last if he determines that Sam isn’t good enough to make the cut? Imagine the media firestorm if he were ever benched. Cutting him loose or trading him would be considered a career-ending crime against humanity, so if he stinks, you’re sunk. Tony Dungy was spot-on. Things will not be totally smooth…things will happen.

And this is all separate from the other inevitable debates over gay players in the locker room, and how many players’ careers could be affected, or even ended should they tell the wrong kind of joke or comment.

It’s rather sad that, in this day and age, these kinds of things must be considered in the game of football. I love to watch football, and when I do, I never really care about a player’s race, religion, or sexuality. What matters to me is how well they play the game. If Michael Sam is a talented football player, then I hope he succeeds and goes far in the game. If he isn’t that great, then I hope his tenure in the league is short-lived. But can we please, please, PLEASE stop the ridiculous politicization of sports that are meant to entertain us?

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