'The Eagle Has Landed'
THE EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES STORY OF HOW NFL PROSPECT MICHAEL SAM CAME OUT
Maybe it was because people hadn't gotten to know Michael Sam. The man I've found to be deeply strong-willed with an ability to focus on the task at hand - namely chasing a quarterback for 5.2 seconds - could never be "distracted" by some TV cameras. But maybe people just didn't know.
Maybe it was because some of the big-time NFL writers weren't granted access to Sam. It's possible they carried a bit of a chip on their shoulder about it and were looking for a way to blunt his incredible story.
Maybe it was because Sam had simply gotten too much good press. It was hard to find a reason to attack the 7th-round pick who had shown nothing but courage and tenacity in the months leading up to the NFL Draft. Like we so often do in this culture, maybe people were just looking for a reason to tear him down.
Whatever the reason, last May sports writers and fans lashed out at Sam days after the NFL Draft for the announcement that he would be the focus of a new docuseries by Oprah Winfrey. Today, with the announcement that the documentary had been filmed and would air Dec. 27, the "experts" look like fools.
One of the big "inside the NFL" rationalizations people used for attacking him was the "distraction" bullshit we have heard over and over again this year. Sam had to "focus on football," the lunacy went, "and this docuseries is going to distract from that." Self-appointed "experts" didn't care that the cameras weren't going to follow him into OTAs or onto the field, it was a peek into the life of the NFL's first openly gay player. They didn't care. They wanted Sam's hide and they were going to get it.
The fact is, Sam had a strong preseason. Fourth in the NFL in sacks. Second on the team in tackles. His best game was the most-hyped, most-analyzed of his preseason, an outing in Cleveland against Johnny Manziel. Like in the Cotton Bowl months earlier, Sam performed better when the scrutiny and hype were at their highest.
He did all of that with the cameras rolling. The opportunity to capture history was just too good to pass up. Thankfully, Sam's team - and other key people involved - didn't listen to the "experts" who said the show should be canceled.
All of those people who said Sam couldn't handle the cameras and that he had to "focus on football" should send him an apology. They underestimated him and bought into the absurd notion that professional athletes focus on their sport 24/7.
His Twitter handle is @MichaelSamNFL. They can send the apology there.
They could also apologize for trying to limit Sam's earning potential. The rookie didn't get an NFL paycheck this season because he came out as gay. The docuseries represented a bit of a safeguard against that, a way for him to make some money as he figures out his NFL future. But "the experts" didn't care about Sam's personal well-being, they only cared about headlines and lashing out.
They could also apologize for calling Sam a phony. The defensive end said he wanted to be known as a football player, not a gay football player. The same media accusing him of speaking out of both sides of his mouth is the same media that never heard his pleas in the first place. Did Peter King care that Sam didn't want to be known as a "gay football player" when he lead his NFL Draft column with news of Sam's kiss and titled the piece, "Sealed with a kiss"? Nope. Yet suddenly he cared a few days later when it meant more good headlines and retweets.
Again, it's @MichaelSamNFL.