In two weeks, NFL training camps open and this includes Rams rookie defensive lineman Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in league history. This means Sam will be showering with his teammates, and a great ESPN The Magazine story finds that this will be a non-issue.
"Look, guys shower together," says Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. "And Sam's been showering with guys forever. We haven't had any issues, and he's been here a month, and I'm pretty sure he's washed his tail in the last month. I don't know what people think or what their perception is of a team shower, but it's really not that cool. You just kind of get in there and get clean and just drop drawers. If everybody hasn't moved on from this already, they should now."
"Nothing to see here. A history of showers in sports" by David Fleming explores the mythology the shower has in sports culture and debunks any idea that it's a sexy place. Showering with an openly gay teammate has long been a concern listed by those uncomfortable with the idea of gays in sports.
When stinky teammates strip down to their most vulnerable state, it conjures, for some, a range of emotions: their most awkward memories (middle school gym class), deepest insecurities (size), purest symbolism (baptism) and most ignorant defense mechanisms (homophobia). The refrain has always been: I'll accept a gay teammate, I just won't shower with one. "Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine," then-Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said in February. "And it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?"
Vilma can start by not being so coy. Getting clean next to a gay teammate is probably one of the more ordinary things that happens in the team shower. And if there's one universal certainty in a sports shower, it's this: Everyone's looking.
There are some great anecdotes, including one NFL linebacker shocked to see a teammate naked and noticing "an extra limb flopping around. ... This was the biggest penis I have ever seen." The story quotes at length former college football linebacker Scott Cooper, himself openly gay, whose piece for Outsports on football showers appears to have been an inspiration for the article.
"To be blunt, I never worried about popping a boner in the shower," Cooper told the magazine. "It's just not a romantic place at all."
The article is full of great quotes, stories and insights and is perfect rebuttal to the concern trolls worried that an openly gay athlete will be a sex-fueled maniac once the hot water starts flowing. Truth is, he just wants to get clean and then get dressed like everyone else and get the hell out of there.
Watch: Scott Cooper talks to ESPN about football showers.