Sports are amazing aren’t they? Standing at a game you might not know that person cheering for the other team next to you, but for one moment, you both have something in common, and for one moment, you are connected.
When Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, there were some people who hated it and wanted nothing to do with him, and then there were people who were going to accept Sam and welcome him not only to the team, but into the league.
The pick was staged perfectly. ESPN didn’t show the picks being announced on a regular basis on day three, but when Michael Sam’s name was going to be called, they made sure they were there for that historical moment.
“With the 249th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Michael Sam, linebacker, Missouri.”
Ane with those words, history was made.
Since the beginning, sports have been bringing different groups together. In 1946, the St. Louis Rams were the first team to sign an African-American to an NFL contract when they signed UCLA running back Kenny Washington. 78 years later, they became the first team to draft the first openly gay player into the NFL.
But that may just be the problem, and a problem in American society in general. We put labels on people, and then judge them based on that label. The Rams didn’t draft the first openly gay football player Michael Sam, they drafted the 11.5 sacks, 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and SEC co-defensive player of the year Michael Sam. You draft the player, not the person.
When Michael Sam came out, there was a lot of speculation as to what would happen to his draft stock, and had it not been for the St. Louis Rams, he would have most likely gone undrafted. It wouldn’t have been because of who he was, but because of his average combine and workouts as well as his smaller size.
“Since February, since my big announcement, there has been this whole speculation of the first openly gay football player. But, you know what? It’s not about that. It’s about playing football. Can Michael Sam play football? And yes, I can. The St. Louis Rams know I can and I’m going to give everything I’ve got to the St. Louis Rams to help the Rams win a championship.”
For the first time in what seems like years, the St. Louis Rams were featured on ESPN for a significant amount of time, and they will continue to be throughout training camp and the rest of the offseason.
The media is going to make a big deal out of this. Michael Sam being drafted will see its time on ESPN First Take, it will see its time on Mike and Mike in the morning, and he and the St. Louis Rams organization will be under a microscope from the first time he walks onto the practice field.
One day, there will be a movie made about Michael Sam, and how he changed the sports world. Book it now. Since Michael Sam made his decision, it has given other players in the sports world, to come out and tell the world who they are. The change is already happening.
Sam will have his battles, his first one, being on the field when he tries to make the team. Once he does that, the next big challenge will be on the field and getting his teammates and the fans to accept him as a football player. Many of them will, but there will always be a group that.
“I have to prove myself. I’ve got to make sure the ‘vets’ know that I’m a team player and I love this game.” said Sam. “I want to show the coaches that I’m a team player and I’m a hardworking guy, and that what I do on the field will determine how great Michael Sam will be.”
Being a unanimous first team All-American, SEC defensive player of the year, should have gotten Sam drafted within the first three rounds, or at the very least the first five. In fact, Sam becomes the lowest SEC defensive player of the year ever to be drafted.
A lot of players would have been discouraged, but not Michael Sam. Having 31 other team scratch them off their board would have discouraged a lot of players, but not Michael Sam. It was reported that the New York Giants offered Michael Sam a contract if he were to become an undrafted free agent, but it was the Rams who did draft him, and took that ultimate risk.
On his conference call, Michael Sam had this to say,
“They saw Michael Sam’s name and they scratched it off the board, you know, that was their loss. But St. Louis kept me on that board until the end. It doesn’t matter who was talking to me, they didn’t have the (expletive) that St. Louis had. I’m telling you, no one had the (expletive) that St. Louis has and I’m proud to give everything I’ve got to St. Louis. So many people are proud of the St. Louis (Rams) organization for being the one to make history.”