So in the end after all the hoopla, Michael Sam – the first openly gay player in the NFL (almost) – didn’t make the cut with the St. Louis Rams.
There are just so many ways to look at this. How convenient for the those who can sigh with relief and say, “Hey, we tried but he just wasn’t good enough.” How vindicating for the skeptics, who will say, “He was such a lightweight to begin with. The only reason he got a shot was because he’s gay.”
But how sad for those of us who’d like to see the Sams and the Tim Tebows of the world find their places in the NFL sun regardless of the imperfections of their (still considerable) skills and their sexual or religious persuasions.
Some day, we won’t have to judge people by anything but those skills and what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the content of their character” – which in Sam’s case seems to be class all the way, and which is more than you can say for the Ray Rices of the game. But talent – like brains, beauty or any other gift – isn’t bestowed only on the good and the worthy. It is a thing unto itself.
For now the sexual frontier in the last bastion of machismo that is the NFL remains confined to works of the imagination. It along with the game’s extreme violence is explored in Andrew Hinderaker’s new play, “Colossal,” being given the first of four National New Play Network “rolling premiere” productions at the Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Md. Sept. 3-28. Gays and all kinds of violence in the NFL also figure into my upcoming novel “In This Place You Hold Me,” which is also about many other things, including the increasing dehumanization of the workplace and the individual quest for identity – psychological, familial, racial and national as well as sexual.
After the cut, Sam tweeted: “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
Here’s wishing him – and all of us who struggle toward the most worthwhile things – continuing success and happiness on the journey.