Saturday, February 15, 2014

Michael Sam, the NFL, Tim Tebow

I'm a little confused about this question about sexuality and religion in sports.  My comments below may sound disjointed and somewhat unrelated, but let me get them out and perhaps our subsequent discussion will make my thoughts clearer.
First, let me tell a quick story about a friend that I hope puts my perspective on homosexuality in context.  I grew up in Washington, DC--a very liberal and cosmopolitan town.  One of my best friends in high school was this Adonis-looking dude who had these freaky blue eyes that compelled women to throw "coochie" at him like Frisbees!  I left for college and in the summer, I came home and sought him out (with our gang) to hang out.  His mom told me that "Steven" didn't live there anymore, and that he now lived in the Dupont Circle area (where I grew up).  I had never heard his parents call him "Steven," he was always "Steve."  We went to the address and this tall, lanky, flaming gay guy said he wasn't home, but at a party up the street.  It was noon'ish on a summer Saturday, so we didn't know what that meant.  We left and planned to catch up with him later.  As we walked, we heard loud music, so we followed it to a raging block party where there were hundreds of people dancing in the streets, eating, drinking, and just having a great time.  We "snuck" in, snagged some eats and a few beers and tried to blend in.  One of my friends nudged me and pointed to a cluster of hulking, 200+, 6-foot(+) guys who were playing grab ass with each other (I smirked...).  Then someone pointed out a similar pod of females doing the same thing.  It suddenly hit us that we were in the middle of a "gay pride" rally and block party!  Whatever!  (It didn't matter to us--although, as friends, we never talked about gays because while never feeling the need to openly express it, none of us felt threatened by gays.)  Then I saw my friend, Steve, through the crowd--and he saw me, and he saw me see him!  But he turned and walked away, disappearing in the mass of people.  I never saw him again.  I learned a few years later that he died of AIDS.  I was mad at Steve for a long time because it seemed he assumed that I did care that he was gay, when in fact, I could care less.
I think no more of gays than I do of any "studly," heterosexual, single guy who is "gettin' it" every night!  What you do in your bedroom, and who you marry, in your business, not mine! 
But lately, it seems that everyone is either coming out as gay, or being gay has suddenly become a national concern.  I'm 56 years old and I've always known that a significantly large population of the world don't think the way I think, or like the same foods I like, or wear the same clothes I wear.  To me, being gay or straight, is about love and sex:  who you care about (your mate), and who you screw (not "how" you screw--that's something else entirely). 
When I was in the Marine Corps, it went without saying (although it was said often) that homosexuality was anathema to the Corps--but so was the barracks thief!  My first 4 years in the Marine Corps, I was an MP, and I can't count how many times I would bust people screwing under the trees, behind the bleachers, in cars, or sneaking their partners in the barracks, only to be busted by others in the barracks--hating and jealous because they weren't getting any!  I once apprehended a female who snuck in her boyfriend in the female barracks and they did the nasty in a cubicle, shielded only by 6-foot walls.  The other women, standing on chairs and footlockers watched as they got it on, then dimed her out to the Duty NCO when they finished.   Gays (suspected or real) were never arrested--they were simply "outed" and they just disappeared--silently, never to be heard from again.  But a barracks thief?  That was a real, powerful threat to unit cohesion.  The barracks went into upheaval whenever you found out that the guy next to you was stealing from you, or stealing from the chow hall, or doggin' it on duty, because suddenly you didn't know who to trust.  You started looking at your best friend--your "battle buddy"--with a jaundiced eye because you didn't trust leaving your wallet in your pants when you showered.  I don't recall anyone freaking out when there was a suspicion of someone being gay.  I don't think anyone slept or showered in fear of being raped by a gay Marine.  To my knowledge, it has never happed and never will.
Nowadays, we have people (especially and particularly celebrities) outing themselves.  I can understand that they don't want to live a lie (although I can never understand why they should have to).  But now comes Michael Sam and he revelation that he's gay.  The first thing I said was, "So what?!?"  From a business perspective (and we all know the NCAA is a business), the only thing that matters is the bottom line, and in the NFL, or any professional sports league, the "bottom line" is the bottom line!  I can't imagine how it would matter to the owners or the team as long as Sam knocks the living shit out of the guy on the other side of the ball, as long as he makes the sacks, causes and/or recovers fumbles, or prevents runners from advancing the ball.
That brings me to Tim Tebow.  I have a feeling the NFL is going to embrace Sam for his athleticism, and they will superficially embrace (by ignoring) his sexuality (which they should).  So, I ask:  what's the controversy?  What's everyone talking about?  I doubt the man will go around raping his teammates or little kids.  But what was this thing about Tim Tebow?  I seem to recall he was a stellar player for Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy, I think?  But suddenly he couldn't bust a grape in the NFL?  Once Denver signed Manning, Tebow wasn't "good enough," and certainly not "good" at all to the Jets or New England.  But why?  Was it the "Tebowing?"  What it the religious messages in the eye paint?  What was it about Tebow and God that made the NFL regurgitate?  Perhaps it was some religious prejudice?  Can't be that because the NFL players make this huge end-of-game deal with kneeling at the 50-yard line to pray.  What's this deal about Sam and his sexuality?  Will it distract from the absolutely pointlessness of having half-naked cheerleaders?  Will it conflict with the alcoholic, whore mongering image of professional athletes, and rock stars, and movie stars?  As I write this, I'm listening to a 106.7 WFAN sportscaster extoll the virtues of Derek Jeter and all of his female superstar conquests off the field.  So what?  Why does he care?  I'm confused over what frightens the NFL (or America) more--flaming gays or religious nuts?  In the end, the only thing that matters is whether the ball got across the line.  Just ask Lawrence Taylor--he's in the Hall of Fame after numerous arrests, child neglect, drug abuse, wife beating....all that matters is the bottom line, right?  Well, don't tell that to Tebow, and Sam better hope he slays them at the combines!


The Huntress said...

I think Sam will be okay in the NFL, but he's not expected to become a starter unless he puts in a lot of work. Apparently there's some holes in his game, just like any other mid- to late rounder.

As for Tebow, his mechanics AND results were awful. The Broncos won games despite him, and he also has this passive-aggressive way of going about things. Not the kind of teammate I'd want.

Zebster said...

In reverse order: All I heard about the Jeter "conquests" was the fact that it never ever resulted in even the tiniest scandal, which I'll agree is a miracle.
When we were in the Corps, we "knew" some of our fellow Marines were gay but for most of us (there's always some since the military is a microcosm of the country at large) that was the beginning and end of it.
I think Sam will be fine because I think now the percentage of acceptance, for lack of a better term, is high enough so that the ignorant are now the minority and will stay silent and then hopefully accept once they've been forced to deal with it.

DC Homer said...

TEBOW: Didn't he win the Heisman? How do you win the Heisman and NOT have talent/skills/ability? How do you get drafted in the NFL (pass the Combines) and NOT have skills/talent/ability? I really, really, don't understand the Tebow phenomenon. I think it was his religious fervor.

SAM: I think he'll be an average player, too, and in the end, the only people who will care about his sexuality are people who are jealous that he's getting more than them, and the bigots.