Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is set to welcome its first openly gay player in Michael Sam. The nature of the welcome remains to be seen.

1. I caught up to the rest of you and finally finished watching all of Breaking Bad. Wow. Even when you know the premise of the show, and even when you know some of the major plot lines, the show is not even close to ruined. (Does anyone else read that word as ru-eeeeeeeened?) One of the reasons why I bring this up first today is because between now and the start of free agency, you all have a real opportunity to engage in some serious binge television watching. Now that Walter White is out, I am a bit unsure about where I am going to go. I want to catch up on True Detective, but there have only been a few episodes. I definitely want to watch Boardwalk Empire, and that would make for some quality TV time. I have heard good things about Rome and both House of Cards and House of Lies. My list has other contenders, but the real question is: Which show do I give the severe disadvantage of following Breaking Bad? Your guidance is appreciated.

2. The news of Michael Sam publicly coming out ahead of the draft is pretty dang huge--even bigger than my viewing of Breaking Bad...I know. The former Missouri star pass rusher is set to become the first openly gay player in the league. What he WON'T be is the first gay player ever drafted, as I saw at least one outlet report this morning. Come on...let's not be so naive as to believe there hasn't been at least one college player drafted that was privately gay. (We could spend countless words on the idea that he "publicly came out," an idea that bothers me because this man has reportedly never lied about who he is or asked a teammate to lie about who he is. We should all feel just a little terrible about our society when someone who has always been proud of who they are has to "declare" something about themselves when the rest of us...don't. Baby steps, I guess.)

3. In fact, depending on who you believe, the truth is that there have likely been guys who wanted to come out but were convinced to stay in the closet by their agents, family members and even future teammates who argued that the resulting scrutiny would be too burdensome. I don't fault anyone for making the decision they felt was the best for themselves and their families, and it kills me that the league that I live to love puts that kind of pressure on good people.

4. It isn't coincidence that I bring up Walter White in today's Sixpack. No, I am not comparing a secretive meth cook to gay football players. If I wanted to find a player to compare to Heinsenberg, I might start with a guy like Aaron Hernandez (pronounced Ay-Ay-Ron). Of course A-A-Ron is innocent until proven guilty, but at the current pace of things, he is going to be convicted for just about every open murder case in New England. Talk about secret double lives. Then again, some of his former teammates say it wasn't necessarily so secret--some said he yelled things at practice like, "I'll murder you!" No, Walter White's criminal enterprise is not the focus of my comparison today.

5. The real thought I had in bringing up Walter White today was how a decision made to lead a double life wreaked such havoc on both him and his family. Again--not comparing the decision to do something illegal with being gay. I have known both men and women who felt that coming out would have caused more trouble to them than continuing to live with their secret. It seemed that in most cases, they only seemed to be sparing everyone else from having to "deal with" their reality. It never spared them from carrying a ridiculously heavy burden. In fact, it invariably worsened the situation for these friends of mine, leading to other costly and sorrowful problems. Nobody should feel like their only option is to lie about who they are. The normal chatter on this topic seems to always lead to something about the "way NFL locker rooms are" and "the importance of team chemistry." It seems to me that this has only succeeded in enabling bigots. It seems to me that this line of thought has created a more comfortable home for prejudice. You know what matters the most in the NFL...and all professional sports? Winning. Professional teams and locker rooms have endured the worst kind of people that exist in the name of winning. Please stop empowering the idiots of the world by somehow suggesting that a gay man would destroy the gentle balance of the locker room as well as the sensitivities and sensibilities of the modern athlete. It is a tired line and it has insulted the average fan's intelligence for too long. Some of the strongest teams we have ever seen or heard of--from the high school and college levels to the pros--have been groups that have rallied around each other for some reason or another. Doesn't every episode of Sportscenter these days feature a story about some team that has banded together in the face of adversity to change the way we all think about something?

6. My hat is off to Michael Sam today. I don't envy the manner in which he will be scrutinized in the coming months, but he will be envied by many for the manner in which he will not live in fear about his truth being exposed. He has ensured that he won't be the first NFL player to come out, which I think is also a big deal. It will be very interesting to see where this goes. Much will be written about him for reasons that don't pertain to football. Right now, all I know about this guy is that he was a hell of a college football player, and he is gay. It would seem that some team is going to draft him and that like most rookies, he will fight to earn a place on the field as well as the in the locker room. All I know for sure is that when his draft profile comes up on Hogs Haven, the debate will be spirited, and the measure by which he will be judged as a prospect for the Washington Redskins will be limited to his football skills.

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