On Wednesday, it was announced that Michael Sam had agreed to star in a reality show on Oprah’s OWN network, which would document his life as he attempts to make the St. Louis Rams roster, and become the first openly gay athlete to play in the NFL. Naturally, it didn’t take long for Strong Taek Twitter to come in and let us know this was a huge problem, and needs to be snuffed out immediately. Jason Whitlock wondered if the Rams would cut him upon hearing the news, while Clay Travis was apparently concerned whether he’d get the same criticism that A.J. McCarron got when he was rumored to be starring in his own reality series (because if anyone needs protection, it’s straight athletes!).
So, it appears we’re going to have the ten trillionth idiotic discussion about players being “distractions” and how any part of a player’s life that doesn’t involve a sport must means he’s “not fully committed to the game” or whatever bullshit logic is being spewed. Drew already wrote a great piece on the myth of distractions in sports, but I’ll simply say that if a reality show was going to ruin a football team, “Hard Knocks” would not exist. Secondly, neither Sam nor McCarron should’ve been criticized for wanting to star in a reality show because no, it doesn’t mean they aren’t dedicated to their sport. It’s the same dumbass line you hear any time the president talks about his iPod, or a TV show he watches, and whatever party isn’t in power at the time goes off about how “HE’S THE PRESIDENT! HOW DARE HE WATCH TV OR LISTEN TO MUSIC AT ANY TIME! HE NEEDS TO DO PRESIDENT STUFF ALL THE TIME!” And of course, it’s all a load of crap: you can have a really important, taxing job and also be interested in other stuff. No, seriously.
But onto the prospect of a Michael Sam reality show: can we not ruin this, please? Unlike most athlete reality shows, which tend to just be mindless entertainment (“hey look, this millionaire sports person does regular people stuff!”), a series about Michael Sam’s transition into the NFL would actually matter. It would be an important historical document, giving us what could be an incredibly deep look into what trying to become the first openly gay man to play in the NFL is like. Put it this way: the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 was criticized because it couldn’t possibly capture all the hardships Robinson suffered as as the first black player in the MLB. We saw scenes of racial slurs being shouted at him, and one scene where he completely breaks down (Chadwick Boseman is brilliant in that scene, by the way), but we didn’t get the complete picture, because you couldn’t possibly explain everything in a 100-minute Hollywood movie. A Michael Sam reality show could go into much more detail, and could prove to be an incredibly important piece of sports history.
But even if it’s not, even it winds up being just another athlete realty show that just happens to star a gay man, it still wouldn’t hurt the Rams, nor would it indicate that Sam is prioritizing his newfound fame ahead of football. Anytime an athlete does anything not directly related to the game he plays, there’s always one idiot sportswriter (usually more like 10) who just has to question his dedication, and it’s all complete garbage. A Michael Sam reality show has the potential to be an incredibly illuminating experience, not just for football fans, but for the entire country. If we are deprived of this opportunity because the Strong Taek world wants to regurgitate the same tired arguments about players being distractions, or not focusing enough on the game, it’ll be a real fucking shame.