Somebody’s gotta be the first, Michael Sam, and quite often the first isn’t always the most successful. But the first often helps to pave the way for success.
I’m referring to Michael Sam’s comments at the end of 2014 where he seemed to indicate that he regretted coming out prior to being drafted for the NFL.
From GQ Magazine:
If I had it my way, I never would have done it the way I did, never would have told it the way I did.
I would have done the same thing I did at Mizzou. Which was to tell my team and my coaches and leave it at that. But since I did tell my team, word got out.… People think the word didn’t get out. It did. Or it did and it didn’t. They kept it confined within our family. But the recruiters knew, and reporters knew, and they talked to each other, and it got out. If I didn’t have the year I did, nobody would have cared. But I did have that year. And a lot of people knew. Someone was gonna ask me, “I heard you told your team a secret.…” Well, I was comfortable with who I was, and I wouldn’t have denied it. And then I wouldn’t have been able to control the story. But I have no regrets. Some people can argue that I had the potential to go higher in the draft. But I think everything happens for a reason. It looks good to see me in the position I’m in now, because I can show the world how good I am and rise up the ranks. I’m at the bottom now. I can rise up, show I’m a football player. Not anything else. Just a football player.
The fact that you’re comfortable with yourself—don’t take that for granted. You earned that.
I said I’d take everything that came at me, and I did. But did I think it was gonna be that huge? No. I thought people would be just, “Okay, he came out.” And that would be that. Some thought others would join me. I did, too.
I did. But it never happened.
It will. That’s the impact of Michael Sam.
Sam may not have fulfilled his dream of playing football professionally for this year, but he helped to make it a wonderful life for those gay players who come after him. Much like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, Sam’s existence has made an impact on every single person with whom he has interacted: the media, the fans, the players, the sport. Much like George Bailey, it’s an impact that we can’t see right now, but we will. And it won’t take a Clarence to help us see it.
It’s an impact we will see when a future footballer who is gay is drafted 202nd, 179th, 56th, and 7th. It’s a impact that we’ll see when a future footballer kisses his boyfriend on camera and it isn’t reported as news because that’s what couples do in times of joy. It’s an impact we’ll see when a future footballer who’s gay gets cut from the Colts roster, but makes it onto the 49ers roster. It’s an impact we’ll see when a footballer who is gay has a long career; is loved by the team, the city and fans because of how he plays. It’s an impact we’ll see when that team with the footballer who is gay, wins the super bowl…and many of us who recall the closet, will recall the time when when we thought such a moment wasn’t possible.
I was once told by another gay man that because I’m out, I make it easier for everyone else. Michael Sam has done the same. His greatest achievement has already been realized. He has provided gay athletes hope. The hope of what’s possible. And that is something of which he should be very proud because he did accomplish something by being out.
Being a pioneer can suck; you often don’t realize the dreams you set out to achieve, but much like the game itself, you can’t win ’em all. You can only be proud of how you played it, and Michael Sam played it well.