Michael Sam said in an interview that if he hadn’t come out as homosexual, he’d be in the NFL today.
I agree. As a heterosexual, white male, I am a part of a club I never wanted to join. Being a white male means racial slurs and homophobic comments are tossed my way gleefully. I am expected to giggle and shoulder-chuck my approval, and am greeted with blank stares and even hostility when I dare to disapprove.
Not that I’m complaining here. I understand how lucky I am the ire and “humor” is not directed at me, and can only imagine what it’s like for someone on the receiving end of discrimination.
So, as said, when a SEC co-defensive player of the year believes he would be playing in the NFL if not for his sexual orientation, I don’t dispute it. There are still huge swaths of racism and homophobia in America.
In the same interview, however, Sam went on to say that he quit the Canadian Football League because it wasn’t making him a better football player.
I’m not so sure about that statement.
In fact, when Sam reiterated his desire to play in the NFL, but stated going through the CFL was not the path to do so, I disagreed.
I’m a comedian, and I can parallel my profession with Sam’s. I want to be on TV and headline A-list clubs. Does that mean I reject bar gigs and forgo headlining smaller comedy clubs? No. I take whatever I can, knowing that every moment I’m on the stage I’m becoming a better comedian. The gigs I’m taking are the “CFL” of the comedy world, but that doesn’t mean I turn my nose up at them.
If I owned a football team, would I want someone who worked out in a gym, no matter how hard? Or would I want someone with actual know-how, someone who spent time on the field—any field—working, getting physical, getting hit hard and going for the win?
I could tell jokes in my basement all day long, but it would give me no practical experience. If I told a booking agent how much I practiced at home his first question would be: “How much stage time do you have?” And that’s if he didn’t just hang up on me for using something so silly as a selling point. I know comedians who practice their set while looking in a mirror, but you can only cut your comedy teeth in front of audiences.
Just like you cut your football teeth on the field.
Sam said the CFL wasn’t playing the kind of defense he learned in the NFL. Maybe, but something is better than nothing. You acquire different skills working a bar vs. a comedy club, just like you learn different skills playing in the CFL vs. the NFL.
Compare two men before him: Tim Tebow and Doug Flutie. Tebow works out diligently and has had a shot with several different teams in the last couple pre-seasons. He’s also never made it onto a 53-man roster after his time with the Broncos.
Doug Flutie, on the other hand, worked consistently in the CFL and NFL his entire career. Ask him if he learned anything playing in Canada or if he would have rather worked out in a gym forever waiting for an opportunity. No matter what the situation and despite disrespect from owners and teams, Flutie set out to prove himself. And did. Repeatedly.
A hard worker shines no matter the situation; it’s best to stand out where you can. Make an impact and prove yourself.
Michael Sam may feel he earned a shot, and I agree with him: he did. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to get it. Scouts said Sam was slower in his second combine than his first. That doesn’t bode well for year three.
Michael Sam believes he’s good enough to play in the NFL. Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” But life isn’t fair, and they can and will ignore you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
(Unless you’re Jay Cutler, the Dane Cook of the NFL. Then you’ll succeed beyond all your limitations and inadequacies.)
I hope Michael Sam knows what he’s doing, and I hope he thrives wherever he lands.