ESPN, Michael Sam, and The Scarlet Letter
ESPN sure knows how to milk a story, huh? Whether that letter on Michael Sam’s chest be “G” or “H”, ESPN made sure to give us Sam stories, relevant or not. I mean seriously, how long after Michael Sam was drafted did his story stay relevant? That’s the question I would most like to ask the brass over at the worldwide leader. It seems as if they instituted a Michael Sam watch committee to follow and report.
The shower story incident was particularly entertaining. Why? Because it once again fueled my fascination with the public’s fascination with what people are doing in their bedroom. Then, the young reporter had to come out and apologize; she should add ‘sat on a live grenade’ to her resume because there is no way she made that call to air that information or ask those questions. First of all, if you’re the target audience that ESPN is going for, and it’s your desire, or need to know how or where Michael Sam showers, then congratulations, you just got your sports news fix. For viewers like myself and others I’m sure, simply put, that is just too much information. Furthermore, I’m of the opinion that just because the man happens to be gay, it doesn’t give ESPN the right to use and exploit that fact at will for stories or ratings.
The second thing that really sickened me with ESPN’s coverage was the way they lined up to be the first out of the gate to report whether or not he’d been cut by the Rams. They made it a bottom-line news scroll story of it BEFORE he had even been cut. There were several hundred other rookies still on NFL rosters at that point, but once again, because he was gay, they just had to make an exception for reporting his team status. Whether one disagrees with homosexuality or not is secondary to the fact that no one deserves that type of scrutiny, even if Michael Sam himself did invite some of that scrutiny. From coming out before the draft, to the draft night kiss with his boyfriend, Sam has certainly been provocative. Even still, his journey to the league needn’t be poked and prodded for every little juicy tidbit that yields a story.
Finally, I contend that because ESPN was so irresponsible in their coverage, it probably had a more polarizing effect than what they wanted. If think that they owed that politically correct line so close, by devoting so many “we embrace gays everywhere” segments, that it fueled more passion to the counter argument. I was in a bar on draft night and noticed the reactions of many of the bar patrons. Some of the things I heard said would make a sailor uncomfortable, much less anyone else who may have been gay and in the restaurant at that time.
I just wonder though, why ESPN jumped through so many hoops to cover Michael Sam, the gay athlete, instead of Michael Sam the football player who just happened to be gay. Were they afraid of something? Did GLAAD have them by the balls? (See what I did there?) No matter the reason, the coverage was irresponsible, sophomoric, and bordered on soap opera. Thankfully the season is about to kickoff soon and then ESPN can go back to doing what they do best. What exactly is that? I don’t know, highlights and loud-talking pundits maybe?