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Harvey Gotliffe, Ph.D. Headshot

I Am Gay and I Play. Send in the Clowns

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When Michael Sam was interviewed on ESPN's Outside the Lines program on February 9, he reiterated that he was African-American (which was obvious from the dark-hued color of his skin), that he was a football player (also obvious since at 6'2", 255 lbs. he had been named defensive player of the year by the Football Writers Association of America while playing for the University of Missouri Tigers in the SEC, the nation's most formidable football conference), that he was looking forward to being drafted to play in the National Football League (NFL), and by the way, "I am gay."

Google was overjoyed with his comments, for there were more than 1.3 million results produced instantaneously. The media coverage ranged from the ridiculous to the inane to the insane, from television networks, sports outlets, major newspapers, to minor bloggers. The ensuing media coverage included some items that were news-oriented, but most were opinion pieces.

Some were loud, vitriolic and unknowledgeable, and at times incoherent in trying to analyze what Michael Sam's coming out truly means to society.

Rush Limbaugh commented that this situation was important because it demonstrated that straight people "are under assault by the 2-5 percent who are homosexual."

ESPN analyst and former NFL coach Herm Edwards proclaimed that Michael Sams (he added an "s" to his last name) "is bringing baggage into your locker room. Can we handle the media that's going to come along with this situation?"

That media circus was about to come to town, and among the myriad of headline results found on Google to support this notion were: "Media circus could be Sam's biggest obstacle," "Like Te'o, Michael Sam circus won't last long," "Gay football player Michael Sam shouldn't have a media circus," "Expect media circus surrounding Michael Sam at combine," and "Is the Michael Sam media circus already over?" The latter was published four days after Michael Sam's declaration was made.

Some of the media were hesitant in describing absolute actions that Sam's self-outing could cause, and hedged instead noting only the negative possibilities that loomed ahead. USA Today offered "Sam may have to protect NFL teammates when gay Jets roll in," while another outlet noted "Michael Sam may face subtle discrimination in NFL draft." The "may" word was an easy out for the media, since no one has the ability to forecast the future, much less any of the media pundits who fell on their face predicting an easy Super Bowl victory for the Denver Broncos.

Among other media outlets, you could find more coverage on the Michael Sam revelation in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, on ESPN, Fox Sports, and in Forbes and Sports Illustrated magazines. The latter featured Sam's helmeted face on its February 17 cover with a large, positive story line "America Is ready for Michael Sam." There was a smaller, more challenging headline, "Is the NFL Ready for Michael Sam?"

Michael Sam has remained calm and has just been himself during the media frenzy. At the same time, so many outlets are trying to out do one another to promote the story, and themselves.

The media circus began immediately after Sam's declaration, and who knows how long it will last? In the meanwhile, send in the clowns.

Or have they already arrived?

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