The firestorm that raged on the national sports talk shows yesterday was to be expected, it was the focus that was a bit surprising.

The conversation centered on comments made by former NFL coach turned NBC NFL analyst Tony Dungy over the weekend in an interview with the Tampa Tribune, in which he said if he were still coaching he would not have drafted University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Sam is the first player in NFL history to admit that he is homosexual and the debate over Dungy’s comments seemed to be limited to that one facet of the story, despite the fact that homosexuality was never a factor in those comments, though it was implied, by the media, not by Dungy. In explaining why he wouldn’t have drafted Sam Dungy was quoted as saying, “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth, things will happen.”

The things that Dungy implied were likely to happen referred to the distraction that Sam’s presence in camp is likely to become, comments directed more at the media than at Sam’s homosexuality and the media had to shoot back, in a subliminal self defense, with comments critical of Dungy’s well known religious convictions, which do lean toward a preference for traditional marriage, the media suggesting it was those convictions that were responsible for the comments from Dungy, and they could only be expected from one of such beliefs.

The media had the wrong spin on Dungy, but he had the media nailed. If anything, Dungy is in select company in the NFL. He’s a man who speaks his mind and doesn’t deal in hypocrisy. In his senior year at Missouri Sam was a concensus All American and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Despite those credentials, before he came out as being gay, he was never projected to be drafted above the third or fourth round. He eventually was held back until the seventh round, where he was picked by the St. Louis Rams. How many of the general managers and coaches who stayed publicly mum about the problems Sam might create in their camps were swayed by his orientation in passing on him in rounds three through six?

The media lived up to it’s advanced billing, making Sam’s presence in the Rams’ camp the distraction Dungy said he would fear in making his draft decision, a number of stories surfacing about veteran players and more highly regarded draft picks, not just with the Rams, wondering why a seventh round draft pick who has a lot to prove in the NFL was getting more attention than any of them.

This is a critical time of year in the development of NFL teams, with precious little time to assess talent numbers that must be pared to half their size, particularly when the potential for distraction outweighs the potential for a return. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to knowingly make the job more difficult than it already is and Dungy would have chosen not to take on the distractions that would increase the degree of difficulty. Apparently a lot of other NFL team officials agreed with him, only chose not to say so, lest they themselves feel the wrath of a media that puts political correctness ahead of common sense. It was only in the minds of the media that Dungy’s comments were about homosexuality.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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