'Stick to sports!'
Posted May 13, 2014
"Stick to sports!"
It's a phrase that often shows up in my email, Twitter mentions or from callers who aren't pleased when the conversation delves into issues not directly related to athletic competition.
It's also completely understandable. Sports are meant to be a diversion, filled with superfluous debate over things like who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of elite quarterbacks or who could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in basketball.
So when Michael Sam kisses his boyfriend on ESPN, a good chunk of sports fans who came to the NFL Draft for that diversion are going to be thrown off when a pundit starts talking about historic moments and societal issues. Other fans just want to watch basketball, not hear L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling giving Anderson Cooper a dissertation on Jews, African Americans and which group does more for their community.
Look, I get it. These are difficult discussions to have and sometimes they don't mesh with hot sports takes over coach Scott Brooks being in over his head at Oklahoma City.
However, the problem with "sticking to sports" is that sports has a history of being more than just bats and balls. What happens in sports is often a reflection of what is currently happening in society. If you're a sports fan and don't recognize this history, such as Jackie Robinson breaking barriers or Jesse Owens winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, then you're choosing to bury your head in the sand over what sports can mean in the grand scheme.
Pure competition is the greatest equalizer we have in culture.
What happened at the draft with Sam, and the subsequent reaction that went along with it, was wholly expected. It's why the reaction to the negative reaction was more amusing from my point of view. It goes along with my usual "what do you expect?" sort of attitude.
And I also have zero interest in shaming people for their beliefs.
Just keep in mind a player like Sam is out there living his life and pursuing his professional dream. It shouldn't be that difficult to wish him well and move on with our own lives. If it makes fans uncomfortable, that's their own issue to deal with and we all will deal with it differently. Same goes for folks who don't understand why societal change didn't happen overnight.
Sam now begins another journey trying to carve out a career. We'll continue to talk about sports. Fans will keep watching.
In other words, time marches on.