Was it a snowflake or an Olympic ring? Were DMX and Zimmerman really going to fight? What did the SEC defensive player of the year just say? It was a wild weekend that you could have missed if you blinked.
Sam I Am
“I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me,” Missouri defensive end Michael Sam told ESPN about coming out as a homosexual. “I want to own my truth…. No one else should tell my story but me.”
Sam appeared relaxed in delivering the news. The reactions to the announcement, by contrast, seem forced. Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, a website about bullying, concussions, and homosexuality that sometimes covers sports, said Sam’s announcement was “courageous and historic and should be celebrated.” Was Graziano’s reaction any of the above? If the fly-on-the-wall couldn’t see the gun to Graziano’s head as he wrote those words, then Graziano surely could.
The SEC defensive player of the year’s words garnered so much attention because we didn’t see them coming. Sports commentators like Graziano, who are paid for interesting opinions, bored because their culturally-conditioned responses surprised no one. The process involved asking, “What would GLAAD write?,” and then transcribing what that silent voice told him to. Opinion by rote isn’t.
Homosexuality, strangely dominating sports coverage in early 2014, seems so utterly uncontroversial that straight athletes–like those jokester Canadian bobsledders–mug for the cameras in ironically sexually-ambiguous poses. News headlines shout that a Dutch lesbian speedskater claimed Olympic gold, that a straight punter seeks to sue the Minnesota Vikings over homophobia, that the mayor of Sochi doesn’t believe that gays dwell in his city, and that a football prospect has come out of the closet. Given the culture of the NFL, this last story rates as news. But sports scribes bored with sports will surely milk the story to death.
The NFL, barring something unforeseen, will have its first openly homosexual player this coming season. The undersized end should find a taker somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft. The most amazing part of the All American’s story isn’t that he’ll be the first openly gay player in a major American sport. It’s that he’s in this position at all. Three of Michael Sam’s siblings are dead. Two others are in jail. Sam does indeed have a remarkable story to tell. It just doesn’t revolve around his dating activities. It’s about life knocking Sam in the dirt and him refusing to stay down. He can tell this inspiring story, in a game uniquely suited to metaphoric reenactments of it on every down, to millions of viewers every week next fall.
A Global-Warming Games
The Winter Olympics didn’t first employ manufactured snow until 1980 in Lake Placid. They’ve grown increasingly dependent on the icy concoction since that time. Could there be a games at Sochi without the stuff?
The mercury hit sixty-one degrees today in the host city of the winter games. Meteorologists don’t expect the thermometer to drop into the thirties at any point during the next ten days. Did Vladimir Putin really survey the landscape of his nation and find such a dearth of suitable hosts for a Winter Olympics that he settled on Russia’s version of Miami Beach?
The strange decision to stage the winter games in the subtropics has discernable negative ramifications. Shaun White withdrew from the slopestyle competition because of the dangers of the course, whose icy terrain cracked Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova’s helmet. The men’s halfpipe snowboarding event, scheduled to take place today, has been delayed in part because of the weather’s effect on the competing surface. American Olympian Patrick Meek complained that the humidity of the rink makes speed skating a lot slower. In trial runs on Saturday, several downhill skiers crashed on the slick slope made so by fake, icy snow.
Sure, the Winter Olympics is a weak sister to the summer games. That doesn’t mean the International Olympic Committee should stage the quadrennial contests in Honolulu, Bombay, or Sochi.
The Only Gold That Matters
Russia winning in Sochi won’t exactly be Team USA capturing gold in Lake Placid. The Russians, by continually sending paid athletes to the Olympics, made sure that never again would we see a group of rag-tag college students stand atop the podium. This resulted in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that professionalized an amateur event. But the national sentiment surrounding the hockey team, given the location of the games, is powerful–the force is strong with this one. The Russians haven’t medaled in hockey since 2002, and haven’t captured gold since they competed under a different name a year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They’re due. They’re home. Most importantly–their roster features sixteen active NHL players, including three-time MVP Alex Ovechkin and former league MVP Evgeni Malkin–they’re good. How good? We’ll begin to find out when the hockey tournament begins on Wednesday.
Fielding Melish (aka Miles Monroe) v. Hannah (aka Rosemary)
Like most fights, the protracted nuclear war between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow leaves both combatants bruised and bloody. In the New York Times, Allen, in a compelling case for his innocence regarding child abuse allegations, cited a former paramour’s claim that Farrow’s handlers sought for her to falsely testify that she was underage when the then-fortysomething Allen began a relationship with her. Insisting your girlfriend was seventeen when the affair started may clear you legally. It otherwise invites suspicions regarding your sense of sexual boundaries. And Farrow, with her fifteen kids and countless famous beaus, doesn’t appear as the paragon of normal. Her MSNBC-host child appears to carry as many of Woody Allen’s genes as Arnold Schwarzenegger does. The mess, particularly the sordid allegations involving a young child, is enough to make you cry. When I think “Woody Allen,” I’d rather laugh…
ARod Being ARod
ARod framed his suit against Major League Baseball as a selfless quest for players’ rights. He explained of his 2014 season suspension in January, “This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.” Facing $10 million in legal fees on a lawsuit with dubious chances of winning, the Yankee third-baseman withdrew the suit in a move that will no doubt leave critics saying that the active-home-run leader has reverted to his self-serving self. ARod’s attorney, the normally not-camera-shy Joseph Tacopina, commented: “The statements that were issued say everything that needs to be said.” Checkmate.
Like Pacquiao-Mayweather, the George Zimmerman-DMX boxing match is one that sweet-science aficionados will have to debate rather than watch. “I walked away from av million dollar payday with this fight but to be honest I’d rather be happy and make people happy,” Danny Feldman, who has promoted such noted pugilists as Jose Canseco, Tonya Harding, and Danny Bonaduce, tweeted this weekend on cancelling the fight. I had DMX by sonic knockout after the first few bars of “Who We Be.” But Zimmerman has a way of using the rules to his advantage and defending himself by unconventional means, so anything could have happened. Thank goodness this isn’t happening. Not sure if it would have stripped more dignity from boxing, the combatants, or the American public.
So Jeff Orr, the Texas Tech superfan shoved by Marcus Smart, didn’t tell the Oklahoma State guard to “go back to Africa,” as half of the Twitterverse strained to believe. He called him “a piece of crap.” Does this make him a better guy? There’s a cloak of immunity that some believe buying a ticket provides in shielding from the consequences of bad behavior. Reality check: when you call someone excrement, from behind your steering wheel or from your second-row seat, the abused party just might object in a physical way. Smart is nineteen. He reacted to being called “a piece of crap” like most nineteen-year-old guys would. Smart? Maybe not. But understandable? He didn’t go Mike Milbury and beat the fan with his own shoe. He didn’t go Ron Artest and punch the wrong guy. He regulated by pushing a fiftysomething-year-old Texas Tech fanatic who, like the talented guard, lost himself in the moment.