The Michael Sam “be careful what you wish for” train wreck may be amusing to watch. That is, the untitled reality television show starring Michael Sam on Oprah’s OWN network. But Sam’s prospects on the NFL’s Sunday afternoon reality show now seems doomed thanks to the high-decibel celebration of a “love that dare not speak its name” by Sam and his media handlers.
Head coach Jeff Fisher won’t admit it, of course, but the St. Louis Rams are now “on the clock.” And with every tick, cut day for Michael Sam gets closer. Or, as it’s known in football parlance, getting a visit from the Turk. And if this inevitability didn’t start when Sam and his boyfriend Vito Cammisano licked cake and icing off of each other live and in color on ESPN, then it most certainly did when Oprah’s OWN network announced they have signed Sam for a reality series. The show is not yet named, but referred to internally as “The Untitled Michael Sam Project.”
The irony is thick, and yet seems unnoticed by many still caught up in the euphoria surrounding the NFL’s first openly-gay player. “We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey,” says Oprah despite her vested interest in that journey staying anything but private. She added “this moment has not only made history, but will shape (history) forever. It promises to spark a valuable, important discussion on life in America today.”
The problem with that “valuable important discussion on life in America” is not at all what Fisher and the Rams had in mind when they drafted the University of Missouri pass rusher. Perhaps they were naive to expect otherwise. And perhaps Oprah and Sam’s handlers were naive in how the reality show will make Sam history before he can make history in the league.
And Sam has earned equal blame in this as well. He’s insisted–fraudulently–that he just wanted to play football. In fact, “Michael Sam just wants to play football” has a Google footprint of over 67 million results. Sam’s specific words were that he “wanted to stop talking about his sexual orientation” and “let his work on the field” speak for itself.
Right, Michael. After all, nothing changes the subject from sexual orientation like licking icing off another man on national television and then inking a deal with Oprah for a TV series. The cake kiss, celebrated by Sam’s enthusiasts, found support among just 36 percent of respondents in a Huffington Post poll who deemed it “appropriate.” Even Deadspin‘s Drew Magary, the guy behind the GQ article that resulted in A&E briefly suspending Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, sees the kiss as possibly an act of calculated cynicism rather than spontaneous emotion. “He is another packaged product being sold to us at heavy markup–commodified smarm at best, and at worst something downright cynical, something that leverages real emotions in service of a marketing strategy,” Magary writes. “No one wants to find out that Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech was copywritten by a dude at Pfizer…. Now that Sam has a reality show, can anyone believe with 100 percent confidence that the kiss he shared with his boyfriend on camera last Saturday was a real and true moment?”
But it gets worse. A pretty good case can be made that the choice of Cammisano as a significant other is in and of itself contrived for effect. It takes about five seconds of research to discover that prior to linking up with Sam, Vito Cammisano dated a well-known actor in pornographic movies. This seems a match made in reality television heaven.
In other words, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Michael Sam is very much invested in an agenda beyond football. This is not how he was sold. It’s not what the Rams thought they were signing up for. It is, however, who Sam is and what Fisher and his staff and team is stuck with. The upshot of the Visa adverts, the publicity stunts, and the reality television program is that the seventh-round pick focused on matters beyond the gridiron will not end up on the Rams roster, at least for long, and the future for openly gay players in pro sports will in fact regress as a result.