ESPN’s Pablo S. Torre Discusses Michael Sam, Compares NFL to Reality TV

On Thursday’s airing of “Olbermann,” fill-in host Pablo S. Torre, substituting for the suspended Keith Olbermann, discussed recently announced news that NFL free agent and first openly gay player to be drafted is going to be on ABC’s show “Dancing with the Stars.”

Torre, a regular on ESPN and a columnist for ESPN the Magazine, says Commissioner Roger Goodell has helped make the NFL “the premiere unscripted competition based reality television that currently exists.”

“People still can’t decide if being openly gay is a reason for the continued unemployment of the 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year. But everyone can agree that Michael Sam’s desire to be associated with reality television while still wanting to play in his first regular season football game most definitely is. You may not believe Sam when he tweets that though football remains his unquestioned number one priority he is “ecstatic to participate in a fun athletic competition whose filming is very flexible and allows me to be part of the combine if accepted or any other workouts.” But it is weird, I would argue, to blame a jobless 25-year-old who has been completely shutout of the NFL since October when Sam was released from the Cowboys practice squad for seeking a back-up revenue stream and it is weird to somehow be surprised at “Dancing with the Stars,” a show that has previously featured five active NFL players and currently employs an NFL sideline reporter as its co-host would be that revenue stream.”

He continued, saying, “But mostly it is weird that we still aren’t acknowledging that the modern NFL is itself reality television. In fact, the most profitable and most shameless iteration of reality television that currently exists. Football fans righteously condescending to “Dancing with the Stars” is the equivalent of “Flavor of Love” calling “Temptation Island” “unsophisticated.” Being in the NFL is not like being a soldier or a pastor, despite so much messaging that suggests otherwise. Nor does Roger Goodell make a reported seven year $300 million contract to be a leader of men. He has it and will continue to have it because he helped make football the premiere unscripted competition based reality show in America. He is a prolific TV producer, the Mark Burnett of professional sports. The NFL is a show that very gladly fantasizes salacious and sensational human drama, always making sure that ever expanding calendar from “Thursday Night Football” to proposed 18 game season serves ratings over what would be good for the actual sport. It is a show that not only forces players to speak into cameras at risk of punishment like they’re doing a confessional on “Big Brother” but also forces HBO cameras inside team buildings every single preseason so we can watch players get fired like on “The Apprentice.”

He also added, “It is a show like most reality television full of people from Mike Ditka to Darren Woodson to Donovan McNabb to Lamar Holmes who have unironically uttered the phrase, “I’m not here to make friends.” You may point out, of course, that Michael Sam’s real problem is not that he’s gay and likes reality TV, but that he’s unproven and likes reality TV. You may note that those aforementioned five NFL dancers were all active veterans, not guys hoping to make a team, as were the various other players from Ndamukong Suh to Eric Decker who have been on still other reality shows during their playing careers. And you may have a point. Admittedly, no league so focused on X’s and O’s would ever encourage silly marketing driven spandex-clad reality style competition among young players yet to take the field in a single NFL game.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifTrent


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