Sports

Michael Sam, "Distraction"

AP Images/Brandon Wade

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam was the co-winner of the Defensive Player of the Year for the powerhouse Southeastern Conference. While a little undersized for an NFL player at his position, Sam was certainly a decent pro prospect sure to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft. But Sam is no longer just of interest to SEC fans and NFL draft obsessives. On Sunday, Sam came out as gay. If he makes an NFL roster, he would certainly not be the first gay man to play in the NFL, but he would be the first to be out to the public during his playing career. Whether he will get a fair shot to make it as an NFL player, however, is not entirely clear, as multiple NFL decisionmakers have announced their intent to discriminate.

Daily Meme: Countdown to Sochi

  • The winter Olympics start a week from today, and the projected temperature for first day of competition is a not-particularly-wintry 45 degrees. Nobody could have predicted this would happen when you hold the games in a beach resort town, huh?

A Farce in Cooperstown

Tearing to shreds the argument against putting Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in the Baseball Hall of Fame—or letting Deadspin have their say in the matter.

AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File

Late last year, Tim Marchman of the muckraking sports site Deadspin announced a plan to "buy" the baseball Hall of Fame vote of a sportswriter. The logic of Deadspin's stunt was clear enough. For the first 15 years of a player's eligibility, the Hall of Fame vote is controlled by the increasingly small spectrum of the media represented by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA's votes, wrote Marchman, had become "a way for an electorate dominated by neo-Puritan scolds, milquetoast handwringers, and straight-out dimwits to show how high its standards are" by rejecting recently retired players who vastly exceed historical standards for induction.

Game, Set, Match—Feminism

AP Images

We often talk about athletes "transcending" their particular sport and having a wider cultural impact, but the truth is that for nearly all of them, becoming rich and famous for your physical feats doesn't have an effect on people that goes beyond entertainment. LeBron James may bring in $60 million a year and have 10 million followers on Twitter, but I doubt that a few decades from now people are going to talk about how much he changed America. Tom Brady may have won three Super Bowls and married a supermodel, but no one looks to him for leadership on critical social issues confronting our nation.

Stop Defending the NCAA

Flickr/Daily Collegian

The possibility that last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel might be suspended for selling his autograph to willing buyers has left more people aware of the grossly exploitative nature of the NCAA Cartel. There's good reason for that. Preventing players from even making deals with third parties to be paid is a particularly indefensible manifestation of the NCAA's rules. And citing "amateurism" in defense of this exploitation is no answer at all. There's certainly no prohibition on reaping commercial rewards from Johnny Manziel's sweat.

Red Wings Give You Bull

Why is a bankrupt city building a new $650 million “hockey arena district” to house the Detroit Red Wings?

While the state of Michigan appears to have no interest in “bailing out” Detroit, it is giving a substantial boost to the Red Wings, the city’s professional hockey team. Less than a week after the city filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, a press conference revealed a deal that will transform 45 blocks of the city with a new hockey arena (or “events center,” as the jargon goes) and a mixed-use entertainment district meant to link two of the city’s healthiest neighborhoods—downtown and Midtown.

Take Me Out with the Crowd

AP Images/Ron Frehm

Native Texans living elsewhere raise their children to be expats, fluent in the motherland’s culture. So, growing up in Virginia, I was well versed in the six flags of Texas and the Battle of the Alamo. I learned from my grandfather to shape my chubby toddler hands into the “Hook ’Em” shape every University of Texas fan knows. I understood that our family cheered for the Dallas Cowboys, and never the Washington Redskins. In baseball, in good, bad, and heart-wrenchingly disappointing times, we pulled for the Houston Astros, the team my father had rooted for since 1962, when (as the Colt .45s) they became the first major league team in Texas.

Gay on the Gridiron

Jason Collins’ coming out was a step in the right direction, but only an openly gay NFL player will make the kind of impact needed to truly challenge prejudice in American sports.

AP Images/David Drapkin

Jason Collins would never have been mistaken for an NBA player of much consequence.

He has played for six different teams, four in the last five years. He has averaged as many personal fouls per game as points—often more—in seven of his 12 seasons. This past season could have been his last in the league, as his 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game aren’t likely to be in demand on the free-agent market.

In his first person essay in Sports Illustrated, Collins even ridiculed his own unremarkable career, writing, “I take charges and I foul—that’s been my forte. … I enter the court knowing I have six hard fouls to give.”

Are Gay Guys Checking You Out in the Locker Room?

AP Photo/Eric Gay

As the first active member of one of the major sports leagues to come out as gay, NBA player Jason Collins’s announcement yesterday has generated praise from gay-rights supporters.  Predictably, it has also prompted dire warnings about gays in the locker room from homophobes like the Family Research Council’s Brian Fischer:

I will guarantee you ... if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back, or thinking about trading for him, and they go to the players on that team and they say 'How do you feel about an out active homosexual being in the same locker room, sharing the same shower facilities with you?' they'll say no way. I don't want that. I do not want some guy, a teammate, eyeballing me in the shower. 

Coming Out of the Locker Room

There are hints we might soon see the first openly gay major league sports player. But are the fans ready?

AP Photo/Matt York

It was in the locker room and on the field where Wade Davis felt most at peace with himself, which doesn’t sound unusual until he tells you that he was then a closeted gay man. “Sports was, for me, the safest place,” says Davis, an NFL and NFL Europe player from 2000 to 2004. Davis used football as a sanctuary from the rigid social hierarchy of middle and high school. Away from the game, away from his teammates, he struggled to focus on anything other than his inner turmoil and whether it was evident to his fellow classmates. To conceal his sexuality, he wore baggy pants and talked “with a twang.” “Anything to make people feel as if I was like everyone else,” says Davis, who finally revealed he was gay in January 2012.

Football, Body and Mind

A sportswriter looks back on his history with America's favorite pastime.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker RayLewis, top, will end his career after Sunday's Super Bowl. (AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance)

A sportswriter looks back on his history with America's favorite pastime.

Homophobia in Sports and Changing Hearts

49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, celebrating his newfound respect for gay people. (AP photo by Paul Spinelli)

Almost all of us, at some time in our youth, had the experience of saying something that turned out to be way more inappropriate than we thought it was, whereupon people turned to us and said, "Dude. Not cool." In most cases, it concerned something we just hadn't thought that much about, and it often occurs when you move from one milieu to another with different mores and ideas, like going from high school to college. Or existing in a world of football players and suddenly finding yourself quoted in the media on a sociopolitical topic because your team is in the Super Bowl, which is what happened to San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.

When it happens in your dorm room, someone will explain to you why the joke you made or the term you used was out of line, and you'll probably say, "Huh—I hadn't thought about it that way, but OK." And armed with that knowledge, you'll adapt to your new surroundings and the changing times. But Culliver found himself in hot water when he was on a radio program and got asked if there were any gay players on his team. "We don't have any gay guys on the team," he said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff." Culliver was apparently unaware that he plays in San Francisco, and by the next day, his team management had condemned him and forced him to issue a rather amusing apology. "The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," he said. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."

Superbowlistan, Louisiana

A dispatch from New Orleans, home to the Super Bowl for the first time since Hurricane Katrina

Perry Knotts/NFL

Perry Knotts/NFL

A giant football on display in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. 

Austin Loses Its Hometown Hero

AP Photo/Laurent Rebours

For a short time, when I had brief dreams of gaining muscle mass, I was a member at one of Austin’s Lance Armstrong 24 Hour Fitness centers. The seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor was inescapable at the place. Above the check-in table was a gigantic yellow “Livestrong” bracelet, a nod to Armstrong’s beloved foundation that offers support to those with cancer (and did much to market the Armstrong brand). As I used to struggle to lift a few pounds over my head, I stared back at a huge poster of Armstrong, next to his famous quote from a Nike ad: “Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are YOU on?” He seemed to be with me throughout the workout, and when I left, usually sweaty and exhausted, there was yet another Armstrong aphorism plastered near the exit: “I don’t have bad days. I have good days and great days.”

Building a Respect Culture

AP Photo/A.M. Ahad

So much is disturbing about the Steubenville video, released by Anonymous, in which Michael Nodianos makes horrifying jokes about the raped woman, that I can hardly begin. Here’s one: the guy saying “that’s not cool.” Oh, I’m glad he’s saying that rape, and joking about rape, aren’t funny. But “that’s not cool” isn’t enough. If two football players took the body of a drunk and unconscious young woman and used it as a plaything all night, why didn’t someone intervene?

Pages