Mac Engel

February 10, 2014

Cases of Smart, Sam prove our ignorance

Sports does a lot of wonderful things — up to and including exposing our ignorance.

Many of America’s favorite pastimes hit the sports world over the weekend: rush to judgment, overreaction, homophobia and racism. Sporting events also were played, but who cares when you have the Four Tenors singing so harmoniously?

We assumed Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was the victim of a racial slur, or why else would he go after that Texas Tech fan? That was immediately inferred, and “reported,” when The Google Machine blew up with overreaction.

The Tech fan denied he made any racial comments, but no one from Smart to his head coach would address what was said. If it was racial, it does change things, but in no way justifies Smart’s actions. You can’t put your hands on a fan, regardless of how stupid he is.

So the Tech fan is a dummy.

The Internet fans, and many of my media brethren, who rushed to jail the Tech fan, don’t get a pass on the dumb tank.

Marcus Smart acted foolishly, but since he is just a “college kid,” he gets a pass. Youth is our last, automatic excuse.

But the gold medal winners in these Stupid Olympics are the NFL scouts and executives who admitted they would not draft Missouri defensive end Michael Sam because he is gay.

Smart must have been thrilled when, on Sunday night, Sam stole every single headline when he told The New York Times he was gay.

Who are the baseball GMs who passed on Jackie Robinson because he was black? The dumb ones.

Even before his announcement, Sam, who was an All-American in the SEC, was not rated as a first-round pick. A handful of those draft guessers had him going in the second or third round. Then he made his announcement, and all he did was drop.

Former Dallas Cowboys chief scout Gil Brandt tweeted: “Michael Sam was not in my top 100 sr #NFL prospects. Player w/out position. Can’t play in space, not big enough to play w/hand on ground.”

Several anonymous NFL executives told Sports Illustrated they would not draft Sam because he said he is gay. Not because they care about his orientation but what it might do to the delicate balance of an NFL locker room and the hassle the story will create.

An NFL locker room may comprise law-breakers, rule-breakers and morons, but at least it’s not gay.

When Sam appears next week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, this will be a massive story. When he is drafted, it will be a massive story. (If he is not drafted, there will be talk of lawsuits.)

When he appears at his team’s rookie minicamp the week after the draft, it will be a massive story.

Every outlet from People to Time to Ellen to Pravda will want to talk about the hope of gay America. NFL executives, coaches and players may love the money generated by media coverage, but they sure hate the hassle. The Sam story will be a hassle, at least for a little while.

The bigger hassle will be if he can’t play. If he’s Just a Guy. If he’s another wasted draft pick.

Because Sam has already demonstrated it’s not about his orientation. He told his coaches and his teammates at Missouri before the start of the 2013 season. It was such a problem that Mizzou reached the SEC title game, won the Cotton Bowl and finished fifth in the final rankings.

Sam’s announcement is a big deal, but what so many of those older dudes who evaluate football players don’t realize is that most people of Sam’s generation and younger simply don’t care. Being gay is no big deal.

Only the deliberately ignorant pick and choose the passages from the Bible to fit their beliefs and fail to recognize no one has done more damage to the institution of marriage than heterosexuals.

The common thread between Smart and Sam? Ignorance.

Both stories revealed how many strides as a society we have made and the appalling amount of ignorance that will forever exist when fear is involved.

All of this education, love and evolution and we collectively remain mind-numbingly stupid, present company included.

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