Sometimes it's best to back off a bit.
On the heels of a press release announcing that the Oprah Winfrey Network was to produce a reality series following St Louis Rams rookie Michael Sam as he tries to make the team as the leagues first "Openly Gay" player, that series has been put on hold.
The network announced Friday night they shelved the series after reaction to it was a bit less positive than they were expecting.
Sam, a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year, who's exploits have now been well chronicled since announcing this winter he was gay and was going to try and play in the NFL has garnered an immense amount of publicity during the buildup to last weeks draft.
He was chosen in the 7th round by the St. Louis Rams a selection hailed by most but questioned by some who say he either should have been picked higher if he hadn't "Come Out" or that he shouldn't have been picked at all because of it.
We say he...or his advisors are at least somewhat self-aware. And that's a good thing.
After covering the NFL over the past 20-years, one thing we can say is most of the players in the league don't care about his personal life so much. They want to know essentially one thing--Can you help us win? If you can, you are good. Period.
One thing they don't want is a circus around someone who hasn't played a down, someone they don't know that well and don't know what to expect from. And "beginning" your career with a reality show is NOT a good way to get acquainted with your teammates. The impression given: You are exploiting your situation to make a buck instead of proving you belong.
Without going on and on, we fully believe that Sam will ultimately be judged by his performance on the field, despite what the "News" media says. If he can make plays and contribute, he will make the team. Period. If he's a liability, he won't.
The Rams and other teams are leery of situations like what happened with Tim Tebow. Someone who came with tons of hype...and thanks in large part to ESPN, essentially a traveling circus. NFL teams don't want that. They are willing to put up with some of it if you can perform at an exceptional level, but that's the exception, not the rule. Right, wrong or otherwise, the NFL is and always will be a "Put-Up" or "Shut-Up" league. They don't want 10-cameras following the every move of a low-round draft pick. Players won't stand for it.
If Sam makes the team and has some success, we are very happy for him. It means he put in some hard work and earned his way on the team through effort and success, not because there were cameras everywhere he went. And if he puts in that kind of effort, he should be rewarded in whatever way he, his teammates and his team sees fit.
Just our 2-cents...
The guys from ESPN's NFL Live speak well to this issue: