The Nation's Pulse

Olbermann Wannabes at Play

Jackals of the sports press abuse a decent man.

By 7.24.14

Jeffrey Beall (Creative Commons)
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Once again Tony Dungy demonstrates why many consider him the classiest and most thoroughly decent man in professional sport. And the national sports press demonstrates again that it is mostly a pack of mindless, left-ideology-besotted jackals with no more principles, restraint, or sense of proportion than their news-side brethren (and sistren). Perhaps less.

The latest obsession of the sport media, though by no means an obsession of American sports fans, is St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam, who is the first openly gay player in the NFL, and therefore a cultural hero to the mainstream media and other poobahs of the cultural cognoscenti. A large scrum of reporters is trailing Sam and reporting his every action, thought, and move. They’re also acting as a kind of Inquisition, outing and punishing those who do not celebrate Sam’s arrival with unalloyed joy and in exactly the language that the homosexual political movement and the Left’s cultural police demand of us all. 

Dungy got crosswise with these jockstrap Torquemadas for having the audacity to make a reasonable rather than a celebratory statement about young Sam and his arrival in the NFL. The Dungy statements that propelled the Keith Olbermann wannabes into high dudgeon and acute sanctimony took place weeks ago in response to a journalist’s question. Thanks to the fertilizer storm that followed, Dungy, a highly respected former NFL coach and currently an NBC football analyst, was obliged to issue a clarifying statement this week. Let’s listen in:

On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.

I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does. I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not. I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way — by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.

The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play. That’s my opinion as a coach. But those were not the questions I was asked.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization. I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately, we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.

I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field. My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.

The hordes of journalists following Sam about and bloviating about him endlessly have confirmed Dungy’s assertion that the media circus around Sam is a distraction (to put it charitably). It’s a wonder Sam or any of his Ram teammates can get in their practice reps without tripping over journalists. And how depraved a mind, disabled of reason, it would take to find the merest trace of anti-homosexual animus in any of Dungy’s remarks.

But sports journalists and the usual indignation groups have charged and convicted Dungy of bigotry on the basis of his reasonable but “not-quite-with-it” remarks. Here’s how Tampa Tribune sportswriter Ira Kaufman began his story appearing in Wednesday’s Trib (on page one, not in the sports section — at least the Trib had the grace to place the story below the fold):

“In response to a firestorm over his remarks about Michael Sam, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach…”

Huh? Firestorm? What firestorm? The only firestorm surrounding Dungy’s remarks, or anyone else’s take on Michael Sam, is among febrile journalists and movement groups whose main functions are raising money and stirring up resentment. Geez, take 10 deep breaths, Ira, and go back to the sports pages and the games where you can be of use.

From the same Kaufman story we learn that “Dungy caused a stir in 2007” when he accepted the “Friend of Family” award from the Indiana Family Institute. The institute’s crime, and what caused the “stir,” was that it supported an amendment to the Indiana Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman, an amendment like numerous states, including Florida where I live, have adopted. Accepting that award Dungy said, “We’re not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we’re trying to promote the family — family values the Lord’s way.”

Well, you can see why journalists and other left purists got cross with Tony. The nerve of this guy to support the arrangement that almost everyone on the planet thought was the proper one. Proper, that is, until leftists came up with a better idea a couple of decades back and decreed that anyone who didn’t just accept but celebrate this brave new world should be cast into outer darkness.

The execrable Olbermann, the choice of many for the “Worst Person in the Sports World” award, predictably joined in the excess and declared the highly regarded Dungy the Day’s Worst Person in the Sports World. As the trading deadline is yet to pass, let me say that I’d give anyone Keith Olbermann, Bob Costas, Ira Kaufman, and a dozen number one draft picks for Tony Dungy. I’ll take Sam too, if it turns out he can tackle. But no journalists on my field. (Sam at least had the grace to say he respects Dungy. This circus is not his fault.)

I hang out with a lot of sportsaholics, and I’ve not heard a single one of them complain about, or comment in any way, about Sam’s sexual inclinations. Like me, they wonder if Sam can tackle. They don’t care what he gets up to at night. Overwhelmingly America’s sports fans care about the games, and what the players do on the field. Unlike the modern sports journalists, they are not obsessed with players’ personal lives, or with their politics.

When Jack McKeon managed the 2003 Miami Marlins to a world championship, he became, at just shy of 73, the oldest manager to win a World Series. A youngish sportswriter asked Jack how it felt to be the oldest championship manager. Jack replied (I quote from memory): “Son, I’ve been around so long, I remember preparation A.”

I can’t top that. And Jack has a few years on me. But I can say I easily remember when sportswriters wrote about the games. And I wish to hell they’d get back to it.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.