by Kent Sterling
Honesty can be a lot of things – funny, terrifying, validating, misery inducing, and touching among them. When I read the quotes attributed to Michael Sam’s dad about his son’s recent public comments about his sexual preference, I immediately laughed, and then tried to imagine what Sam felt.
Funny how empathy ruins a good laugh.
According to the New York Times, Michael Sam Sr. was celebrating his birthday by enjoying a dinner at Denny’s when the text from his son came, “Dad, I’m gay.”
“I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” Sam Sr. said “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment. I’m old-school. I’m a man and a woman type of guy.” He then guessed that Deacon Jones, the recently deceased former L.A. Rams defensive end, “is turning over in his grave.”
Back in the day, adults could say that kind of thing and people would nod and laugh. Archie Bunker made Sam’s dad seem enlightened, and “All in the Family” was the #1 TV show in America for most of the 1970s.
Forty-years later, we understand a little bit better that the decision for a son to come out to his father is torturous because of the possibility he’ll react exactly as Sam Sr. did.
Back in the day, people with secrets lived in the shadows because parents didn’t cloak their disappointment – just as Sam Sr. didn’t. Sam Jr. made the difficult decision to embrace himself as he is despite what his dad and others might think. Granted, the choice to text his message probably wasn’t the ballsiest call of his week, but given his dad’s response to THE NEW YORK F***ING TIMES, I think we can agree to give him a pass there.
By the way, when the voice on the other end of the phone greets you with, “Hello, this is (self-impressed reporter’s name here) from the New York Times,” you give them the best version of yourself because what you say is likely to appear in the NEW YORK F***ING TIMES.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Sam Sr. was so clever that he knew if he came off as a neanderthal, his son would be seen as honest, brave, and able to overcome the hardship of dealing with a less than enlightened father?
That seems unlikely as the clever rarely if ever dine at Denny’s – unless that was part of the well-crafted ruse, which would ensure Sam Sr. a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of conmen – so we will just hope for the best as Sam Jr. navigates the terrain at the NFL Combine and waits to hear his name called during the NFL Draft.
It would be nice if during Sam Sr.’s next Grand Slam Breakfast that he realizes his son told a truth that could penalize him to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and cost him the pride if not love of his father. There is a lot to be proud of there.