While Tuesday's Washington Post covered ESPN's elaborate planning to broadcast "a kiss that rocked the sports world" -- after openly gay Michael Sam was drafted, and they don't mean the later cake-shoving kiss that seemed a little scarier given Sam's size -- the debate over the kiss submerged the flagrant liberal editorializing that ESPN aired a few minutes before the Rams selected Sam with the 249th pick.
ESPN reporter Chris Connelly (formerly with MTV) uncorked pre-emptive anger, that if Sam went undrafted, the verdict of "history" (read: liberals) "will be derisive laughter, aimed at a league thus deemed by many to be unworthy of its place in contemporary society." Connelly attacked "tired old" prejudice and praised Sam for "weeding out the hopelessly hidebound" teams of the NFL.
With his voice soaring over supportive piano music, Connelly discussed how Sam's coming out of the closet was followed by Jason Collins declaring he was gay and ready for the NBA, and inspired University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon to come out as well. He noted Sam was praised on Twitter by President Obama. But hateful conservatives still lingered:
Yet even against that backdrop, the tired old objections of previous eras, often offered anonymously, have been raised against his NFL future...Negativity often comes via code words. There’s talk of distractions or handling the media coverage. "If any NFL team ‘can’t handle the media coverage,’" tweeted Donte Stallworth, "your team is already a loser." [Putting drunk-driving pedestrian killer Donte Stallworth in the moralist's seat was an interesting choice.]
Did Jason Collins roil the Nets locker room? Did the L.A. Galaxy freak out because Robbie Rogers was on the team? Others have speculated that Sam’s announcement hurt his draft status. How could it? Sam says that NFL scouts already knew he was gay. Instead, by coming out before the draft, Sam has weeded out any hopelessly hidebound franchises that somehow feel that a gay player would make their team or their fans faint from the shock.
If 32 franchises fumble this moment, as some still predict that they will, history’s judgment just won’t be sorrow. It will be derisive laughter, aimed at a league thus deemed by many to be unworthy of its place in contemporary society. Michael Sam has met his challenge.What will the NFL do? The only answer that matters is just hours away.
It was actually just minutes (and a few draft picks) away. The Chris Connelly video titled "Michael Sam's Impact" (which may be this editorial) can no longer be seen online. Is it possible they wanted to spare the NFL a lecture after "history" was made?
In The Washington Post, media reporter Paul Farhi described how the ESPN producers were delighted to capture this "great, emotional" moment and "It's a shame" that anyone would object. ESPN producer Seth Markman ludicrously declared that even as they were oozing all ovcer this "historic," "landmark" moment, producers weren't making a "social and political decision."
And at that moment [that Sam was drafted], ESPN’s producers in New York lost the live feed from California, where its crew was with Sam. A thunderstorm near network headquarters in Bristol, Conn., knocked out a relay of the California feed from Bristol to Manhattan.
Fortunately, the ESPN crew in California caught the emotional celebration on tape and fed a recording back to the network’s draft-production truck outside Radio City Music Hall in New York. ESPN’s producer in California, Maura Mandt, told Markman, “It’s great! It’s emotional!”
Which is exactly what Markman said he saw when he saw the feed. “Honestly, when it was coming in, we have a very young production crew here, everyone in the [production] truck thought, ‘How great is this!’ No one was speaking up saying, ‘We shouldn’t show this.’ The reaction was, this is no different than a heterosexual guy kissing his girlfriend. It’s emotional, and let’s show it. It was only afterward that we realized we showed a man kissing a man. And we thought, ‘Well, that’s different.’ ”
Another apparent first: As part of its coverage, the network also featured reaction from a draft party at a gay bar, Gym Sportsbar, in West Hollywood.
After the kiss had aired and the negative Twitter reaction started rolling in, Markman says, the network realized it had touched a nerve.
“It’s a shame,” he says. “Our job is to document the draft. It’s a news event, and we’re covering the news. As producers we don’t make social and political decisions. I’m glad we’re talking about this [the decision to show the kiss] than talking about why we decided to cut out of that shot or not have the shot at all.”