COLUMNS

Spin city

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

When you're an analyst, you are paid to give your personal opinions on various topics within your field of expertise.

It's your job to speak from the heart; it's your job to be opinionated. It is not your job to make sure everyone else agrees with your viewpoint.

Maybe it's time for this job description to change. As shown in last week's Tony Dungy controversy, these days, if your opinion goes against popular consensus, you quickly become public enemy No. 1.

But we should be used to that by now. This is the day and age where people love freedom of speech...until someone uses it to say something they don't like.

At that point, they don't want to respecfully disagree; they want blood. They want your job. They want you publicly shamed. They want you tarred and feathered in the town square.

In just one day, Dungy went from being considered one of the most beloved, admired and well-respected humanitarians in the NFL to an alleged homophobic bigot that wants all gay people banned from the league and placed in special prison camps.

It all began when Dungy was asked to do his job as an analyst and answer one simple question: if you were an NFL GM, would you have drafted openly-gay Michael Sam?

Dungy said no, stating that it would be a big distraction. He went on to say, "I wouldn't have taken him. Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it."

Instantly, the spinsters and sensationalists made it all about Sam's sexuality rather than what Dungy's comments were really about: excessive media exposure.

They instantly drew the conclusion that Dungy wouldn't want a gay player in his locker room.

In actuality, he never attacked Sam personally, nor did he say anything detrimental about homosexuality or gay rights. He simply said that he wouldn't have drafted Sam because of the distractions that would ensue.

Anyone out there that says Sam doesn't bring these distractions is either in overwhelming denial, or they have their heads 16 feet below the sand.

Ever since he came out, he has been a lightning rod for media attention. They have swarmed him at every turn.

Even though he was just a late-round draft projection, he was the main attraction at the NFL Combine. Hundreds of media members saturated the room hanging on every word that he uttered as the barrage of cameras rolled.

To my memory, no seventh-round pick has ever received this much attention.

And this media circus, it's not in town for the week. This is how it's going to be for a long time.

Wherever Sam goes, they will go. Even though he probably won't sniff a starting spot, his teammates and coaches will constantly be asked about him anyway.

When you draft him, you invite that circus into your town and know that it's there for the long-haul.

Here is the robust elephant in the room that people are refusing to acknowledge. If Sam was highly-graded and projected as a first or second-rounder, do you think Dungy would still say he wouldn't have drafted Sam because of distractions?

Once again, if your answer is yes, you're in massive denial, or you've borrowed your head four feet deeper into the sand.

If a player has supreme talent, you take your chances--whether that player has some off-the-field issues or as in Sam's case, he has a battalion of media members following him around each day.

But when you're just a seventh-round pick that many draft experts don't think will translate to the NFL and 31 other teams are passing, then it makes sense to also pass because of the guaranteed distractions that come along with the selection.

Dungy tried to explain this. He let out a statement saying, "I was not asked whether I have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not. I do not believe Michael's sexual orientation will be a distraction on his teammates or his organization. I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction."

Nothing changed. People scoffed at this statement and said he was "back-tracking."

They didn't want to hear it; their minds were already set. To them, Dungy had already declared that there is no room in the NFL for gay people.

Now, the man that was always admired for his humility and character is suddenly a vile, ignorant villain that needs to be pulled off of TV immediately.

Of course, the people that have attacked Dungy have called him a "hypocrite" because of his involvement with Michael Vick in 2007--even though the situations are totally different.

At that time, Dungy was still a coach. He had a personal relationship with Vick--which he does not have with Sam--and took Vick under his wing, mentored him and helped him get his life back on track.

With that kind of personal father/son type of bond, of course he wanted a team to give Vick a second chance.

I'm sure if he was an analyst at the time and had no personal ties to Vick, he would have looked at him the same way he looked at Sam: a player equipped with distractions that dwarf his ability level.