I have some really good friends who grew up in Missouri, and one of them in particular is a massive Mizzou sports fan. His passion is beyond impressive, and he’s an insanely infectious personality, the type of guy who can talk pretty much anyone into seeing his way on anything.
But no matter how hard he’s tried over the past 10 years to bring me aboard the Mizzou football bandwagon, knowing that as a USF grad I had no real football allegiance, it never quite stuck.
Now it has, and it has less to do with Michael Sam than it does what the rest of the Mizzou football team — and the rest of the student body — did for Michael Sam.
They all knew Sam’s “secret.” They knew it for MONTHS. And yet in this unbelievably exposed age of electronic awareness, they kept the secret. They respected the man’s privacy. They respected the man, period.
A cynic would say they respected his football ability. That’s why they kept the secret. They didn’t want their fine team to face the distractions they knew would come were Sam outed. And perhaps there’s a little truth to that as applied to a few Mizzou players and fans.
But the cynics lose some steam when you consider that every university has a ton of faculty members and students who absolutely despise athletics in general and football in particular. They chafe at the perceived preferential treatment, the attention, the glorification.
Yet they all kept Sam’s secret, too. They certainly didn’t do it because he can get to the quarterback. They did it because they knew or had heard that Sam is a good guy, a decent and respectable kid. So they decided to be decent and respectful themselves.
Imagine that. Thousands of college-age kids showing that kind of collective perspective and maturity? The very people who are supposed to be in the prime life-lesson-learning years, teaching life lessons themselves as a whole.
If only the NFL’s anonymous bigots had their eyes open wide enough to see it.
WAR OF WORDS: The Warriors’ Mark Jackson is not the perfect coach. A good coach, yes. But a flawed coach to be sure, and we saw one of those flaws on full display in the ridiculous recent Andrew Bogut brouhaha. But let’s not throw the broccoli out with that nasty green water under the steamer. This is all easily explained and should be just as easily dismissed.
It’s called hubris, and granted, it’s pretty unsightly when exposed in a man we know to be of significant faith. Pastors aren’t supposed to do hubris. Then again, not many pastors are former NBA stars who had terrific, high-profile broadcasting careers before taking over an NBA team and leading a dramatic turnaround that created an exciting national narrative.
It would take a true deity to handle that type of success and not occasionally succumb to a little extreme pride, which is all Jackson did in claiming the media twisted his words regarding the mysterious nature of Bogut’s injury.
Look, the guy grew up in — and played college and NBA ball in — New York, a market in which there’s a gotcha vibe to the media like no other. So he’s a little conditioned to that, no matter how deconditioned you’d think he’d be after a couple years of dealing with the relatively tame Bay Area-Warriors media. And Mark loves him some Mark, pastor or not.
Throw in a little heat, which Jackson has certainly faced in the wake of the Warriors’ ho-hum half-season, and the mostly unspoken element in all of this, which is Bogut’s understandable insecurity when it comes to injuries, and you get what we got Monday and Tuesday.
Jackson said something he’d like to take back, Bogut got a tad testy, and the media got blamed. Then the media reported on getting blamed. Then the rest of the media chimed in. Including me! Good lord, is the All-Star break coming at a good time.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Mark JacksonMichael SamMissouriMychael Urban