In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Peter Fiorilla, asks our expert panel three questions: Will Michael Sam’s sexuality be a detriment to an NFL team if he is drafted, what has been the most exciting story out of the Winter Olympics this year, and should the New Jersey Devils consider trading the legendary Martin Brodeur for their push to make the playoffs?
1. Coming out took courage from NFL prospect Michael Sam, but many pundits are saying it will be a distraction for any team that drafts Sam. Could Sam’s sexuality be a distraction like Tim Tebow’s spirituality, and if so, how low in the draft will Sam fall because of it?
Gabe: Michael Sam’s decision to come out shouldn’t be a distraction, but we know it will be because the media will turn it into one. I don’t know that Tim Tebow’s spirituality can really be called a distraction in a country that is made up of as many Christians as the U.S. is. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of very religious players and coaches in the NFL who can probably relate to Tebow better than most players can relate to Michael Sam. Sam shouldn’t fall in the draft because of his decision to come out, but in a sport as violent and macho as football, it’s likely that some general managers who would’ve selected him prior to his coming out may allow the stereotypes about gays being soft to prevail in their minds — consciously or unconsciously — and, in turn, think twice about drafting him anymore.
Matt: If you turned on ESPN anytime during the past week, chances are you were bombarded with news of Michael Sam’s coming out. Michael Sam will be a distraction to an NFL locker room only if the media continues their nonstop coverage of him. Many NFL players have already showed their support for Sam on Twitter. The sentiment around the league is that as long as Sam can help the team win games, his sexuality doesn’t matter. Sam was a first-team All-American and voted the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Based on his stats and on-field production alone, Sam should be a mid-round draft pick. However, a handful of GMs have said they would not draft Sam. I do believe that coming out has hurt Sam’s draft stock. A bunch of rich old men are usually not the most progressive people in the world. In the end, some team will be more than happy to pick Sam in the draft, and they will be getting a terrific football player.
Tom: In the wake of Michael Sam’s bold act of self-definition, officials around the NFL have criticized Sam for ruining what might have been a higher draft pick, let alone a more stable career. Of course they’re right — no one in their right mind would prefer personal integrity or courage when they could be making bank. Why else does the NFL and its meatheaded brigade focus so much on salaries and sponsors? Anything about personal standards is a distraction. Ben Roethlisberger allegedly raped several women, but that No. 1 draft pick was clutch: 90 players have been arrested on DUI charges since 2007. These are our real athletic role models. Supporting the timing of Sam’s announcement or his relationship with a professional team would be mad emasculating, bro. Frankly, his character is just too dignified for a league so rabidly close-minded. Aaron Hernandez was only a fourth round draft pick? I thought he’d kill it.
Tom wins for saying criminals do just fine in the NFL, Gabe gets 2 points for highlighting the NFL’s “macho” culture, and Matt gets 1 point for saying GM’s aren’t progressive.
2. What has been the most exciting story at the Olympics this year?
Gabe: The most exciting thing at the Sochi Olympics has easily been men’s hockey. With so many evenly matched and talented teams, the level of hockey has been something else. Also, the United States pulled out an impressive shootout win against the hosting Russians on Saturday, and they’re looking at a potential semifinal matchup with Canada on Friday, which will be must-see TV. Hockey is also even more exciting this year because there’s a distinct possibility that this is the last Olympics for a while in which NHL players actually compete.
Matt: From an American standpoint, I think Lolo Jones has to be the most exciting part of the Sochi Olympics. Jones was one of the most popular athletes in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but after failing to medal in London, Jones decided to try her hand at bobsled. After months of hard work, Jones worked her way onto the Olympic team. She beat out women who worked their whole lives to get on that team, and Jones made it in less than four years. You have to respect her dedication and athleticism. To make it to the Olympics in two different sports is almost unheard of. In fact, Jones is only the 17th athlete to ever compete in both the winter and summer games since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It will be very interesting to see if Jones can finally get that medal.
Tom: Bobsledding. Definitely not the sport, though. U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn had to knock down the bathroom door to his Sochi hotel when he found himself trapped inside. The door, which appeared to have been jammed, was actually body-blocked by Vladimir Putin himself, attempting to prevent an American victory and destroy their international open-door policy. The KGB also refused to answer Quinn’s pleas to the surveillance camera installed in his shower head. Out of options, the bobsledder used his push training to punch a hole straight through the framework. But when Quinn discovered what lie outside his bathroom — an underdeveloped Russian wasteland of forged democracy, bigotry and no more Smirnoff — he calmly climbed back through the hole and remained inside until the Olympics were over.
Tom wins for Quinn’s bizarre but funny story, Gabe gets 2 points for mentioning the Americans’ hockey win, and Matt gets 1 point for highlighting Lolo Jones.
3. It’s been another dysfunctional season for the New Jersey Devils, whose goaltender controversy might end up with legend Martin Brodeur being traded. Should the Devils dump the iconic Brodeur, and will they be able to fix their issues in time to make the playoffs?
Gabe: Brodeur has already said it wouldn’t shock him if he does end up being traded. If they do decide to trade the man, myth and legend of Devils hockey, it will likely be in a deal that helps the Devils’ cap situation. The Devils are only a few points out of the final playoff spot right now, and less than 10 points separate them from Montreal, who are currently in fourth in the East, but given the fact that there are four other teams in the same boat as the Devils on the outside looking in, trying to claw their way into the playoff picture, at best I give the Devils a 25 percent shot of making it if they keep Brodeur.
Matt: The New Jersey Devils should absolutely trade Martin Brodeur. Yes, he will go down as perhaps the best goaltender of all time, but he is a liability to the Devils. At the 2013 NHL draft, the Devils traded for Cory Schneider, an up-and-coming goalie with incredible potential. This season, Schneider ranks in the top-10 in save percentage and goals against average among all NHL goalies. Meanwhile, Brodeur currently has a less-than-stellar .899 save percentage. The Devils coaching staff continues to give Brodeur starts, even though it is clear Schneider is better suited to help this team reach the playoffs. The Devils should see the opportunity to trade Brodeur as a gift. They could trade Brodeur to a team in playoff contention that needs goalie depth and give Brodeur a chance at winning one last Stanley Cup. In return, the Devils could look to get scoring help, which they desperately need in order to make a playoff push, as they are 27th in the league for goals scored per game. The Devils are only three points out of a wild card spot, and trading Brodeur would be a step in the right direction to reaching that goal.
Tom: Brodeur’s on thin ice. If he chooses to continue his career past this season, it’ll be a slippery slope down to mediocrity on a team like the Minnesota Wild, thereafter appearing on their notoriously raunchy home video series “Goalies Gone Wild.” It would be a disgrace to breakaway from the Devils and destroy the legacy. Instead of slipping out the backdoor (or the area Brodeur forgets to protect during the games), Brodeur should cushion his fall in ability by retiring after the season and allowing the younger rink and file of the team take over.