Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Identity Politics Infect NASCAR and the NFL

The biggest story in sports right now before the beginning of Speedweeks at Daytona, and less than two weeks after the Superbowl, is Michael Sam, a defensive lineman looking to enter the NFL Draft. he said in an interview earlier this week that he is homosexual, and it's naturally set off a wave of congradulatory messages from Barack Obama (though Sam's father was naturally troubled by the news) to Robert Kraft, who stated he'd like the Patriots to draft Sam if he can help them win. Sam led the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19).    Some scouting reports, though, paint him as basically a one-trick pony, who struggled at the Senior Bowl against more-NFL-caliber tackles.  

Therein lay what I suspect is the real reason why Sam is making being homosexual an issue.

The standard line "His orientation doesn't matter" has been trucked out to defend him, but the fact he is the one bringing being gay into the discussion indicates it does matter; it paints him as someone to whom being gay is more important than being a football player, and the NFL has already had to deal with a strikingly similar issue in Jonathan Martin, to whom being weaker and whinier than his teammates was more important than football.   When some quotes attributed to unnamed NFL GMs were published, NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith reacted angrilly (calling them "gutless"), an illustration of the utter dishonesty that exists in discussing such issues.

The blunt truth that no one dares state is Sam's lifestyle is wrong.   Homosexuality has no biological reason to exist, and the constant assertions that "you don't choose to be gay" will never ring true no matter what junk science is cited in its defense.    Here is the hypocrisy at work - if Sam had stated that he is a smoker, he would be criticized in the media for it; that homosexuality is not a healthier alternative is ignored because as Michael Graham once wrote, it "doesn't feel right" to criticize on that score.   We tell smokers, "Change."   Why not also say that to gays?  Because it "doesn't feel right?"

What Sam is doing here is laying down a gauntlet - he's telling the league "You have an obligation to draft me because I am gay."   In short, his lifestyle is his entitlement to be drafted into the NFL.   And it is implicit in the varied media coverage of this whole issue - one hazards to find negative coverage of Sam anywhere; the premise in all coverage now is that he should be drafted by the fact of him saying he's gay.


The entitlement mentality that is identity politics is also at work in criticisms of Richard Petty for comments belittling Danica Patrick's racing ability - she would win only if "everybody else stayed home."   Petty also noted "If she were a male, nobody would ever know if she showed up at a racetrack."

Having followed racing and thus had to witness Patrick's career, it is impossible to see where Richard Petty is saying anything particularly inaccurate.   In 226 combined NASCAR, ARCA, and Indycar races she has led a shade over 200 total laps entering 2014 and posted just eight top five finishes.   Her one win in Indycars was a split-squad race against a truncated field won on fuel mileage at Motegi.   And she's done this with quality racecars - Rahal Racing, Andretti Autosport, Hendrick/Stewart, etc.   She has gotten a lot to work with and done very little with it.

The blunt truth here again is the fact of her identity - being a woman is her credential to race.   And it's even more blatant with Danica - she famously posed for soft-porn photography to promote herself before joining Indycar. 

Yet if that is stated, the one making the statement is treated as the enemy.   Such is what identity politics entails - suppression of truth.    There's nothing about being gay that's to be proud of, yet Michael Sam clearly is more proud of that than of football; being a woman remains Danica Patrick's credential to race, despite nearly ten years proving she's not entitled to anything.

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