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updated: 2/23/2014 6:48 PM

Collins joining Nets won't take focus off of Sam

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  • Jason Collins has signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and is the first active openly gay player in the NBA.

      Jason Collins has signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and is the first active openly gay player in the NBA.
    Associated Press

 
 

Just like that the movement of openly gay men in North American team sports is over.

Or is it?

Probably not with Michael Sam's story still is in the process of being written in the NFL.

Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and became the first openly gay man in the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL.

The NBA beat the NFL to the breakthrough. How ironic that it occurred Sunday as the Winter Olympics wound down in Sochi.

Much was made the past two weeks of anti-gay legislation being passed recently in Russia.

The irony? Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Nets. Man, do I ever love this country.

As the Collins news broke, Michael Sam was preparing to work out Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Sam was trying to impress teams enough to be drafted into the league this spring on the way to playing in a regular-season game this autumn.

If he succeeds, Sam will be the first openly gay man to reach the United States' premier sports league.

So does Collins' signing cancel the circus that was expected to surround Sam's pursuit of a pro football career?

No, not likely.

It's one thing for Collins, a 35-year-old center, to be completing his 12-year NBA career. It's something altogether different for Sam to be beginning his NFL career.

In United States sports, little happens until it happens in the NFL.

Collins can stay with the Nets well beyond his 10-day contract, perhaps even the rest of the season and then the playoffs.

Every story that can be written will have been written again and again and again in every town the Nets visit.

Then those stories will be written again and again and again about Sam on draft day, on the day he signs a contract with a team, on his first day of training camp, on the day of his first exhibition game, on cutdown days that he either survives or is released, and finally if he becomes the first openly gay man to play in an NFL regular-season game.

So much is written and spoken about the NFL -- seemingly to comply with federal law -- that journalists aren't about to let a story like Sam slip away quietly.

Let Jason Collins be the first openly gay man in the NBA. His experience will be like a garage band opening for Springsteen compared to Michael Sam entering the NFL mix.

Pressure and eyes will be on Sam on all of the NFL's important dates, just as it was over the weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The plot will be used until it's used up and fans are so tired of it that it turns them away. Not yet, though.

Americans still are taking sides … in favor of Sam, Collins and other gays receiving an opportunity to pursue their dreams … and against gays in locker rooms.

After one recent column applauding Sam for coming out, a reader emailed me with a passage from his bible. He wrote, "I believe that in order for a nation to be at peace, well-governed and prosperous, it must follow the principles found in the Bible."

Judging by surveys in this country, there is another view and another interpretation.

As long as a difference of opinion rages, story angles will continue to be developed pertaining to Jason Collins, Michael Sam and whoever the next athlete is to come out … maybe even an active superstar in a league.

Eventually everyone will move on to a new social issue of interest.

Some day it'll happen with hardly anyone noticing.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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