Late Saturday afternoon, I was typing away about the Clear Creek Wildcats’ baseball playoff victory with, as is usually the case when I work from home, ESPN on the TV to serve as background noise.
Filling the void of silence for me on Saturday was the final rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
In addition to the excitement of adding promising new players to the home team, one of my favorite parts of watching drafts is to see the emotion and jubilation that emanates from the prospects’ big moments as their young lives are forever changed.
For this year’s NFL Draft, I did not get a chance to see these moments in Thursday’s first round, as I was in Manvel covering Game 1 of the Creek playoff series.
And, of course, rare is the occasion when these instants are captured on camera for young men who are picked later in the draft.
On Saturday, luckily, an exception was made for Hitchcock’s Michael Sam. I paused from my furious typing to watch Sam’s reaction to the phone call that he waited for while 248 players received it before him, and I couldn’t help but smile. It was a classic warm and fuzzy, happy moment.
Sam reacted as anyone who just received the opportunity of a lifetime after years of hard work would — with high levels of joy followed by celebration. The emotion of Sam’s moment was amplified by the now well-known and unprecedented circumstances he had gone through to get there.
When Sam kissed his partner on multiple occasions during the festivities, I didn’t think much of it. After all, that is kind of par for the course during a celebration of something with the magnitude of being drafted into the NFL.
But, because Sam’s loved one in question happened to be another man, the moment sparked strong reactions instantly on social media as well as discussions and debates on virtually every sports talk show Monday.
While Sam’s public display of affection made some people uncomfortable, and while there will still be discrimination of his sexual orientation by many, the overall response to Sam appears to have been mostly positive.
The mere fact that a majority of people seem to be supportive of Sam is quite encouraging, and you can count me among that majority who respectfully disagrees with the notion there is anything wrong with Sam just because he is who he is.
I hope that our county is by and large proud of Sam, as well. Putting his sexual orientation aside, it’s not like having a local kid get a shot to play in the NFL is a common occurrence.
Of the 256 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, only Sam and Galveston’s Mike Evans had ties to the county. In speaking with Craig Smith, Sam’s former coach at Hitchcock, Sam has a chance to be just the second former Bulldog to play in the NFL — the other being wide receiver Randy Hymes, who played for the Baltimore Ravens from 2002 to 2006 after going undrafted out of Grambling State.
The city of Galveston and Galveston ISD declared the day after Evans was drafted in the first round as Mike Evans Day.
Recent correspondence with Hitchcock ISD and the Hitchcock Chamber of Commerce indicates a similar distinction for Sam is on the table — as it should be.
After all, Sam should be celebrated like any other local sports star that just went pro.