February 12, 2014

Norman Arey: Will Sam’s draft stock rise or fall?

I’ll admit to being absolutely stymied while trying to decide which startling news development in sports I should share with you on this day.

I could go with the Oklahoma State University basketball player who actually pushed a fan in the stands — or we could consider how Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam’s declaration that he is gay will impact his NFL draft status. I know you’re keenly interested in both, but let’s go with the Michael Sam item.

Sam is a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end who played at the University of Missouri and earned the SEC honor this past season as a senior. Before declaring that he is homosexual and becoming a test case for the pro football establishment, Sam was projected to go anywhere between the third and sixth round in the draft.

Now everybody and his brother have been asked about how he’ll be accepted in the NFL.

Most of the brave NFL team executives stepped right up and refused to comment unless it would be treated anonymously. The standard reply was that Sam’s performance and talent would be the deciding factor — not his sexual orientation.

Ha! Take a look at Jason Collins of the NBA. Last year, after the pro basketball regular season concluded, Collins made the announcement that he is gay.

Collins has not been signed to a contract by any NBA team. Of course they’ll claim his talent was waning (and that’s partially true), but are you telling me not one of 30 teams could use a former first-round draft choice who is 7 feet tall?

I don’t care one whit about Sam’s sexual preferences, but I will follow him through his pursuits and see if he ends up unemployed as Collins did — or even worse, if he is drafted because he is gay by a team is trying to make a self-serving statement.

On the second story concerning Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State — a second-team All-American last year — getting into a scuffle with a fan during a game at Texas Tech, we need to know more.

Smart claimed the Texas Tech fan, identified as Jeff Orr, was guilty of using a racial slur. Orr said he called Smart a “piece of crap.” Smart was suspended for the Cowboys’ next three games. The fan wasn’t suspended for any games.

I’ve read that Orr has volunteered not to attend any more games this season. Good, but that doesn’t solve the problem of fan behavior and athletes’ self-control. I suggest the fan and Smart meet outside the gym, and may the better man win.

SHORT SHOTS: One meaningful item to come out this week was that new NBA commissioner Adam Silver is going to try to change the age limit for college players coming into the league from 19 to 20. What that would mean is that you won’t see college players leaving after one season. They would have to stay at least two. Of course, that would ruin Kentucky coach John Calipari’s style of recruiting one-and-done players. ... My favorite sports story recently was Richard Petty being asked if he thought Danica Patrick could win on the NASCAR circuit. “If everybody else stayed home,” Petty told reporters at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, according to an item posted at espn.com. “If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack.” ... Jared Lorenzen, the 320-pound former University of Kentucky quarterback who is now playing in the football minor leagues, broke his leg last week. It took four people to carry the jumbo-sized player off the field and one of the clever sportswriters referred to him as the “Pillsbury Throwboy.” ... It was big news when former NFL bad boy receiver Terrell Owens was married two weeks ago. His wife announced this week that they were divorcing. ... So much for former NBA star Dennis Rodman being a good ambassador for the United States when he visits North Korean president and pal Kim Jong-un. According to multiple reports online, Rodman got so drunk last trip he couldn’t control his bodily functions, trashed his hotel room, passed out in the hall and made such a mess that the government tried to keep it quiet in fear it would embarrass its exalted leader. I think they should have asked Kim to help with the clean-up.

AND FINALLY: Another college recruiting horror story. Auburn, Ala., native Rashaan Evans, labeled a five-star prospect at linebacker by recruiting services, signed with Auburn University arch-rival Alabama.

Evans said Auburn fans have been treating him like “Satan.”

There have been instances of fans trying to get restaurants to refuse serving his family and he has received emails hoping he is badly injured his first game.

Norman Arey is an award-winning journalist whose column appears in The Daily Citizen on Thursday and Saturday. You can write to him at normanarey@att.net.

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