Michael ROBERTS died in 1985… of AIDS. When he finally “came out of the closet” he went straight to a hospital bed. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ravaged his body. At peak health he stood six feet three, two hundred twenty five pounds. At death, I could’ve carried him in one arm while holding a stack of his lesson plans in the other. The only things that terrified this former middle school teacher -as much as the disease’s death sentence- were having to tell our parents he was ill- and why.
Michael also worried about another thing… the world finding out about his illness through the efforts of a persistent reporter. Consider the times: In ’85, the average Joe and Jane were terrified of being in the SAME ROOM with someone who was gay. Homosexual black males were at high risk of contracting AIDS and HIV, then. And, too many people thought they could “catch it” if an infected person just breathed on you. So, a teacher, with AIDS, and charged with caring for 30 rambunctious kids all day? That would have been BREAKING NEWS. Thankfully, my big bro’s “story” never made the headlines.
Fast forward 30 years to 2014… another MICHAEL, (about the same SIZE as my brother) is proudly telling the world he is gay. Michael Sam made an ANNOUNCEMENT on ESPN. My, My, My, how times have changed. SAM, a star defensive end at UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, thus could become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Now, I’m as guilty as the next man of selective amnesia – my initial reaction to SAM’S interview with ESPN was- “Why do you have to make an announcement? Your sexual preferences are your business! Just do your talking on the field!” Up to this point, there are no “known” homosexual players in the NFL. Guys have said they suspect there are some on each team, but with hyper aggressive players like Ritchie Incognito running roughshod over locker rooms, it’s no surprise no one dares speak up.
KATIE COLLETT heard me thinking out loud this a-m and offered a timely perspective- that may or may not have been SAM’S’ thinking. She said she, too, has a gay relative. And that relative endured some stressful times due to lack of acceptance in the broader, heterosexual community. But, here’s where she hit the nail on the head. She said – maybe MICHAEL SAM “came out” so the next kid won’t have to… He, or she, can just “be.”
Tyler Clementi told his parents he was gay, just days before heading off to college.
Michael SAM will soon be graduating, I imagine, with his head held high, and fully capable of “taking off” anyone else’s head who wants to give him some grief over being gay. Good luck in the draft, the locker room, the field, and life.
Michael ROBERTS hated football. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he looked down from the heavenly grandstand to applaud a good hit.