Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Don't Care if Manti Te'O is Gay and Don't Let Them Fool You; In the End, NFL Team Officials Probably Won't Care Either

"And oh, how do I trust you? How do I love you? When you lie to me repeatedly."

                                      Lyric from: My Petition from the album Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2  
Written By: Jill Scott, Andre Davis and Vidal Davis

                                                                                                    Performed by: Jill Scott

    Photo of Manti Te'O courtesy of Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports

I'm no fool. I don't expect everyone to think like me. 

But I must admit that I am a bit shocked that the biggest question we are left with after the whole Manti Te'O fake, dead girlfriend incident is whether or not he is gay.

I would think that the bigger question, particularly for NFL teams and coaches, would be whether Te'O is a pathological liar with delusions of grandeur who makes up stories to get attention and play on people's sympathies.

But I guess in Rock, Paper, Scissors: the NFL Prospect Edition, the risks associated with drafting a guy who hooks up with guys outlasts concerns over psychosis and irrationality. 

Alas according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, Te'O's sexual preference is the proverbial elephant in the room at the combine this week.

"It's just that they (NFL team officials) want to know what they're getting," Florio said on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday. "They want to know what issues they may be dealing with down the road."


Yes, having a gay player in the locker room might make some guys uncomfortable. I'm not saying it's reasonable but, that reaction is a possibility. 

And yes, the first openly gay player in the NFL will be at the center of a media circus and, by association, his team and teammates will be forced to rub elbows with him there. And that will be a distraction for sure.

But on the heels of a season in which a player killed his teammate while driving drunk and, another player killed his girlfriend-who was also the mother of his child-and then drove to an NFL team facility and killed himself in front of his coach and his GM, I think it shameful that the question of gay or not gay is even on the player evaluation radar this week. 

Tyrann Mathieu is also a big story at this year's combine and very much like Te'O, he arrived with extra baggage, except it has nothing to do with homosexuality or a well publicized "catfish" scheme. 

And in another glaring dissimilarity, he says he hasn't been asked much about those bags since he's been in Naptown.

Mathieu, who failed multiple drug tests because of marijuana use on his way to a dismissal from the LSU football program and who was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession on Oct. 25 after a stint in rehab, says that the subject hasn't really come up in his interviews.

"Not too much about off the field. But it's more about on the field, do I still have it," he said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports.

And with that, the NFL continues to feed its own hypocrisy beast.

In a league where team officials label a maybe gay player as a potential "issue" to be faced "down the road" but don't question a guy with documented off the field issues about off the field issues, it's pretty hard to believe it to be a non-discriminatory entity and even harder to believe that the entity regards high character as a top priority.

Be sure to file those claims alongside the one about the NFL's concerns over the long term effects of repeated head injuries and the one touting their commitment to hiring minority head coaches.

For his part, Mathieu says honesty is his best friend now. He doesn't expect teams to trust him but, he wants an opportunity to prove that he has indeed changed.

And the prospect formerly known as the honey badger is certainly putting up the kind of numbers that help a guy jump start his image rehab, which is more than we can say for the former Notre Dame standout whose stock has plummeted this week.

With unofficial hand times of 4.43 and 4.5 posted in his 40-yard dash, Mathieu will likely get his chance at redemption.

I, for one, am sincerely hoping he can turn it around, making his way onto the straight and narrow path. But I couldn't care less about whether Manti is gay or straight.

And ultimately an NFL team won't care either as long as the math holds up. If one talented, gay player helps improve a team and, along with the other parts, adds up to equal one Super Bowl championship, the organization will be more than happy to embrace their place in history as trailblazers as well as the Lombardi Trophy.

All hail the first team to welcome an openly gay player into their macho, super-testosterone charged locker room.

They will say it wasn't about the numbers but, it won't be true.

And it won't be true in a couple of months when the team that drafts Mathieu says that more than his numbers at the combine, they were impressed with the way the young man has handled himself since all of that off the field "stuff" happened.

They won't be fooling anyone but, their feeble attempt at this deception is the most egregiously offensive part of this whole thing.

Because winning is the only thing that truly matters.

After all, players may lie; team and league officials may lie but, championships don't.