The Daily Star
---- — On Saturday, a big, good-looking football hero from the University of Missouri got the phone call he had waited for since he was a teenager, burst into tears, and kissed his diminutive sweetheart while the television cameras rolled.
And documented a fundamental — and wonderful — change in American society.
The football hero — and make no mistake about it, Michael Sam is now a hero to millions — was kissing his boyfriend, former Missouri varsity swimmer Vito Cammisano, to celebrate being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and final round of the National Football League draft.
Sam, a 6-2, 261-pound defensive end/linebacker prospect, is the first openly gay player ever selected by an NFL team. He was the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, but isn’t what is considered a hot prospect by the pros.
That’s not because he’s gay, but because he is considered by scouts to be a “tweener.” In Sam’s situation, that means he’s thought not big enough to be a dominant defensive lineman, and not fast enough to be a standout linebacker.
But because Rams coach Jeff Fisher decided there were enough good football reasons to take Sam with the 249th pick in the draft, Sam will have his chance to make an NFL team.
“I feel like I know him already,” Fisher said, “because of the all the attention that his courage provided.”
In the few days since the draft, Sam’s football prospects have taken a backseat to what has become known as “The Kiss.”
It wasn’t because Sam is African-American and Cammisano is white. No, Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) took care of shocking America with the first televised inter-racial kiss in 1968 on “Star Trek.”
It was because on Saturday, for the first time, many folks witnessed a real-life example of genuine and — in the best sense — sweet emotion between two men. As kisses go, it was short and there was nothing unseemly about it … unless you happened to be one of the relatively few individuals still living in the previous century.
Fans’ orders for Sam’s jersey over the weekend were surpassed only by those for Cleveland Browns draftee Johnny Manziel. President Barack Obama sent along his congratulations to Sam, and the overwhelming majority of NFL players who proffered an opinion were positive and welcoming.
Sam may or not be good enough to make the Rams’ team. The careers of a lot of seventh-round players don’t survive training camp. But no matter what, he has proven that being openly gay is no longer the kiss of death in the National Football League … or in America.