As Michael Sam waits for an NFL opportunity that may never come, some think that the reluctance of other teams to add the SEC defensive player of the year to the practice squad flows from the ESPN report regarding his shower habits.
While his shower habits and anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL, the extra attention and potential for external disruption connected to a member of the practice squad could be making some (or perhaps many) teams shy away.
We’ll never know whether Sam would be on a roster if ESPN hadn’t inadvertently complicated his situation by haphazardly trying to share some of its details, even if those details weren’t fully developed. But we do know more about how the story came to be, courtesy of Richard Deitsch of SI.com.
Deitsch explains how the story of Sam’s habits could have been a real story, if it had been reported the right way — and of course if the facts had supported a conclusion that Sam deliberately was avoiding the shower room when teammates were present.
“In the right hands and with the right reporting, it can be a story,” Outsports.com co-founder Jim Buzinksi told Deitsch. “If one were to determine that Sam was in fact not showering with his teammates and that his behavior is different from the showering habits of the other Rams, that could be a legit story. But it has to be seriously reported and sourced. What Josina Anderson did was throw out one anonymous player who said Sam ‘seemed’ to be holding back showering, then quoted another saying there could be a million reasons why this is. . . .
“It was junk food reporting, devoid of journalistically nutritional value. When Jon Stewart makes you a punchline, you know you have swung and missed.”
ESPN doesn’t seem to be willing to further dissect its K. ESPN declined to make reporter Josina Anderson available to Deitsch, and she separately declined comment when Deitsch contacted her directly.
That’s a bad decision, on both fronts. While it’s obvious that ESPN has decided that not talking about the story will end the discussion of it, ESPN needs to fully own it and discuss it and debate it if the media in general is going to actually learn from it.
Deitsch separately learned that Anderson didn’t ask about Sam’s shower habits, and that a player brought up the shower issue in response to a question regarding how Sam is fitting in. While it hardly excuses the decision to publish those details, which carried many more fingerprints than Anderson’s, it helps paint the full picture about what happened. If ESPN had cooperated with Deitsch in the same way ESPN hopes that teams and players will cooperate with ESPN, the picture would be even more complete.
Deitsch has other great details that help tell the story about how a story that shouldn’t have been told came to be.