The kiss with his boyfriend was one thing, but that was only a small twist on a scene we've watched a hundred times before: Player gets drafted, exults with loved ones. The moment that best sums up the Michael Sam saga, however, came just a little before, while Sam was on the phone with the Rams.

When Sam came out in February, his initial interviews suggested a calm, unflappable man—the quiet standard-bearer, aware of his burden but unbowed by it. He said all the right things. He said he wanted to be defined as a "great person," not just as a gay football player. But the announcement had been stage-managed and choreographed within an inch of its life, every step carefully marked out on the floor, like a set of Arthur Murray footprints, and somewhere in there the person had become an abstraction.

By design, there weren't many media appearances after that first announcement. The point was to downplay his sexuality after he'd come out and focus on the football. Sam did his best to maintain a "so what?" façade, in the hopes that NFL front offices wouldn't perceive him as a "distraction," whatever the fuck that means. He could be gay within certain limits. It wasn't the closet, but it was something like it.


The video up there was the moment Sam's mask of practiced nonchalance finally fell, when he let everyone see just how heavy a load it is to carry both your own hopes and the vicarious dreams of others. There was no choreography to follow there but his own. Phone to his ear, Michael Sam tried to keep his composure, but his face twisted up and he doubled over and sobbed, his hand interlocked with his boyfriend's, and goddamn, it was the most arresting scene in sports for quite some time.