Football or intolerance: You be the judge

March 25, 2013, 8:45 pm
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The estimable Michael Z. Freeman of CBSSports.com gave the sports world a nice swift kick in the radiator Monday by proclaiming that sources have told him a gay NFL player is “strongly considering” coming out, and that said player’s concern is not how his teammates will view or treat him, but how fans will.

This is the more sensible concern, for one simple reason: There have been gay players in the NFL already without any evidence that his teammates objected in any tangible way. Football players are like most professional athletes – they are ultimate pragmatists, and they believe firmly in a person’s right to be just about anything along as he or she can hit a curve ball, a contested jump shot, a running back, a defenseman or the other guy in the ring.

Fans on the other hand . . . well, there are the stray troglodytes who want to show just where the hate speech line really is in America, and then there are the ones who want to go beyond speech to action. This is surely a very small subset, but it exists, thus the alleged player’s concerns.

This is why we hope the player to whom Freeman refers is a huge star. A HUGE star. An MVP candidate. The kind of player whose absence would destroy a team’s Super Bowl chances, and crush Madison Avenue’s preternatural gift for cashing in on anything and everyone.

Then we would have the real American litmus test – football, or intolerance. The early line: Football, minus 1½, but the betting has barely begun.

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Ben Howland went out wearing his blue-and-gold heart on his sleeve, thus proving his genuine appreciation for UCLA and raising to four . . . well, 3½  the number of coaching vacancies of NCAA Tournament teams (Bob Thomason at Pacific is retiring and Jim Crews at St. Louis is still the interim coach), but the rumors are churning already for Shaka Smart of VCU to get all the jobs.

Oh, there’s some interest in Josh Pastner of Memphis, but the first name for every job is still Smart, and without a cloning breakthrough in Richmond, this will present a real issue in satisfying everyone’s need. So if you look anything like Smart and you’re looking for a well-paying job pleasing a perpetually cranky fan base, here’s your chance . . . and your other chance . . . and another chance over yonder . . . and . . .

Or you can take your chances looking like Howland. The choice is yours.

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The Miami Marlins are going to nearly any lengths to sell tickets this season, and so far, no length has been long enough to convince folks to take the plunge for a team that is one Giancarlo Stanton trade demand from having a team payroll of $12,250,000 (the minimum multiplied 25 times). The latest scheme is a 50 percent off Groupon, which as we know is the last step before leaving piles on the end of every tavern in greater Miami: “Hey, Skippy, pass the beer nuts. They’re right behind those baseball tickets. Yeah, just move them over by the daiquiri mix. Nobody’s touched them since the guy left ‘em last week.”

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Costa Rica wants a redo for last Friday’s match in Vinson Massif, Antarctica, against the U.S. Men’s soccer team, and FIFA should do the honorable thing and agree.

Sure, the Costa Ricans played even after the match was halted because everyone seemed to be keister-deep in snow, but their protest indicates that they were essentially bullied into playing anyway. Whether this will pass muster is, frankly, not our concern. That’s fancypants for “Who gives a damn?”

The U.S. got everything it wanted already – attention during the busiest weekend for sports viewing of the entire year. There is just something about shin-high drifts that makes people watch nearly anything, whether it be non-Lionel Messi soccer or polar bears taking their MCATs. And the delicious farce, which should have been announced by Men With Blazers rather than the already superb Ian Darke, went facepunchingly hilarious when Bob Ley of ESPN sat bareheaded at a desk with three inches of snow on it while analyzing the match with Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller of the Russian General Staff.

It was, in short, nearly perfect. Nearly, that is. FIFA should grant the replay, but only if it can stage the game in Fairbanks, Alaska. I mean, if soccer is ever going to become a true mainstream sport in America, the road is apparently lined with snowdrifts.

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And finally, Carson Palmer is apparently declining the opportunity to take a huge pay cut to play quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. Sounds like a smart man, all vertebrae considered.