I’ve spent 10 minutes looking through Michael Sam articles today and not one of them tells me why his being drafted matters from a sports perspective so I can’t tell you how good of a football player he is. But what I CAN tell you, for those of you that perhaps don’t follow sports, is that while being drafted into the NFL at all is an extraordinary achievement, being drafted 249th overall in the 7th round is, in the world of entry drafts, a relatively insignificant signing. Not being able to find one news source talking about his statistics and talents as a defensive end among any of the top news items on any search engine, and instead all of them talking only about him being gay is NOT a sign of tolerance and progress in sports. It’s a sign as clear as day that no matter what an athletes talents are, their sexual orientation still matters more than their numbers.
Yes, this is and should be a source of pride and hope and inspiration for the gay community in and out of sports, but for everyone else and for the following and analysing of sports it couldn’t possibly be less relevant or be less of a story. And journalists and news outlets do this athlete and any other gay athletes a disservice when they only talk about his sexual orientation and not the skills that he’s spent the greater part of his life honing to try to be the best at what he does. You want to know the only thing that’s going to matter to the Rams (the team that drafted him) in winter when the season is over if he even makes the team (which at this point is not definite)? Sacks, Hurries, and Tackles for a Loss. You’d celebrate him more, if that was your aim, by learning what those stats are than learning the story of his sexual orientation and I have a feeling that like many other openly gay people in the public eye, he’d say the same thing.
When I think of writers like Lorenz Hart, and find myself listening intently to lyrics I’ve heard thousands of times, if not more, as though they were words I was hearing for the first time, I often wonder if people at the time were aware just how rare it was to be witnessing a lyricist with his talents.
Loneliness is one of the themes perhaps most explored by popular song and thoroughly so in the infinite stacks of sheet music that comprise the American popular music songbook. But in all those thousands of songs, did anyone ever write a line that summarises the discovery of being alone after a failed relationship more than, “Now I even have to scratch my back myself…”
Harlem born and raised to Jewish immigrant parents who gave him every tool possible for that ‘better life’ so many arrived in New York seeking, he made his way from the halls of Columbia University to the floodlights of Broadway where his career flourished. But his own dissatisfaction with his appearance and with his life, and the pain of society telling him that being a homosexual made him unacceptable could only be drowned out by crippling amounts of alcohol. It is a stark reminder not only of the brutality of intolerance but of what it is to suffer from depression. As Stephen Fry often puts it, people tell you to just snap out of it and find a silver lining and that’s simply not how it works.
It seems almost wrong to find joy in the creations of such a sad person but if there is a silver lining in this story it is that the work of Lorenz Hart exists today for us to enjoy, and that his lyrics represent some of the finest words ever crafted in popular song. Good lyrics go beyond technical brilliance and strike that chord deep within us that make us feel like someone else understands. The song below, “It Never Entered My Mind” is one such example which has been recorded countless times, but in my opinion nobody makes you listen to its lyrics like Frank Sinatra does. Please listen to it again, or for the first time.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Lorenz Hart.