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May 16, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) during rookie minicamp at Rams Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Reality Shows and the NFL

It has been said that sports are the ultimate reality shows. Apparently that’s not good enough for some players, their wives or fiancés, and actually the league itself. Reality shows are definitely here to stay as far as television is concerned. Are reality shows ever going to be good for the NFL?

When Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams he became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. It was a historic event without question. Hopefully, at some point it won’t even be worth mentioning what a player’s sexual orientation is when he’s drafted.

Naturally, given the magnitude of the event, television cameras were there catching the moment live with Sam as he was notified by the Rams, just as they were with a number of other lower-round picks. The coverage didn’t and isn’t going to stop there. Although it’s reported that now the plans have been postponed, Sam signed on with The Oprah Winfrey Network to participate in a reality show chronicling his entry into the NFL.

Immediate reaction to the reality show was obviously critical due to the fact that Sam himself had said that his sole focus was on playing football and making the Rams’ roster. Filming a reality show certainly would take some focus off of that. Aside from the distractions a reality show would cause through the process of rookie camp into training camp, the fact that Sam’s spot on the roster isn’t guaranteed right now really does pose a problem to marketing him as the “first openly gay player in the NFL”.

If he didn’t make the team, the only noteworthy thing that happened was that he was drafted. Everyone involved made the right move in postponing the production; the distraction could have cost Sam the very opportunity the show was there to highlight.

The reality shows don’t stop there. New York Jets WR Eric Decker filmed a reality show with his wife, country music singer Jessie James, on their journey through the birth of their first child. Newly drafted Cincinnati Bengal QB AJ McCarron’s wedding to Katherine Webb is being filmed for a reality show as well.

Even without those shows, the NFL has its own reality show in HBO’s Hard Knocks, which covers a team’s training camp through move-in days to cut-down days and all the in between.

The problem with reality shows is that they aren’t real. No matter what the subject is, there are producers and network executives involved who all have a hand in making the show about whatever they think is best for their programming.

Reality shows these days are either comprised of celebrities who allow cameras to film them in approved and/or semi-scripted situations to give them publicity or, even as a way to earn some money with relatively little work involved. The other kinds of reality shows involve “regular people” who, for one reason or another have some marketable attribute or characteristic that producers exploit for our entertainment.

The difference between that kind of reality and the uncertainty of the any given Sunday-ness of the NFL is night and day. Sure there are storylines in both, but how they play out on the field can’t be determined by how the producers want it to go.

Reality in the NFL should be left for the field and shouldn’t come in the form of unwelcomed cameras and television producers creating situations to give viewers a false reality instead.

Tags: AJ McCarron Eric Decker HBO Hard Knocks Michael Sam NFL

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