Last weekend, football fans suffering severe withdrawal since the end of the season - and presumably having no one nearby to intervene - tuned in to the coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine to watch pro prospects get treated like racehorses at an auction. Each February, a few hundred players head to Indianapolis to run speed and agility drills, submit to interviews by team representatives, and even take a couple standardized tests in order to prove themselves worthy of being drafted, in the process generating plenty of stories for an insatiable fan base.
That anyone would voluntarily watch, with interest, a defensive lineman from BYU run something called the "three-cone drill" when there are actual basketball games on other channels is astonishing and slightly annoying. But actually offensive was the report from NFL watchdog Mike Florio on Dan Patrick's radio show Monday morning.
"Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay," said Florio, who runs NBC's ProFootballTalk website. "It's been described as the proverbial elephant in the room."
Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist, was humiliated recently when it was revealed that the story of a dying girlfriend inspiring him from across the country was actually a hoax perpetrated by a male acquaintance, who has since admitted to being in love with Te'o. Apparently that has caused a number of general managers to wonder about his sexuality and worry about what it could mean for their teams if they drafted him.
So after a season when the statements of players like Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo in support of gay marriage provided reason to believe that pro football players might be leaders on issues of equality, we learn that their bosses, the general managers, are disappointingly stuck in the past.