By Alex Norman

“Daddy, what was it like when they just played games and we didn’t pay attention to things off the field/court?”

“No one knows Timmy… no one knows…”

This is where we are now as a sports culture.  Blame the internet and the leagues and the greed and the owners and the players and the Jock Jams CD’s and Nick Saban.  Blame anyone or anything you want.

And we need to blame ourselves as well.

Over the past two weeks what have been the biggest sports stories in North America… the tremendous NBA and NHL playoffs?  The anticipation of soccer’s World Cup?

Nope… the biggest sports stories have been the release of racist statements that an idiotic NBA team owner made to his… ahem… “assistant…” and the St. Louis Rams making Missouri’s Michael Sam the first openly homosexual man to be selected in the NFL Draft.

You might throw in the Cleveland Browns drafting former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel into this mix, but my point will be made by that as well.  Manziel is known almost as much for his stellar play on the field as he is for his extra-curricular activities.

When people heard the comments that NBA owner Donald Sterling made (and I’m not going to rehash them here) they were shocked, dismayed and aghast… but really shouldn’t have been.  Anyone that followed the NBA knew that Sterling was a jerk.  But the story got picked up by every media outlet you can think off, and set off a firestorm.

This completely overshadowed what should have been a time to showcase the league.  Normally the first round of the playoffs is fairly boring, with the favored teams winning easily.  This season however the top seeded Spurs and Pacers were each pushed to 7 games, the up and coming Trailblazers upset Houston, Oklahoma City edged Memphis in an entertaining seven game affair…

But all anyone was talking about was Sterling.  And that’s a shame.

When it comes to the National Football League (which is infallible and will eventually destroy all of mankind), the NFL Draft is the ultimate “Keep Hope Alive” moment for a football fan. So what if the Detroit Lions have never been to a Super Bowl? Picking that kid out of East Wichita Tech is going to make all the difference!!!

The first two days of the draft gave us come compelling moments, including the roller coaster ride for Manziel in which the Dallas Cowboys could have put America’s most well-known college athlete on America’s Team but chose against it… and the Tennessee Titans apparently never googling the players they draft. (Seriously, look up the past of their top choice, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.)

Instead, all anyone has talked about was the selection of Sam by the Rams with the 249th pick and the video of him kissing his boyfriend.

Why was he selected so late?  Is it because he is gay?  Was he only selected because he is gay?  What will this mean to the Rams locker room?  WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN???????

You couldn’t turn on a television set without seeing that story play out on sports programs and non-sports programs alike.  Sam has inked a deal with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network as well.  YOU GET A REALITY SHOW! AND YOU GET A REALITY SHOW!

Here in Knoxville we aren’t immune to this either.  Honestly, how rare have actual “football” discussions become in the post-Fulmer era?  Between Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley the only game I really recall is the one where the Vols had 44 guys on the field against LSU.  Everything in those years was about taunting Urban Meyer or students setting a mattress on fire or orange slacks or Rommel or immovable hair or “Opportunity is Nowhere.”

It finally appears with Butch Jones that Tennessee is getting back to being a football program and not a soap opera.

For better or worse this is what we have to accept.  Can’t put the genie back in the bottle… It is a 24/7 sports cycle and there have to be things to talk about 24/7.

Is it too much to ask that we throw in some X’s and O’s?