The Drama Behind the Michael Sam Drama

How a thunderstorm 3,000 miles away from Michael Sam's California location almost kept ESPN from airing the most memorable moment in NFL draft history

By
Richard Deitsch
· More from Richard·

“This is a crazy story, so follow me,” says ESPN coordinating producer Seth Markman, who is explaining the behind-the-scenes drama of how Michael Sam’s reaction to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams ended up on ESPN.

Or nearly didn’t.

“In our production truck outside of Radio City, we had a camera on Michael all day Saturday from noon to after 6:30 p.m.,” Markman explains. “I watched him on his couch. I watched him walk around. I watched all the people who were with him all day.

“So it’s now a little past 6:30 p.m. and all of a sudden I look up and the feed from where Michael is disappears. Gone. Totally black. And there are only a few picks left in the draft. We’re in the truck in New York basically freaking out. It turns out Bristol [ESPN’s headquarters] had thunderstorms that had come through and knocked our feed out. So I immediately call [executive producer of the ESPYs] Maura Mandt, who is onsite with Michael. I tell her, ‘Maura, we lost the feed! We lost the feed!’ ”

Mandt was the key to ESPN’s access. She had spent Friday and Saturday with Sam and his camp. She and a cameraman were in the den of the LaJolla, Calif., house, belonging to the parents of Sam’s agents, where the Sam party was watching the draft.

Michael Sam's emotional reaction to getting drafted was the weekend's defining moment. (AP/ESPN)
Michael Sam’s emotional reaction to getting drafted was the weekend’s defining moment. (AP/ESPN)

“At that point I am standing next to our cameraman saying, ‘Seth can’t see you. Is it you, or is it the satellite truck?’ ” Mandt says. “The cameraman confirms he is rolling. So I ran out to our [production] truck and found out it was on Bristol’s end. Okay, fine. So as we recorded the moment of Michael getting the phone call from the Rams, which Seth was not seeing, we had to prepare to feed that back to Bristol before the next moment happened. And that next moment was seeing Michael’s name called at the draft.”

ESPN had waited all day for the possibility of Sam being drafted. The network had something no other media outlet had—a camera on Sam and his friends and family. Markman said there had been a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations for that access. Mandt had embedded with the Sam camp on Friday and Saturday as part of the feature leading up to the Arthur Ashe Award, which Sam will receive at the ESPYs on July 16.

“All of a sudden I look up and the feed from where Michael is disappears, and there are only a few picks left in the draft. We’re basically freaking out.”

“He was comfortable with that group,” Markman says. “Maura helped ease their camp’s mind that they could trust me, because they didn’t know me at all. If he was not drafted, we were not going to be able to show anything. That to me was a fair agreement and not unique.”

THE MMQB ON The ’14 DRAFT

Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback look back at the draft. FULL STORY

 

Robert Klemko on Michael Sam’s giant leap. FULL STORY

 

Ten later-round picks who could have a big impact. FULL STORY

So the moment finally comes in the seventh round, and Markman is freaking out inside an ESPN production truck outside of Radio City Music Hall because he has no idea how Sam reacted.

“We don’t have the feed as Michael is getting drafted,” Markman says. “I’m communicating with Bristol and also on the phone with Maura in California. She says she is going to feed the footage to Bristol and it is a great, emotional moment. I trust Maura and I think she would have told me if there was something I had to be careful with. We didn’t have time to have a discussion about it. So that’s why it took a few minutes for us to get it on the air after he was drafted. At one point we put up a still photo of Michael on the phone with the Rams. As it turned out, that still shot was pretty poignant.

Back to Mandt, who had to upload the footage to Bristol so it could eventually be sent to New York for the producers of ESPN’s draft show. “Seth and I were in contact all day, and I told him as the moment was happening that it was very emotional and there were great reacts from Michael,” says Mandt, who runs her own production company, Maggievision Productions. “I didn’t provide a shot sheet as there wasn’t time. But I told Seth that what I was seeing was real, raw emotion and a powerful reaction from a young man who had just realized his life dream.”

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93 comments
Mech
Mech

What a disgusting display !

MedeR A
MedeR A

First open gay gets so much publicity with words like "historic" . That means a few years down the road there will be first openly gay Team in the NFL . LoL. Get sucked by gay boy

Jockomo Meaux
Jockomo Meaux

I wonder how brave ESPN would have been if 2 females had been making out and rubbing cake over each other?

KinCade
KinCade

I'm still confused to why a 7th round Pick has a Camera at his house he is a 7th round Pick folks if this is about Football who cares about a 7th round pick , lets talk about Greg Robinson please .  

Buck2185
Buck2185

Who frikkin cares about this guy and why do you idiiots keep writing about him. The POS can't get out of football and the limelight soon enough....

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

pathetic how much Pub a 7th round pick gets just because he likes other men's BUTTHOLES.

G Legault
G Legault

no one wouldve been in his house if he wasn't gay.tired of all these clowns saying i'm gay to make money,picture in news and say look at me.now when in showers you guys better not drop the soap.

RobertoDuran
RobertoDuran

The NFL is asking for trouble with this guy and his lil princess.Didnt the Rams do any background work on this guy,not because he is gay,but who do you think paid his way out of the hood?You dont think the princess used her daddys chalupas on him and sooner rather than later will be lookin for him to payup.The mob now has their hands in the pockets of a civil rights advocate.Goodluck Gooddell you better nip this in the bud now before it spirals out of control.

southerngoalie15
southerngoalie15

guys coming back from war and losing limbs, losing brothers, being called a domestic terrorist, getting overcharged for student loans, dieing because of the VA's "schedule conflict", forever battling ptsd, TBI, hard to find a job because of veteran status.........but the last pick in the nfl draft is gay and kisses on tv and all of a sudden he is being deemed a hero? what the hell is wrong with this country? I never believed the whole apocalypse thing but with everything going on in this country, im kind of welcoming one.

Googie
Googie

AN ESPN announcer sent he was amazed that despite the controversy surrounding Michael Sam there was little negative comment after he was drafted and after the kiss....How can anyone comment in today's world?  If your aganist the "kiss" your homophobic, a bigot, "stuck in the past"....... Well I am none of the above and am disgusted by ESPN shoving that "kiss" down our throats.

You all want to watch two men kissing go ahead, me?....I'm reaching for the remote.

ChuckMitchell
ChuckMitchell

So no doubt I have sin in my life and this post is not meant to judge Mr. Sam.  I do have issue with ESPN showing it on TV like it is the same thing as Jackie Robinson playing baseball.  Or Jesse Owens in the Olympics.  Race and Homosexuality are 2 different things.  You are born a certain race and cannot control that - and no one should ever be judged by their skin color.  I (my personal belief) is that you are not born homosexual (I am sure I will get some mad responses to that - but that is my opinion).  I do not think because you are committing the sin of being a homosexual you should be judged, hated, or not allowed to play in the NFL.  However, it should not be on TV.  But then again, there is a lot of stuff on TV that should not be on TV.  I will finish with what I started with - I am not perfect either.  Good news is - that is why Jesus dies on the cross for me - I'm going to Heaven - are you?  By the way even homosexuals can ask for forgiveness and go to Heaven.  Be Blessed.


JimAllen1
JimAllen1

You may call it 'historical', 'groundbreaking' or what ever you like. I call it an invasion of privacy and a new low level of "reporting the news".

Sams was a fool to let you parasites into his inner world.

andrew93316
andrew93316

The most memorable moment in draft history was not a couple of homosexuals kissing because one of them almost was the last pick in the draft. ESPN, and any other media organization should be ashamed for forcing this story. The guy deserves as much coverage as any other late round pick. Which is essentially zero.

boxercojas26
boxercojas26

What are you trying to teach our kids, espn? God made adam and eve, not adam and steve. Showing two men eating cake and kissing is not what sports is about.

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

The tone of this piece is ESPN congratulating itself for some 'great coverage'.  Keep in mind that this is the same network that BACKED OUT of the Frontline documentary on NFL concussions, in a spineless move. [MMQB, to its credit, has covered concussions reasonably.]  However, I'm not convinced ESPN makes such a 'groundbreaking' editorial call if it has time to see and digest what is going on.  Why is MMQB celebrating ESPN's role in this?  Ran out of things to discuss, I guess.  


Now, if you want to debate the merits of showing same-sex kissing, vs. for example, explicit violence on TV, that might be worth some coverage.  

jordan1234
jordan1234

Their is nothing historic about this moment. I'm sure their has been countless athletes that have entered the NFL with the same sexual preference as Sam. We as a society don't need to celebrate two men kissing on television during the NFL draft and then have to explain to our children and the innocence of their minds, why two men are passionately kissing. The moral compass of our nation is crippling and our children must now digest the despicable filth put in front of them during the NFL draft. A sad day for our country and our children.

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

"ESPN had waited all day for the possibility of Sam KISSING HIS BF".

I mean, lets be honest here.

weeble1216
weeble1216

@Bob Bob Your post would be pathetic even if it came from a ten year old boy.

AdamSWalburger
AdamSWalburger

@southerngoalie15  a hero is someone that is praised for their bravery. You don't think it's brave what he did considering what went on in Miami and all these ignorant staements? And yes people are praising him.

JonathanD
JonathanD

@southerngoalie15  Are you familiar with the phrase "red herring"?  It's when someone brings something into an argument that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand.

KinCade
KinCade

@Googie I have nothing against gay people or a quick kiss and hug but licking Cake off each others face is a little much i have never seen any player do this  personally .,,,, I have never seen a 7th round pick get coverage but i guess this is not about Football its about other things cause there plenty of 5, 6 round players that didn't get coverage and here we are talking about Sams ..     

GuyBourdin
GuyBourdin

Your opinion based on? The bible? You ask scientists to heal you when your sick but when it comes to homosexuality your going to go with your gut on that one huh? Lot of things in the bible a supposedly a sin, some your probably do everyday without thinking, but being gay is the sin that needs to be trotted out and made an example of right?

KinCade
KinCade

@ChuckMitchell So everyone is a Bigot If we don't agree can we just not agree why do we have to be called names .. 

JonathanD
JonathanD

@ChuckMitchell  You can have a "personal belief" that everyone gets to choose their sexuality, but that personal belief will be in conflict with the real world.

I think it's pretty clear that some people have a more ambiguous sexuality and can choose, and some can't.  I certainly never chose to be straight, and couldn't be gay if I wanted to.

SIreader23
SIreader23

Sorry, kid. There is no proof of heaven. Do I hope there is, sure. But anyone that claims there is or is not one is a liar, no one knows and you are kidding yourself to think otherwise.

What I do know, you should think for yourself. Let others live their lives. Why should they not have the same rights? Why should you care? Please do not give anymore religious bs.

ChrisLund
ChrisLund

@ChuckMitchell  I ask not for forgiveness.... I do the right thing the first time.

Sorry you feel being gay is a sin, but sin is man-made.... therefore, a joke!

SeanPDarr
SeanPDarr

@ChuckMitchell  This is one of the dumbest posts I've ever seen on this topic. "I do not think because you are committing the sin of being homosexual you should be judged" Except you just judged when you typed that sentence. AND when you say "by the way EVEN homosexuals can ask for forgiveness" Even those low lifes can ask for forgiveness. Thank you for ranting the same beliefs all anti homosexual people have, but pretending like you're more polite then them by saying "I have sin and I'm not perfect". Makes no sense. At least be a confident bigot.

GuyBourdin
GuyBourdin

It was about the draft it was about the first gay man openly playing in the NFL. The draft was just his beginning hence the coverage. Don't worry he probably won't stay around long because he went to a team with a stacked DLine so the big bad gay man won't be around to bring out all those shameful feelings you push down.

JonathanD
JonathanD

@andrew93316  You certainly seem to care about the story.  Personally, I don't read articles about things I don't think deserve coverage.

DaveStanley
DaveStanley

@jordan1234  The poor children will learn something about love and tolerance, children are not born with hate in there hearts they learn that from bigoted bible bashing parents like you.

BajaBolt
BajaBolt

@jordan1234  Oh my God!  What will the children think??? Just watching that "filth" will surely turn them gay!  Are you equally disgusted with all of the pre-marital sex trash seen on practically every channel on TV - from Jersey Shore to The Voice to whatever else you flip on from 4pm forward?  Have you ever worked with a gay person? Or gotten to know one?  You should try it sometime. You might find they are just people like anyone else. Hardly the filth that you are describing. It's sad that your kids, who you are so concerned about, will grow up to be small minded bigots just like yourself. Congrats!   And don't even start quoting scripture. You can't pick and choose what you want from the Bible, yet I am sure you sin every single day of your life. Gay people have served and died for this country. Get over it and join the 21st Century. 

KinCade
KinCade

@AdamSWalburger @RobertoDuran One hit wonder and he got half those sacks in one game Lucky Game he's stiff and non Athletic , If Ealy wasn't on the other side demanding double and triple teams we wouldn't even be talking about this dude and I really didn't hear of this guy til he came out ..     

SIreader23
SIreader23

@KinCade @ChuckMitchell there is nothing to agree about. You are against offering the same rights to another American. Equal civil rights should be had by everyone in this country. You can hide behind religion if you'd like, but try thinking for yourself.

KinCade
KinCade

@DaveStanley @jordan1234Understanding and Hate is too different things just because people don't approve of it doesn't mean they have hate in their heart . And kids can be confused without have hate on their minds ..    

SIreader23
SIreader23

Sorry, never going to buy that. This is example A. Of religious folks picking one thing out of a book they are told to believe. Why just that? Why don't they follow not mixing fabrics? Getting a tattoo? Not allowed either! Playing football (at least old school style) would be against their 'beliefs' too since they can't touch pigskin either!

Using religion as a crutch and reason to not want to give someone an equal right is insulting, plain and simple.

Wombat
Wombat

@SIreader23 @KinCade @ChuckMitchell  Should gays be allowed equal rights? Categorically YES. Should people who believe that being gay is a sin be castigated for their beliefs, NO. All of those that want to shout down religious folks for their beliefs; you are guilty of the same thing you accuse the "religious zealots" of... intolerance! Everybody needs to mind their own business and live their own lives... and part of that is hopefully keeping irrelevant issues of sexuality out of sports. Grow up people!

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