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WFAA8's Dale Hansen again makes his presence felt in "Unplugged" commentary on the NFL and Michael Sam

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Gannett Co., Inc.’s ownership of Dallas-based WFAA8, which took effect late last year, so far hasn’t muzzled at least one very opinionated and regularly “Unplugged” anchor.

D-FW TV sports dean Dale Hansen, as only he can and as only he dares, weighed in on the Michael Sam situation during Monday’s 10 p.m. newscast. Even though it aired opposite NBC5’s closing half-hour of its network’s Olympics coverage, the commentary drew a very sizable crowd of 347,964 D-FW viewers according to Nielsen Media Research data.

The big tune-in was largely due to the usual suspect -- WFAA8’s dire warnings of freezing rain and slick roads for Tuesday morning’s commute. Hansen will happily take it. His words reached a significantly larger audience than usual. And while I didn’t agree with everything he said, I appreciate the guts it took to say what he did. And the willingness on the part of his station to turn him loose.

Sam has been very much in the news after coming out as a gay man. The powerful SEC conference’s defensive player of the year is now eligible for the NFL draft. But some league people anonymously told Sports Illustrated that Sam’s standing in the draft will be “hurt” by his declaration. The NFL has never had an openly gay player. After all it’s a “man’s game,” Hansen said with intended sarcasm.

Hansen told viewers that the NFL is a league with a history of welcoming drug abusers, rapists and drunk drivers whose actions have killed people. He also said “You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs pulling her hair by the roots, you’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft.”

He didn’t name him, but Hansen was referring to former University of Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, who in fact was the sixth overall pick in the 1996 draft -- by the St. Louis Rams -- after the Baltimore Ravens passed him over with their No. 4 pick because of Phillips’ previous actions. He’s now serving a 31-year prison sentence after being convicted of several other acts of violence.

Hansen sometimes tends to exaggerate in the interests of making his forceful points. But few if any sportscasters make them more effectively. I think his portrayal of the NFL as a halfway house for criminals was painted with too broad a brush. But he then hammered home his essential point: “You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far.”

He also delivered down the stretch with an admission that “I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.”

Hansen by no means is a perfect man. He has his demons and he’s talked about them on the air. They include an admittedly very troubled relationship with his own two grown children. His father left him with some substantial emotional scars and Hansen has not always succeeded in overcoming them.

Below is the video of Hansen’s complete “Unplugged” commentary on Michael Sam and the NFL. His opinions are his own -- and always have been. Unlike anyone else in D-FW television, he also has the fortitude to go public with them.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net