So now the thing is "distraction."
An openly gay NFL player (Michael Sam) could be a distraction, or so Tony Dungy says. Johnny Manziel having fun in his off time is a distraction. And Ray Rice punching out his now-wife, getting arrested for it and being handed a joke of a suspension by a suddenly soft-hearted Roger Goodell?
That is not a distraction, apparently.
(Although in a just world it would be, especially the unaccountable two-game suspension. It's a slap on the wrist that speaks volumes, if inadvertently, about the NFL's attitude toward women: Let's give Terrell Pryor five games for selling his own personal property, but just two to Rice for assaulting his then-fiancee.)
Anyway ... distraction is the thing football coaches fear like the plague now, and to avoid it they'll go to any lengths. But you want to know something?
If distraction is a plague, it's a largely preventable one.
Listen: The football coach (or team) that will be distracted by the presence of a Sam or a Manziel is a football coach (or team) looking for an excuse to fail. Distraction, after all, is largely self-created and therefore a largely self-fulfilling prophecy. If you decide something is going to distract you, it will. If you decide it won't, it won't.
No team had any more reason to be distracted than the Reggie Jackson/Thurman Munson/Billy Martin Yankees, simply because of the personalities involved and the way they sometimes jaggedly fit together. And yet, those Yankees teams found a way to win, anyway. So obviously what should have been distractions weren't, simply because in the end Reggie, Billy, Thurman et al wouldn't let their conflicts sway the common focus of winning.
Ditto the Bulls with Dennis Rodman. Ditto the Jets and Namath in Super Bowl III. Ditto the Seahawks and lightning rod Richard Sherman.
So ... yeah. "Distraction"? It may well be a thing now, the meme of the day.
But only if you allow it to be.