Monday, January 15, 2007

Queer on Football

I watched an entire football game last night. This is significant for me because I'm not one of those queers that has readily adopted an appreciation and a strong understanding of the game - or any sports for that matter - but I'm working on it. The game of football bounds so many facets of American culture that I've decided to make it a point to at least learn the basics so that I can share in the conversation. In reply to "what did you think of the game last night?" You can't very well say "how'd you know I played Scrabble with my mother?"

I have a sordid past with sports so learning has been a chore for me. I developed an aversion to contact sports ever since hitting a foul ball in 4th grade gym class. After years of swinging the bat I was so excited to finally make contact with the ball that I ran around the bases as if I hit a homer. I didn't know the difference between a foul and a grand slam. My fat, exhausted body met with an uproar of laughter from not only my peers but my gym teacher when I finally reached home plate. On the verge of tears, I've hid in the gym locker ever since. There was also the time, many years later, that we played touch football. When the ball came my way I was so afraid of coming in contact with it, of making a mistake, I ran in the opposite direction. Running from the ball, puck or whatever object of bounce so chosen, quickly became a gym class habit of mine. I feared contact with the ball more so than taking an Anatomy and Physiology final and writing, from scrap, a twenty-five page term paper all in the same day. Thus my history with sports has not been a good one.

However, over the past few years, in appreciation for the bond that suffuses the office and many of my gay friends, I've allowed myself to enjoy the camaraderie and team dynamics expressed in preparing for a new season (I've joined many fantasy leagues), watching a game (kicked back a few with the boys) and celebrating victory and agonizing in defeat (I cry either way). I've found this common thread to weave you through some of the most unique characters, people you would never think in which to be acquainted. And here is where I like to be, experiencing all facets of society be they straight, gay, anti-sports, sports junkies, conservative or liberal. I've found this experience not only creates good writing material but also allows one to experience life.

Last night, I experienced the New England Patriots' victory alongside two retired school janitors, an unlikely pair for a gay writer/business analyst (that's me). With my Nike FlexCap turned backwards (I didn't realize that was of some rallying significance), I "kicked back" a couple Bud Lights and cheered in the defeat of the San Diego Chargers. As I was studying the plays, I fielded conversation with them on how Jimmy F., the retired custodian from the middle school was coming back to act as "super" and how the remodeling of the high school replete with the abatement of asbestos played into that. On the topic of sports, there were occasional questions I couldn't answer but with time I may be able to: "Where's Caldwell? Did he catch that pass?" I wanted to say, "Is he the one with the really nice ass or the big guy with man boobs?"

Learning the lexicon of football takes time and I'm only a couple years into it. My quest for knowledge really started a couple years back when I began dating this jock I had met. It was during the playoffs. At work, I had been talked into purchasing a couple of football squares. I didn't want to be alone in seeing if I won anything (I need the guidance of some sports fanatics to understand it anyway) so I went to the bar that I occasionally frequent. There I found out I had a bit of beginner's luck, winning over $200. Shortly after that Joe the Jock and I became an item. Together we would frequently watch games (football, hockey, baseball), hang out at sports bars (even straight ones) and, more importantly, play in the end zone. I learned a lot from him but, as with lots of things, I learned how much I had to learn. I found out that during a game it is not a good time to ask lots of questions. He didn't have much patience for silly questions such as: "What do you mean four downs make a down? Isn't that a play?" or "Shouldn't they be running the other way?"

I didn't want Joe to know how much I didn't know. I wanted him to think I too was a jock so I played the role by donning baseball caps, Nikes and team shirts. Home alone, I kept the game on in the background and with him I kept a lot of silly questions to myself. But the business analyst inside me quest for knowledge; asking questions is the primary way I learn. "Just enjoy the game," he'd say to my "why is that a penalty?" What he didn't realize was in order to me to enjoy I needed to understand and understanding meant questions. In time, Joe and I parted, not because he found out I was only a quasi-sports fan but more so on his lack of commitment. He could commit to watching Bledsoe and Brady but not for showing up on a date.

While the queer in me thirsts for more, I'll persevere. Be it tackling in bed or on the field, this backwards baseball cap wearing queer will continue asking questions. For example, as my friend Spider suggests, why are tight ends not always so tight?


Spider said...

I must admit that I am a REAL sports fan - especially football and basketball. I actually know that a tight-end is not necessarly a "tight" end... it is so hard to find another gay man that thinks that a wonderful Sunday afternoon is cuddled into the couch watching football or basketball - but I KNOW that man is out there... Good for you for watching the game! Next weeks should be REALLY exciting!

Will said...

I'm with you--I watched a lot of last night's game as a kind of "special event" in my life although I'm not really a football fan (now baseball on television is another thing entirely).

Tackling in bed is the best sport of all, and I get in as much practice time as possible!

Have you ever thought what a charming and slyly erotic short story could be made from a cute dog's perception of his handsome gay daddy's life? Think about it. Bandit has a good voice on this blog.

Bruce said...

Sorry Rick, no football for us, thanks. We'll pass (Pun fully intended).

We live in Italy, where football is a national mania and obsession. It's a different game here, soccer, but that really doesn't matter. What this is about is being a sports fan. There are several reasons why my partner and I reject the whole idea.

1) Creating a nation of sports fans allows those making major decisions in a society to distract the populace from really important things. Giving them "bread and circuses," so to speak. The imfamous last prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi actually owned a football team and named his party after a football cheer (Forza Italia).

2) Being a sports fan fosters absolutely irrational and non value based attachments. There is no rational reason to prefer one team over the other. Moreover, it forsters irrational hostility against other teams and their fans. The whole thing has close parallelisms to militarism and fascism.

3) Competetive sports foster, of course, competition. We've been told that competition is a good thing, but I'm not so sure. We should strive to do the best we can, not just to be better than the next guy. This is a major problem in our economic and social system.

4) Sports foster the image of the macho man, stressing strength and competitiveness over sensitivity, caring, gentleness. I confess to a weakess for butch men, and probably project that image myself, but its nothing I would defend on principle.

5) Team sports do teach group cooperation and coordination. But those virtues come from playing the sport, not watching it. I ultimately have little problem with the sportsmen themselves. It's the fans that I really don't understand.

6) As they were in many things, even in sports the ancient Greeks were more sensible than we are; they didn't bother with football. They had nude wrestling.

Countess Bedelia said...

I love football but really only watch the championship I guess I am not a "fan" per se.

The sport itself reminds me of chess. It is a game that really is won by calculated plays that, when executed correctly, result in the battle being won. I love watching the offensive players move into their choreographed positions, almost like a ballet.

That said, yesterday's game was anything but a ballet. It was rough and tumble and very exciting!
Go Pats!

Donnie said...

Welcome back Rick! *big hug*

I've never really gotten into sports like football, basketball, or baseball. Hell, I don't even watch the superbowl.

Funny thing is, I love watching the Olympics...either summer or winter.

Sorted said...

I am more of a college sports fan than professional. College games are played with heart. Professional games are played for money.

Glad you had a blast!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,
As you know I love football and that was a great game. What a come back. I always love to route for the underdog. I am glad you are finding an appreciation for the game. I miss you and hope to see you soon. Love Will xoxoxox

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed you Saturday night. It was hot.

Maddog said...

Can't say I'm much of a football fan. I had such an aversion to it as a child that I never learned the game. I understand the basics but that's about it.

Baseball and basketball are another story. When I was in college all of my fraternity brothers (no snickering) were baseball players so I quickly learned the real ins and outs of the game. By the time I graduated I knew when to bunt, when to swing, and when to intentionally walk a player.

As for basketball, I am from Kentucky. You learn the game while wearing diapers. You watch the games on TV, and you root for your high school. When I was a senior in high school out team went to the state tournament and we missed three days of school. And if the Wildcats are in the NCAA tournaement then be prepared to miss work to watch the games. Only in Kentucky.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I was never big into team sports, I can thank my folks for that. growing up I was always in individual sports, skiing, swimming, gymnastics, etc, so very little team sports. I admit that I now watch hockey games ( go Canucks go) might have to do something with my brother having season tickets and gettingt o go to a few games, nothing beats a live game, watching on tv just doesn't do it for me.

steve'swhirlyworld said...

GEAUX SAINTS!!!! I love football! Good for you...ask away with the questions.

Anonymous said...

Try playing football squares at this year. Save yourself the trouble of spreadsheets or passing around a piece of paper.