I'd like to take this opportunity, otherwise known as the Mercury's Rock & Jock Music Issue, to come out of the closet. At long last, I can stop living a lie.
While this announcement is sure to change my relationship with every barista, bongo-beating hippie, and tight-pants hipster in my life (and there are many), I figure now is as good a time as any to finally reveal the true me.
So here it goes (gulp!)...
Today, most people know me as a writer, one who primarily covers indie music and indie culture. But a long, long time ago, in a far away place, I was captain of my high school football team. I was big. I was strong. I played offensive tackle.
It's a dirty little secret I rarely talk about. You see, this aspect of my life automatically makes me a jock. During those turbulent years known as high school, I played football, and I'll never live this down, no matter how many cigarettes I smoke or how long it's been since I thought about running. Even though I spent every moment I wasn't playing football getting stoned, it doesn't matter. Even though I wrote Pete Townshend lyrics on my game-day undershirt, it doesn't matter. Even though I was listening to Sleater-Kinney and the Murder City Devils, it doesn't matter.
How can I claim to have been a "loser" or "misunderstood," when I was on the fucking football team? And how can I truly connect with today's indie music culture if I wasn't a "loser" and "misunderstood"? My former life often seems to be at direct odds with my current one. In the soft-palmed world of writing and music, my pigskin background feels like a blemish.
So I don't talk about it. But I'm still trapped. Not only did I play football, but it gets worse. I STILL LIKE FOOTBALL. Try talking football the next time you find yourself at a vegan bistro, or in the wine section of New Seasons. It doesn't really go over.
Somewhere along the way, football got demonized. Football players became, by default, behemoths, bullies, date rapists, and testosterone-driven knuckle-draggers. Guys who like football became beer-bellied cavemen. I like to think I don't fit either stereotype, but I see where they come from.
I've been blindfolded and forced to stick my face into the hairy ass of a 17-year-old on steroids, while a room full of adolescent boys screamed with excitement. It was called "initiation," all part of the high school football experience. I've seen older boys piss on the legs of younger boys in the locker room shower, a show of dominance an unfixed rottweiler would be proud of. I've seen grown men puke on themselves at the sports bar. I suppose things like this don't help football's image.
I know the stereotype, and I recognize where it came from. But I'm tired of being fake. I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of leading two lives, one with football, and one without it.
So I'm coming out. And I'm proud. I played football, I like football, and I always will. If this means the girl who makes my coffee is going to start giving me the same bitch treatment she gives everyone who looks like they don't know who the Shaky Hands are—well, fine. I can deal with that. Perhaps this will inspire other former football players to stop being ashamed. Perhaps the football jock stereotype will be shattered.
Probably not, but at least I can stop living a lie.