That chill that's begun to fall over the Northeast can only mean one thing: Football season has arrived. It arrived a few weeks ago, yes, but so did Fashion Week, and I'm not trying to conceal my priorities here, OK? But truth be told, I love me some football. Yes, you heard me. I drink beer (wheat ale), wear my team's jersey on game day (tucked in), and even leave my phone in the other room (ringer on, of course). If it's game day, you're dead to me for a few hours as I embrace the most hypermasculine behavior that my body is able to muster. And sure, it's just a bunch of grown-ass men wearing spandex and running around trying to catch a flying pigskin, but I bet what you do is just as bullshit, unless you're, say, a doctor, a lawyer, or a former Malcolm in the Middle cast member. I'm talking at you, Jane Kaczmarek.
In my formative years, I was plagued with the gayest affliction: a passion for show tunes. My poor father and brothers had to endure my love for dreaming the dream, crying for Argentina (beat, beat)... all that jazz. Part of me feels like I still owe each of them an apology. My idea of smelling like teen spirit was jazz classes at the Center for Theatre Arts. Sadly, I was really more of a Kurt from Glee than a Kurt from Nirvana. I know. Growing up, the house phone would ring, and some Jewish lady (or the occasional rabbi) would call out, "Amy?"
"No, it's not Amy." And it's not her daughter, either. It's her son.
"Oh, I'm sorry, is your mother around?"
Really? The silence that ensued became so common that had I not learned to laugh it off, I might have had an unhappier childhood.
These days, I'm not Justin Bartha on The New Normal; I'm not playing basketball on the weekends with my "boys," and I wasn't head of the mathletes in high school. I'm not Jack from Will & Grace or the flamboyant assistant on Ugly Betty or every male (and for that matter female) character on Smash. I'm a homosexual, 20-something Jewboy who enjoys the game of football as much as I enjoy scouring the shelves of Shakespeare & Co.
This ritual began for me in a former Steeltown turned Modern Day Utopia known as Pittsburgh, Pa. Sure, we birthed Warhol, gave Aguilera the childhood bullying she recounts on Behind the Music, and are responsible for that 6-foot-5 werewolf on True Blood, but we're also home to six-time Super Bowl champions the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2005 Pittsburgh clinched their fifth Super Bowl win. "We did it!" I think I shouted. Nobody heard over the roar of the screaming fans, thank God, but from that moment on, I became a part of what is known as Steeler Nation. I would become the guy yelling at the television screen in those beer commercials. Hold the Doritos. Hold the wife. You get me? So, DJ, bring the beat in, and let me break it down for you by presenting my A-to-Z of America's favorite pastime.
A: ABC -- The American Broadcasting Company, the only top-four network that doesn't play the NFL. Instead they fill up hours with Dancing with the Stars: The Results Show, Shark Tank, and another season of Kate Walsh wishing she were Patrick Dempsey or had his hair.
A(Squared): Any Given Sunday -- The 1999 Oliver Stone-directed drama, which has a locker-room scene containing quite a bit of full frontal (and it ain't from Cameron Diaz). It's not on Netflix Instant View, and that's why you need to purchase a copy to have and to hold.
B: Banned substances policy -- Football players make a lot of money, and you can buy a lot of drugs with a lot of money. Use them and you can't sit here. In a confidential survey from 2009, nearly one in 10 retired NFL players said they had used now-banned anabolic steroids while still playing. Good for them for their after-the-fact honesty.
C: Cheerleaders -- Twenty-six of the 32 NFL teams have a cheerleading squad. Former NFL cheerleaders include Ashlee Tate DeMartino, broadcast meteorologist for KTNV-TV; Laura Vikmanis, currently the oldest cheerleader in the NFL at 43; Jenni Croft, contestant on The Bachelor Season 11; Lezlie Deane, actress and founder of techno group Fem2fem; Danielle Gamba, Playboy Cyber Girl of the Month, October 2004; and Teri Hatcher, a Golden Globe winner (does she deserve them?). That's one of the saddest lists you'll find on the Internet, and I apologize for amassing it.
D: Draft -- Think Vietnam, but with salary caps. And you're not all playing for the same team.
E: Endorsements -- Let's take Peyton Manning, a giant of the sport. He has endorsements with ESPN, Sprint, DirecTV, MasterCard, Reebok, and Gatorade. He brings home an additional $11.5 million in addition to his football income. He's probably really unhappy on the inside. I mean, Sprint? Get an iPhone 5, dude.
E(Squared): ESPN -- Basically the Bravo of sports.
F: Faith Hill -- Sunday Night Football has been graced with a theme song, and for the last six years, the timewarp that is CBS has chosen Faith Hill as its fluffer. She might be singing about football, but it's really just a foreplay ritual for her hubby Tim McGraw. Prior to this, Hill's last time on television was her seminal 1995 appearance as Karen Lamar on Touched by an Angel.
G: Gooooooooooo team!
H: Halftime show -- Past performers include Carol Channing (1970), Carol Channing (1972), Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill (1992), Queen Latifah (1998), Janet Jackson's right areola (2004, and in memory for many years after), and Andy Lewis, the guy in the loincloth on the wire tantalizing Madge (2012). The NFL knows how to put on a show.
I: Instant replay -- If the instant replay is called into action, you know things are about to get serious. A hush falls over the crowd as the play is reviewed. The result, if in favor of the visiting team, sets the stadium into a fury, thus explaining that Forbes article titled "Why America Is Angry."
J: Jerseys -- Chicest: Pittsburgh Steelers/New Orleans Saints. Saddest: Indianapolis Colts. Gayest: Seattle Seahawks.
K: Kicker -- If you're going to date a football player, date a kicker. Their job, as evidenced by their title, is to kick the ball. They typically aren't tackled and are light on the eyes, heavy in the pocketbook, and often allowed to leave practice before the team, meaning guess who's cooking dinner tonight?
L: Locker room -- A few years ago the Minnesota Vikings were celebrating their victory against the Detroit Lions. A Fox cameraman decided to enter the locker room to get in on the action. The owner of the team was making his "Rah, Rah" speech when the camera inadvertently caught the cock of tight end Visanthe Shiancoe just hanging out. Big pimpin', indeed.
L(Squared): Los Angeles -- Can you believe they do not have a team? Get with it, L.A.
M: Monday Night Football -- If you were left unsatisfied by the entire day of football that is Sunday, fear not, because Monday Night Football is an actual thing that happens.
N: National anthem -- Everyone's partial to Whitney's rendition, obviously, but Jennifer Hudson's 2009 tour de force takes no prisoners. Still, I'm left stressed about Christina Aguilera's 2008 flub. Even Barbara Walters, a chanteuse in her own right, will agree that this is one of the most difficult songs to sing.
O: Offside -- Don't go offside, or else:
P: Plaxico Burress -- In 2008 Plax (as he's often called) was at New York City nightclub, LQ, when his glock pistol, tucked in the waistband of his sweatpants, began to slide down his leg (as they often do). In reaching to grab for it, he shot himself in the leg. Here comes the boom.
Q: Quarterback -- If you've heard of a football player it's likely a quarterback, since they're the turkey of the Thanksgiving meal. They come in smoking hot (Tom Brady), hot hottie hot (Joe Flacco), hot but not (Drew Brees), religious zealot (Tim Tebow), interstate dog-fighting financier (Michael Vick), and alleged sexual assaulter (Ben Roethlisberger).
R: Rivalries -- The NFL's answer to the Real Housewives franchise.
S: Super Bowl -- The one football game every year that people can usually muster the strength to pretend to care about. What's on the line? A title. What's so great about a title? Bragging rights. Also, the Super Bowl fully resurrected Christina Ricci's career with that Grey's Anatomy bomb episode. Then Pan Am happened.
T: Tight end -- According to answers.yahoo.com, Slim S. asks, "i heard tony romo use to be a tightend in highschool but later he came out the locker and decided to be a wide receiver. Is this true to your knowledge?" Mark's response: "no, its gay for a dude to get with another dude. duh!" Cheers.
U: Universities -- Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings) and Jon Favreau (who should be ellipsed for his role as Monica's boyfriend Pete Becker on Friends) starred in Rudy, a college football classic that is the one movie (arguably a tie with Schindler's List) that can make a man cry.
V: Victor Cruz -- Remember that guy who would score touchdowns and do the samba and everyone would go nuts? Mr. Cruz started a clothing line called Young Whales, is the official spokesperson for Campbell's Chunky Soup, and, according to his Twitter, is a scholar. That makes sense.
W: Wide receiver -- The 1994 gay porn film Wide Receiver is described as follows: "When the star quarterback is caught shoplifting by a horny cop, he's stripped of more than his dignity. Director Jeff Kincaid can think of only one punishment, sex slave. So go ahead and spread 'em!"
X: XFL -- The tragic football league founded in 2001 by WWF founder Vince McMahon, with the distinction of being "football with fewer rules." The XFL ranked number 3 on TV Guide's list of the worst TV shows of all time. Turns out rules exist for a reason.
Y: Yards -- The more of these that you complete, the more likely you are to win. "Run, Forrest, run!"
Z: Zebras -- The referees look like human zebras.