Carl Nassib—former All-America football player for Penn State, who has since played in the NFL on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cleveland Browns, and currently the Las Vegas Raiders—came out as gay earlier this week in a video in which he also announced he had made a large donation to the Trevor Project, and explained why people ought to also donate to the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide among LGBTQ youth.
Members of his own team and leaders within the National Football League management immediately chimed in with messages of support and congratulations. The internet erupted with other people reacting with encouragement—given that other gay NFL players have never felt it was safe to come out, and the only gay player who was out before he was drafted was not met with anything that could be described as a welcoming attitude from the league just seven years ago.
So it was a bit of a surprise that the league seemed to be reacting supportively.
All of those homophobes have been screaming that they don’t care, and then making the angry bad attempts at sexual insults. Coincidentally, on one of my other blogs, another homophobe sent me some angry messages in response to my posting of several Pride Month images. The phrase, “No one f—ing cares!” was repeated several times in those messages, too.
First, anyone who angrily yells or posts a comment asserting that “No one cares” when a queer person expresses anything about their lives, has just admitted that they care entirely way too much. They have also admitted that they are hateful bigots who lose their temper any time they are reminded that not everyone is straight.
Nassib responded to the people those (disingenuous) questions asking why he has to make an announcement. “Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attempting suicide by 40%. Whether you’re a friend, a parent, a coach, or a teammate — you can be that person.”
One of the first studies to show that was published by the George H.W. Bush administration. Bush tasked the National Institutes of Health with determining how to reduce teen suicide, and the conclusion was that the most teen suicides would be if parents were encouraged to tell their children that they would still love and accept them if they were gay.
This is one of the reasons I say every year around National Coming Out Day and during Pride Month that queer adults should be out. It makes your life better not to constantly hiding a secret and fearing discovering, but it also makes it more likely that younger queer people will live—period.
So, I’m happy for Nassib. Even if it does mean that I have to reinstate the search on my DVR to record Raiders games, again.
I first wrote about the Assistant Penn State Coach Sandusky child rape charges in Rough, manly sport almost exactly four years ago. I talked about my own school experiences with football culture, hypermasculinity, the closing of ranks, and so forth, and how that continues to put me in an ambivalent position about football. Being a gay kid who was beat up by jocks, harassed and called f*ggot a lot by some school coaches (let alone my classmates), and so forth, well, it’s a bit weird how much I still love to watch football.
Anyway, when the story first broke, we knew that several people who should have been in a position to protect the young boys who came to the university’s football camps had known about Sandusky’s child raping for a while, but there were still those that claimed they only knew of an isolated case or two that they somehow rationalized away as aberrations. Well, that was a load of bull: [trigger warning: sexual assault, child abuse] Unsealed Court Documents: Sandusky Abuse Allegation Was Reported To Joe Paterno In 1976.
There is a special place in hell reserved for child rapists, and Sandusky is going there. But there is a similar place, perhaps a worse place, in hell reserved for people who know about this sort of abuse, do nothing and even enable it. And Coach Joe Paterno is certainly and deservedly rotting in that exact part of hell right now.
Of course, it’s not as if I have much room to make fun of anyone for their superstitions about things like football. Last year on the eve of the big game, I was posting pictures of myself in my old Seahawks sweatshirt that I have been wearing sometimes while watching games for years, and had worn for every game that season, along with pictures of me in my three newer shirts/jerseys, and asking which I should wear for the game. Several friends pointed out that if I’d been wearing “Old Faithful” all season long, that I needed to wear it to the Superbowl, or I’d jinx the team. So I wore Old Faithful, and we won.
But Old Faithful was old, and getting frayed, and was a bit stained, so this year I’ve been wearing the newer 12th Man Jersey I got last year on game days. I rotated through my other shirts (one with the shiny silver ‘Hawks logo, the NFC Championship shirt, Old Faithful, an older grey t-shirt with the older logo) on Fridays before the game, but I wore the white jersey for each regular season game.
Then my husband gave me the #24 Marshawn Lynch t-shirt for Christmas. The next Sunday, I started the game wearing the new shirt. We had one of our worst first halves of a game the whole season. I realized my mistake, and retrieve the white jersey at halftime. We kicked butt and won in the second half.
So, even though my white 12th Man Jersey has two stains that have refused all efforts to remove, today I will be wearing it while watching the game.
While I’ve written a few times before about my own ambivalent relationship with the game of football, this is not one of those times. Because my team played an incredible game on Saturday, and I’m still bouncing around with joy over the many amazing feats of skill and athleticism that I got to watch (sometimes multiple times–and not always because of replay!).
I grew up in the Central Rocky Mountain region, where most people were fans of the Denver Broncos, Denver being the closest city with an NFL team to most of those places. There were always some people who were fans of other teams for various reasons. After my parents divorced, Mom, my oldest sister, and I moved from the Central Rockies to southwest Washington state. We moved in August of 1976. The same month that a brand new NFL expansion team called the Seahawks started playing their first pre-season games. I came to Washington the same time that the Seahawks came into existence as the state’s NFL team, so I’ve been here from the beginning.
Although I had rooted for the Broncos in the past, I hadn’t been a real fan, because I didn’t understand the game. My dad got extremely angry when I, as a kid, asked what was going on on the field. So I stopped asking. And at school, the correlation between whether a guy was a football player and whether he was someone who bullied me was very high. So it was new friends I met after moving to Washington who explained the game to me as they watched Seahawks games on Sunday afternoons.
I became a Seahawks fan during the team’s first season. And for most of the subsequent 38 seasons, our guys kept finding new and excruciating ways to give us hope, and then snatch it away from us. Which is why up until almost the end of last year’s Superbowl, even when we were so far ahead of the Broncos it was almost embarrassing, I couldn’t let myself believe we were actually going to win it.
So it’s still more than a little bit unbelievable, as we prepare to play the Conference Championship game next week, that we’ve not only managed to put together a really good team and win the whole thing last year, but that we have a reasonable chance of repeating it this year. And some of our guys are unbelievable. Such as Kam Chancellor, who plays Strong Safety on the Seahawks, who usually delivers an astounding performance was especially unbelievable this last weekend.
Anyone who has watched much track and field or a good Parkour athlete knows that the leap itself isn’t unbelievable. What is amazing is the circumstance. In order to do that, you have to correctly guess the moment that the Center on the other team is going to snap the ball. Which they are actively trying to surprise you about the timing of it. If he starts running too soon, he crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped and gets a penalty. If if starts too late, the ball gets snapped a fraction of a second before he gets there, and the lineman will surge up to their feet.
He has to hit his leap in that fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and when the other players react to the snap. He pulled it off, but because of a penalty elsewhere on the play, the referees stopped the game. The ball was moved five yards, everyone got in position again… and even though they were expected it, he did it again!
And that wasn’t even his most amazing play. That was when he intercepted one of their passes at the ten-yard line and ran the ball 90-yards to score a touchdown.
Kam was not the only Seahawk doing incredible things on the field that day. And to be fair, a number of the Panthers did some amazing things. Just not enough.
One of the things I enjoy about the playoffs is that, because it’s only the teams that did best during the year that are playing, and everyone is trying their hardest, you see a lot of good hard playing on every team in every game. So I watched Sunday’s playoff games. Since I used to be a Bronco’s fan, I try to catch their games when I can. I wanted to root for them, not because I want a re-match in the Superbowl, but just for old times’ sake. But the Colts were playing really well. The Packers/Cowboys game turned out how I hoped, since I’ve never liked the Cowboys (for reasons that are no less silly than rooting for the team that just happens to play in your city), but it was also fun to watch.
Humans are able to do some amazing things. Particularly working together. And playing a good game of football requires skills, strength, and endurance, but also quick thinking, strategy, and the willingness to work as a team. So part of the enjoyment is watching people do some amazing, and sometimes breath-taking things. And it can be just as inspiring to watch someone try and almost succeed, only failing because on that play, at that moment, one or more of the players on the other team was just a little bit faster, or a little bit luckier.
Then there are moments, like one time I was watching one of my favorite players, Marshawn Lynch, run one of his impossible carries, where four or five or more of the other guys had tackled him, but they hadn’t managed to knock him down, and he just kept moving, dragging them along. The camera had caught the grim and frightening determined expression on his face earlier in the play. And then at the end, once it was over, Marshawn climbed to his feet, grinning and laughing. He reached down, offering a hand up to one of the guys who had just tackled him. And they gave each other congratulatory slaps on the back before heading to their opposite sidelines.
The fact that we humans can do that, is pretty awesome, too.
I’ve written many times before about my own ambivalent relationship with football. And, as we enter the second week of the regular season, my enthusiasm for my Seahawks is high after our great opening game, but my deep misgivings about the league and the institution have me at a low, and not just because of the case that everyone has been talking about this week.
Marriage licenses issued to same sex couples in Arkansas. A drag queen/genderqueer performer won Eurovision despite angry protests from Russia and a few other places. And Michael Sam, an openly gay NCAA football player, was drafted into the NFL…Continue reading It bothers some people that we exist→
We wait for the light to change, even when there are no cars. That’s not just my city, by the way, that’s my neighborhood. That intersection is a short walk from our house.
“Law-abiding street parties are the best ones.” — Deadspin
A couple years ago a coach or player from some out-of-town sports team was issued a jaywalking ticket right outside a Seattle stadium, which made the media everywhere else run stories about how backward and quaint Seattle was for actually considering jaywalking an infraction…Continue reading Still pinching myself→
It’s easy to forget that professional athletes are people. And, despite the fact that for a while I majored in journalism, I sometimes find it very hard to believe that most journalists are even slightly human. Let me explain why.
One of my favorite players on the current Seahawks roster is Marshawn Lynch, a big running back who is just amazing to watch on the field. Despite him being my favorite, I was unaware that earlier this year, the League had threatened to fine him because he kept ducking out of press conferences. Player contracts require them to be available to the press, because most of the money the League makes comes from the networks and so forth.
Anyway, you only have to watch a couple minutes of this video of him to see that he isn’t being some sort of prima donna about the press. He is clearly extremely uncomfortable with all the mics and cameras. As he says early on, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined, boss.”
The other player in the clip, Michael Robinson, attempts to take the heat off by answering for Marshawn. He does a fairly humorous imitation, and gets Marshawn laughing. Eventually Marshawn makes what I think is an excellent answer to several of the reporters asking why he doesn’t want to talk to them, since the press is supposed to be a bridge to the fans: “If y’all say y’all is a bridge from the players to the fans, and the fans really ain’t really tripping, then what’s the point? What’s the purpose? They got my back. I appreciate that. But I don’t get what’s the bridge being built for.”
The thing is, I don’t understand how anyone with a gram of empathy in their souls can watch Marshawn squirming in that chair and not understand how deeply uncomfortable he is. Not just understand, but squirm a bit yourself!
I understand about the need to get the story in order to keep your job. But when three or four other guys have already asked almost exactly the same question—including that phrase about a bridge to the fans!—what’s the point of repeating it?
If he was a public official, and the reporters were trying to get answers about an incident where it seems action by the official or his underlings had caused harm to the public, then it’s perfectly understandable for journalists to keep asking the same question. In that case the subtext is, “None of us are going to quit bugging you about this until we get an answer.” In that kind of situation, they’re serving a public interest. But this is football, for heaven’s sakes!
The really interesting thing is that Lynch gave an interview later in the week, in a one-on-one situation, where he was quite talkative, and he didn’t just spout of a string of sports clichés:
“And I’m not as comfortable, especially at the position I play, making it about me. As a running back, it takes five offensive linemen, a tight end, a fullback and possibly two wide receivers, in order to make my job successful. But when I do interviews, most of the time it’ll come back to me. There are only so many times I can say, ‘I owe it to my offensive linemen,’ or, ‘The credit should go to my teammates,’ before it becomes run down.
“This goes back even to Pop Warner. You’d have a good game and they’d want you to give a couple of quotes for the newspaper, and I would let my other teammates be the ones to talk. That’s how it was in high school, too. At Cal, I’d have my cousin, Robert Jordan, and Justin Forsett do it.
“Football’s just always been hella fun to me, not expressing myself in the media. I don’t do it to get attention; I just do it ’cause I love that (expletive).”
We’re in the middle of football season, so I am watching games each week. I’ve written before about the complicated relationship I have with football. This week it was impossible to watch the games without having those issues front and center.
Two Miami Dolphins players have been in the news. Jonathan Martin has left the team, is getting treatment for stress-related illness, and is entering counseling. After which Richie Incognito has been suspended for allegedly harassing and bullying Martin to a level that goes beyond what is expected. Each of them has ended up with a lawyer and who knows where this will end. The voice mail messages and texts that Incognito left for Martin which have been seen and leaked do not paint a pretty picture…
On the first day of school my eighth grade year, instead of having each of us go to our final period class at the end of the day, they had all the girls go to the library for an “assembly,” while all the football players went to the gym for a pre-practice meeting. And they told the boys not going out for football to report to the math teacher’s room.
It was a small town middle school: sixth, seventh, and eighth grade totaling a bit less than 200 kids, about half of them boys. There were only eight boys out of that 100 who were not going out for football. So the eight of us sat in the room, not sure exactly why we were there, or what we were supposed to do.