Sociologically, the game, the business, and all of the dynamics and decision-making that surround the players and the league are fascinating. I especially like the behind the scenes coverage of football. But mostly, I like learning about the art and physics of the game—the bodies in motion and their comportment (here is one of my favorite clips on the precision of passing—which I highly recommend for use in classes during discussions of reliability and validity jic). I bring this up here particularly because overall I find football quite queer.
Football is a masculine paradox. Initially it may seem explosive, rock hard, and even violent, but in slow motion it appears graceful and fluid. The men involved are quite emotional and even moody at times—terms we wouldn’t typically associate with masculinity. But here we revere men’s passion for the game and tears at a loss, or win for that matter. In America, football is often portrayed as the epitome of masculinity. It is a hyper-masculinity that is actually quite over the top, at the same time football can also be very campy (especially when players have to be very precise and flexible with their bodies and as related to their emotions).
My favorite position is the tight end.
Based on the male-to-male touching, the language used, and the athletic bodies, many innuendos and out right claims have been made related to its homoeroticism. I am not the first to note this—just Google “homoerotic” and “football” for further evidence. It has been associated with “ritual homosexuality” and one article I ran across even referred to Football as “America’s Gayest Pastime.”
Last week(end) was the NFL draft and in honor of all paradoxes, I thought I would share my three favorite masculine moments in the draft. They involve three players in particular—Mike Evans, Johnny Manziel, and Michael Sam. (Sociologically, Jadeveon Clowney’s 2014 NFL Draft Promo also caught my eye with him running shirtless through rain attacking football tackling dummies set to a thunderstorm and animalistic breath sounds—but that is a whole different blog in itself).
Disrupting the Backfield
To ESPN’s credit, they treated Sam in that moment like they did any and all other athletes. Since Sam is gay, this is actually a huge deal. Sam became by far the most visible 7th rounder pick and controversial in the league and has since received a great deal of coverage due to his sexual orientation and sadly backlash from the kiss. Media is still discussing this topic one week later. Much of the concern stemming from the backlash was for the children who might be watching and how they will be affected, in addition to what this will mean for the men in the locker room, and that there is just no place for kissing in football. The homophobic narratives and symbolic language are actually quite interesting—the idea that men that represent “true” masculinity and are the king of warrior kings within our society would be scared of one man in the locker room. However, as academics we know that “locker room” is code talked about as referring to team cohesion in narratives, but in reality means place where we are naked and vulnerable.
There have also been some great spoofs that have come to Sam’s defense or played on the for the sake of children narratives—you should check them out. Here is my favorite to which my friend and colleague Cate Taylor said it best with: “It had to be done.” This one is particularly great because it highlights how much kissing is a part of the football backdrop, and supports the traditional masculinity of the player image. I also really enjoyed the play on the concern “for the children” that twitter took on here.
Here is a link to someone’s recording of this moment, however, I could not find the actual footage of this on youtube and I have been looking for it for four days now. So this is the best we have. There is footage of most of the other top players selected hearing their news and walking up. I don’t know if this means anything…although I usually find the absence of such things just as insightful.
In all of the above cases, we see men showing affection and supporting one another in a way that is generally considered atypical outside of the context of sports. Outside of the context of sports and family, these moments would not go along with the traditional masculine narrative. Yet within the sports framework, and in some of the most masculine spheres, these behaviors are frequent and understandable. Not feminine, nor gay at all.