For every Peyton, Brady, or Brees, there are a hundred NFL hopefuls who don’t dream of stardom. They just want a job. They show up at training camp, work their asses off, and pray not to get cut. For these anonymous guys on the NFL bubble, every hard knock, every missed tackle, is compounded by the psychic burden of living each practice in limbo. This is the story of three bubble players—a quarterback, a receiver, and a kicker—and their now-or-never gridiron dreams.
That damn game cost me a week of recruiting.
He’s the backup who took his team to the Super Bowl, the football player with the 95-mph fastball, the guy who ran roughshod over defenses last season but was coached in high school to never run the ball at all. Andrew Corsello talks to the most unpredictable and least understood elite QB in the league right now.
Jenny Johnson has learned a few things from her fellow football fans. Here’s her guide on how to be a REAL fan:
If you follow me on Twitter, it will come as no surprise to you that I’m a huge fan of the Houston Texans. I frequently show my support for the Texans by going to their practices, games, tweeting my support, texting well-wishes to my Houston Texan friends on game day and posting Texans pics on my Instagram. I started observing other sports fans while at games, while watching the team play from my local neighborhood pub and reading people’s @ replies to me following one of my supportive Texans tweets. Then it occurred to me that I’ve been doing it all wrong. When the Texans lost the playoff game to the New England Patriots, I congratulated the Patriots on my Twitter page like some kind of idiot, I should’ve been talking shit! Well I won’t make that mistake twice. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my fellow football fans on how to be a REAL fan.
- Always call the opposing teams quarterback something homophobic. “Stupid faggot” or “Cocksucker” seem to be popular names for whoever is taking snaps against the team you love. Also say things like, “I hope that cocksucker [insert player’s name] is ready to be raped by my [insert team name].” It really proves your undying love for a group of muscular, sweaty men who have no idea who you are.
- A great move when at a game is to simply roll your game program up into a tube and shout plays at the coach from your nose bleed seat. Who cares if the coach can’t hear you? You want him to get his head out of his ass, and by god, you are gonna let him know. The people seated around you will love to hear your knowledge of football screamed through a $15 magazine of players’ names and stats.
- Get drunk, then begin explaining the rules of football to whomever is next you.
They paint their faces, they grunt and swear and down Jell-O shots before 10 A.M., and they never go a Sunday without their team jerseys. GQ’s Lauren Bans spends game day with one of the NFL’s fastest-growing fan bases—female superfans. Here’s an excerpt:
At the count of three, we all slam back tequila—Patrón, the good stuff—out of Dixie cups. I’m looking for a place to discard my empty when, by way of introduction, a Snooki-sized older woman wearing a huge Raiders jersey as a makeshift dress, plus shoulder pads and false eyelashes, jabs her finger directly into my left breast. This is Raider Gloria.
"What is going on here? I liiiike this.” She’s referring to my rather unremarkable gray crewneck T-shirt, not my left breast. “Only it should go”—and now she begins to make light-saber noises (“phhhshu! phhhshu! phhhshu!”) to indicate where she would make cuts in the fabric, which is basically from the neck down in a big swoop to the middle of my stomach.
Before I can respond, a man squeezes in between us and accidentally grazes Gloria’s chest in what can only be some kind of karmic molestation payback. Only, Gloria is delighted. She calls out to the man’s son, who’s leaning on the bumper of a Ford SUV and looking bored: “Hey, take a picture of your dad touching my titties!”
This year’s surprise hothouse of social liberalism: the NFL. It began in August when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (above, right) donated a pair of tickets to a gay-marriage fund-raiser—and got blasted for it by Maryland politico Emmett C. Burns, who told Ayanbadejo to shut his yap and stick to football. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe roared to his fellow NFLer’s defense, sending a scathing, hilariously profane letter to the sports website Deadspin in which he called Burns, among other gems, “a narcissistic fromunda stain.” (For those wondering, “fromunda” is basically, well, groin stank.) We called up Ayanbadejo and Kluwe for a joint GQ interview.
What did it actually feel like to go from total obscurity to blowing your first NFL whistle to realizing “WOW, this is real” to getting terrorized by enraged coaches and 300-pound linemen to becoming a national punch line to returning to total obscurity—all in just three short weeks? Nathaniel Penn sits down with six replacement refs (including a couple who worked the infamous Seahawks-Packers game) and gets an earful:
Elliott: In the replay booth, you could definitely see the Green Bay guy controlling the ball first and the Seattle guy getting his arms in there, and it was an argument for a simultaneous catch. The replay guy said, “We’re gonna have to go with ‘The play stands.’ ” I never knew life could be the way it was for the next week. I got, I would guess, 2,000 calls and texts on my cell phone from Wisconsin: “The best call you could make right now would be suicide.”
Peek: For probably three hours of that game, we had been doing a bang-up job, in my judgment. We wanted to bowl a 300 game. We got close to that 300 game, and then, in the last frame, we threw a gutter ball.
Brasuell: At San Francisco during halftime, when the security guys stepped out and faced the crowd, I said hi to one of them. He asked how I was doing, and I said I was thankful and blessed to be here, and he said, “Amen to that.” That had a huge impact on me. If the seven of us officials weren’t doing this, this man is out of work. It was a lot bigger than football.