“Looking forward to the Super Bowl?” a male friend asked recently, not with without a little snigger. He’s the kind of guy who finds burping as punctuation to his words to be inordinately funny. I also suspect he’s fond of manscaping. But since we’ve never gone swimming together–I’ll only go in the water if I’m swathed in fabric, much like the saris old women wear while bathing in the Ganges–I’ll never know.
“Yup,” I said. “I think the Super Bowl is the most exciting 15 minutes of the sports year.
“Fifteen minutes?” He looked perplexed, like a dog who turns his head side to side when hearing a strange noise.
I nodded. “The halftime show is the greatest.”
Here he took a wider stance and sucked in his sizable middle-age gut stretching his “Greg Brady 12” T-shirt. I could see I’d challenged his Armchair Jock Privilege on what is the holiest of holy sports days for straight men. I was about to capitulate and let him off the hook when he said it.
Yes, he said it.
“The Super Bowl’s not about all that fluff and feathers. It’s about the ancient mano-a-mano tradition of brute force to win and vanquish.”
Unless my mediocre public education fails me, I don’t recall the Greeks and Spartans ever engaging in a rousing game of toss-the-pigskin.
And fluff and feathers? Fluff and feathers? How dare he! Now he had offended my Hard-Won Gay Fabulosity Privilege.
Didn’t he know how much those halftime shows meant to little boys who secretly practiced the choreography of the Jackson Five and Tony Orlando and Dawn in their basements? And when those same little boys grew up to be gay men and gathered in front of the TV for those precious 15 minutes, quaffing prosecco like it was Budweiser and stuffing their faces with perfectly coiffed deviled eggs, swirls of homemade pâté, and, of course, Nancy Drew Blondies, they felt…included.
Didn’t he understand that every time Katy Perry stands and sings on top of an enormous golden lion, or Lady Gaga flies through the air, or The One’s idol, Diana Ross, tells the crowd, “Here comes my ride!” as she jumps into a helicopter and lifts way, it takes away The Sting?
The sting of having had to slump through hours of inscrutable plays and tortuously long timeouts with bully cousins who kept stuffing your copy of “The Incredible Journey” down their pants so you were forced to watch. The sting of having been the brunt of your gym class’s jokes because you couldn’t catch or throw a football. The sting felt by a slightly plump, particularly impressionable college sophomore, who in 1980 was asked by his secret crush to come over and watch the game together, and who bought a pair of red nylon underwear with a white racing strip, only to discover his crush’s girlfriend lying on the couch. (For the record, the halftime show that year featured Up With People, so all three and a half hours–and the underwear–were a waste. Double sting.)
No, my belching friend, the Super Bowl halftime show isn’t about a bunch of fluff and feathers; it’s one of the best 15-minute house parties ever. And the game, oddly in these divisive times, is possibly the most inclusive in our country. For a few brief shining hours, you and I–gay and straight, Democrat and Republican–come together (metaphorically, for I will never step foot in a man cave) and you get to watch your guys, I get to watch my girls, and we both get to laugh at some of the most hilarious commercials of the year. (The only difference? I’ll probably have one hell of a better spread than you. Just saying.)
So this Sunday, sir, The One and I will once again tune in to catch the last few minutes of the first inning of the Jets and Sharks giving each other lawsuit-grade concussions as they make their way up and down the grillwork–gaining and losing Watership Downs–all the while gunning for those home runs. Then we’ll sit back to enjoy in the climax of the evening: Justin Timberlake.
And the following day, I won’t engage in Monday-morning quarterbacking or even be able to tell you the score. But I’ll be happy to bring sexy back by recreating every move of JT’s halftime choreography. And, as The One knows, that’s a spectacle not to be missed.
Originally published February 2, 2018