Gays and Football: The Homosexual Brain

I fell into a bad scene in college. My introduction to it was a guy named Trey. Trey Angles to be precise. Unbeknownst to me, Trey had a reputation for agitating other people in the art department with earnest, no-nonsense watercolor portraits of his favorite football players. During painting workshop critiques, the students and faculty gathered around each other’s work and recited interchangeable debates about their creations being appropriations, not copies, of David Salle or Sherrie Levine. Trey’s work was something they all wanted to skip over, but couldn’t. There lacked a context within which to hate Trey’s giant football paintings. “I think football is really great,? he would repeat blank-faced during critiques, while those around him drowned in whirl-puddles of quotes they’d memorized incorrectly from Artforum. Trey was a prolific artist in the infinitesimal cosmos that was the college art scene in Denton, Texas during the late 80’s. The other art students hated Trey. Trey loved football. We became good friends.

Trey was straight. I, like a lot of gay males, could pretend to pay attention to football only through flat eyes and a paralyzed brain. But one component of our friendship was my secret fascination with Trey’s effortless, reckless, overindulgence in this taboo subject. For me, the world of sports was like a whole new culture on another planet.

Trey’s biggest fix was the Dallas Cowboys. His obsession with the team reached the kind of sharp, knowledgeable clarity that can only be gleaned from enslaving one’s unwavering support to an entity that’s reputation as a winner unpredictably fluctuates in the eyes of others. The team was his ego.

During moments in our friendship, I would sometimes ask him certain questions. Trey would talk a lot of answers. My curiosity with his obsession eventually became insatiable, if only because no matter how much I tried to learn about it – nothing stuck. There was always room for more sports talk in my ears, because once it went through them and into my gay brain, it ceased to exist. And Trey loved to sermonize about sports. My mind became a black hole that he could ecstatically throw facts and trivia into, never worrying that he’d gone to far. I felt the same way about being the receptor. Through our mutual feeding, we each made the other feel smarter, and important.

This relationship reached its apex one Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1988. A mob of people had gathered at Trey’s overcrowded apartment – a central meeting place. There were no girls in the mixed crowd. The requisite football pre-game show blared out of the TV. Trey was centered on the couch, transfixed, breaking his trance only to talk to the TV or other people who were in the same trance. Me? I was distracting myself on the other side of the room with other non-sports types, haggling about the song order on Robyn Hitchcock mix tapes.

Something clicked inside of me, and I had a change of mind. I left my routine pals, and waded across the room through crumpled Whataburger wrappers and empty Schaffer beer cans. I sat next to Trey on the couch.

I told him there was something I wanted to try with him that neither of us had ever done. For once in my life I wanted to watch an entire football game intently, from beginning to end, and know exactly what was happening in terms my brain could understand. That had always been the problem; I possessed the correct equipment, but the wrong drive. I wanted him to walk me through it all and show me what to do. He snapped out of his trance and looked at me with resignation. He’d been expecting this. I told him I wanted him to give me live, real-time knowledge of the opening babble between the commentators on the pre-show, all the way to the victory shouting in the locker room at game’s end, and everything in-between – all while it was happening. I needed every player’s name, number and history, every rule, call, reason for rule, reason for call, fumble, score, reason for score. I wanted to know what “penalty? and “three yards pass? meant, and why everyone was on the field at one point, and why they all left it at another. I wanted him to show me everything.

I had no idea how thrilled he was. We had tried this before, but it has always ended up in awkward fumbling. This was the day it was going to happen for real. Trey tried to hide a smile that spread across his face.

So, when the game started, Trey leaned over and began speaking in my left ear. I kept my eyes on the screen. As the action unfolded, he showed me. The hours became frozen. With deep concentration, I was able to follow every single pass, tackle and instant replay. I strained towards the television screen, almost yearning. It was all so fascinating, like entering someone’s secret garden. Trey would push me back onto the couch, telling me to stay with him. The words oozed out of his mouth and fell onto my now statue-like frame, which occasionally moved only slightly enough to give the faintest indication of a nod. What we were doing felt perverse, extreme. The crowd, the room… everything within our circumference except the television and the two of us, ceased to exist. People tried to interrupt us with offers of more beer or conversation, but we would robotically extend an arm to shoo them away with a shaking hand.

My simultaneous focus on the action and Trey’s mouth reached a finite point, and I began to finally appreciate what he liked so much. My concentration even bled through into the commercials, and even the half-time show, both of which I experienced with remarkable clarity and perception. It was a fascinating new world, but it was hard work. The suppression, the obstacle, had always been there – but Trey had carved a glorious hole in the wall separating us! In those hours, we were the same man. One hour… two hours… three… with overtime the game went well over four hours.

At the end… everyone in the room was growling and leaping up and down in the room, flinging food like primates. The Cowboys had won. As everyone howled and punched each other, Trey was still sitting at my ear, speaking. Wrapping it up. We both remained there for a good ten minutes, contemplating what had just happened.

Trey eventually snapped out of it and jumped up, causing the needle on the Replacements LP that had just been put on to skip and make everyone go “AHHwwwooohhh-lame!? I was still. Facing the screen. My posture had grown horrific, my brow was scrunched nearly below my nostrils, my eyes were pins. I realized I had not moved a muscle in four hours. I had remained motionless on that couch, every molecule of my being tuned to the screen and Trey’s voice. I think I had forgotten I even had a body.

Did I enjoy the game? No. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I could now describe – probably even today – the game’s chronological events and the players involved, like reciting the unfolding plot of my favorite film or play. I felt like I could have a conversation with someone else who had seen it, and talk – really talk, not lie-talk – about it with them. What a feeling, a first… a personal best. I had punched through.

I stood up – finally moved, really – for the first time in four hours. Trey’s living room looked different than it had before. It was bigger. No, wait, smaller. I realized I had the same feeling one gets after hours of meditation, that post-void one attains from time spent being something they’re not. I was looking at the world through new eyes. Dizzy ones. Suddenly I realized I had sat back down on the couch without remembering doing so.

“Mark do you want another beer? Are you OK?? Trey’s brother Ward came up and asked me.

I must have responded – there was a small gap there – because eventually Ward said
“Wha-a-a-t?? to whatever was spoken by me. He also noted that I looked pale.

I felt pale. And I felt the need to go home. But I felt the need to stand up – for real this time – and also noticed something hovering about five feet above my cranium. Oh yea, it was searing, piercing pain. I had a numb, mystified feeling, a consciousness of being badly hurt, but no pain in the ordinary sense. I hadn’t had one beer, or anything, but I felt very odd.

Trey, who had been distracted, turned and walloped my shoulder really hard with a hearty smile, thanking me for the experience. Halfway through his words, his face dropped with concern.

“You blew my circuits.? I said to him with the wrong tone, through insane eyes.

Then I stood up (oh, I was sitting down yet again?) and attempted to walk through the sound-less, over-exposed white light chamber that Trey’s living room had magically transformed into.

All the sounds around me seemed farther away that they should have been. I noticed the walls were rotating, and also beginning to sort of itch. As I was parting through the squawking mob, I looked down and noticed that Trey was holding my hand as I walked through the crowd.

“Whatever… Tom Landry.? I weirdly growled as he lead me to the front door. When we accomplished reaching the door, I nimbly raised my arms, turned around and yelled “Touchdown!? Nobody got it. I went outside. A crisp autumn breeze brushed against my face, and I inhaled deeply. It felt bad.

The next thing I remembered was pressure on the back of my scalp. It was the fingers of Trey, picking me up off the couch (how did I get back inside?) who began to half walk/half carry me from the apartment to my car. It felt like I was wearing roller skates. We shuffled out of the apartment and I tried to push the purple spots away from my eyes, so I could say goodbye to my friends. All I saw were strange gawk-eyed participants at my sports coming-out party. They had closed mouths and weren’t congratulating me. No team spirit.

In the parking lot, he directed me to the passenger’s seat of my car and asked for my keys. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Friends also don’t let friends drive who are suffering from “a-gay-guy-watched-a-whole-sports-game-on-TV-induced-psychotropic-migraine? headaches either. Trey is such a good, good friend.

We turned right on Eagle Drive, passing the cemetery. Trey claimed that after he left me outside, someone eventually found me beside the creek near the apartment complex, wobbling backwards and forwards, half-eyed and white. I checked to see if my wallet was still in my back pocket. I actually couldn’t exactly hear what he was saying because when I looked forward in the road, I was distracted by a warm, embracing white glow coming towards us that made me translucent and also shot laser beams of pain directly into my spinal core.

Trey pulled up to the rambling house I shared with a bunch of art-types, my formal friends, and assisted my stumble to the front door. Everyone was home. States of altered consciousness weren’t only welcome in this house, they were cheered. They helped me to my room. Some of the people in this house hated Trey. “Here hon-neee,? one of my roommates whispered too loudly in dim light, as he gave me two pills from a bottle that he’d stolen from the bathroom at some party. He said he thought they were probably Valium. Taking them made me feel in control again.

I slept for a little under 24 hours. At some point I remember having a very profound dream, about something that wasn’t football. I’ve never had a migraine before, nor since. It’s like a headache that can’t be contained in your whole body so the seams just keep stretching. It makes you crave unconsciousness.

When I awoke it was four in the morning on some day. I walked into the kitchen and drank an entire pitcher of Crystal Light all at once. My roommates were all up, smoking pot. They were looking at a Japanese book about Jeff Koons and listening to a terrible Durutti Column tape. They looked at me and asked what had happened. I looked over. The identity of everyone in the room immediately pressed upon me. I lied and told them that my condition was caused by… mushrooms, bad ones, that we had done too much of. They all burst out laughing and started sharing partially true bad drug trip experiences. I sat down commiseratively, joining in the fraudulent stories.