For those publications that jump on the NFL bandwagon, it seems you can’t click on a website or pass a magazine rack without seeing someone making predictions about the coming NFL season and providing insights into the lives of players.
One doesn’t immediately equate Rolling Stone with sports journalism. It is much better known for its long form stories on topics ranging from music to politics to social issues, but for its Sept. 10 issue – on newsstands and online today featuring Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on the cover – one of the stories pulls the curtain back on the NFL locker room, perhaps labeling it as being the most surreal place on earth.
Who would lay out the inner workings of a NFL locker room and blow the whistle on the secret life behind the curtain?
Who else? Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
In a piece entitled “The Secrets of an NFL Locker Room,” Kluwe, a self-styled football laureate who loves the sound of his own prose being read (is that possible?), is back at it again – pulling back the curtain and giving outsiders a look at one of the last bastions of the old-school boy’s club in the locker room.
In the magazine, there is an extremely edited version of the 1,700-word missive that Kluwe has become famous for in his rambling manifestos on the Deadspin website. Equal parts impressive prose and shocking vulgarity, Kluwe continued his one-man crusade to enlighten the world of the NFL fans don’t see.
He claims the only thing he misses about the NFL is the banter of the locker room, in which the discussions range from taxes to juggling women to lying about concussions to showing up for practice hung over to NFL executives wanting to stifle players who speak their minds in interviews to sexual escapades.
The recurring theme of Kluwe’s tome (the on-line version, anyway) was that NFL players live in a bubble outside of reality. The discussions players have in the locker room aren’t all that different from the ones heard in taverns, barber shops, break rooms or job sites throughout the country, the only difference is that, in the NFL, friendships are fleeting because the game goes on without every player at some point or another and the end can come abruptly – injury, trade, release, etc. – and most jobs don’t have millions of strangers watching them at work.
Related: Facebook Imposter Frustrating Kluwe
Profanity aside, Kluwe gives an insight into the complexity of being a grown man playing a children’s game at a violent and extremely high level that is actually profound. However, he wasn’t always the most complimentary of the experience that he is no longer a part of.
In a passage from the story, Kluwe speaks of what happens to a player when he is no longer surrounded by the ever-evolving cast of characters who are his teammates and, for a while, his brothers in arms.
“The dream ends. No more of the good. No more philosophical debates on the nature of humanity; no more laughing at someone stumbling and falling on game film; no more hyper-competitive Mario Kart tournaments replete with friendly insults screamed across the room. No more pranks, freezing someone’s clothes to their car, or blowing an air horn into the storage closet where it’s easy to sneak a nap. No more birthday celebrations while stuck in a college dorm at minicamp, bemoaning the enforced isolation, but cherishing the moment nonetheless.
“No more of the bad. No more sharing a bus with domestic abusers, unable to refuse to associate with them because that’s not your choice to make. No more questioning the motives of coaches who demand you act in their best interests and not your own. No more failure, the stomach-wrenching sensation of publicly shaming yourself by not being quite good enough that particular day, no matter how badly you wanted it. No more casual racism and misogyny and idiocy, drunk drivers who could buy cab companies.”
Kluwe has made himself a thorn in the side of the highly protective NFL establishment and his most recent public rant will likely rub the brass of the NFL the wrong way, but Kluwe remains a spokesman that both denounces the NFL and his longing to get back to where he felt so at home.
If you can get past some of the salty language and disturbing imagery, it might be worth a read because it speaks to the life of being a player in the NFL – even if it does come from the perspective of a punter.
There you go, Chris. We summarized it with a 1,000 words to spare and no sparkleponies were harmed.