I am, unabashedly, a college football fan, and while I will root for my beloved Brown Bears from a distance, my in-person fandom is directed in support of the UCLA Bruins.
[Note that there’s always a bear involved.]
I am simultaneously aware of how brutal the sport is, and with so many college and NFL veterans paying the price for the violent game they played in their prime, I thought this story was worth a share, about a UCLA linebacker who, after his sixth concussion, hung up his cleats.
And then there’s Minnesota Vikings kicker Chris Kluwe, who gained fame with a letter defending the pro-marriage equality stance of a former UCLA teammate (and current Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo) in a letter that was as well written as it was profanity-laced. Kluwe got his 10 minutes on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now is featured in the paper of record:
For a man who had a perfect verbal score on the SAT, and whom friends, family, teammates and coaches describe as having “no filter,” the brickbat Chris Kluwe gorilla-swung at the notion of civil discourse became as much the story as the message itself.
“This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom?” he wrote. “Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life?”
The letter is a profanity-laden rant, as well as a multilayered, point-by-point decimation of Burns’s argument, so insidiously thorough that Burns waved the white flag two days later in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in which he said, in effect, “Never mind.”
“My writing style comes from a storied history on the World of Warcraft forum boards,” Kluwe said. “And in that context, the letter was actually really tame. I toned it down quite a few notches. I knew from the start, I wanted to make it funny, but I definitely couldn’t go full-bore on it.”
His definition of full-bore is debatable; what’s not in question is the positive manner in which his missive has been received across all sexual orientations and political affiliations.
“The guy’s got a way with words,” Rush Limbaugh said of Kluwe on his radio show.
Kluwe said: “It was funny because it felt like a sign of the apocalypse that Rush Limbaugh and whoever it was from the far left end of the spectrum were both congratulating me. Are pigs flying overhead now?”
Some in the Minnesota news media, used to local athletes and celebrities stringing clichés together, appreciate Kluwe’s candor and his ability to speak extemporaneously on any number of subjects. A voracious reader of as many as five books a week, he has emerged as the local go-to guy for a sound bite about a Michael Moore documentary or the latest action video game. (He stopped playing World of Warcraft 18 months ago, he said, because “it wasn’t a challenge anymore.”) After his response to Burns went viral, people in the news media privately and publicly expressed admiration for Kluwe’s ability to turn a memorable phrase.
“He might be a better writer than he is a punter,” said Bob Sansevere, a columnist with The St. Paul Pioneer Press, who has covered the Vikings since 1984 and is a regular on the Twin Cities’ top-rated morning radio show on KQRS. He added, “I’ve never seen an athlete who can write like that.”
There aren’t many people who can, period.
One of my earliest posts, five years ago, was about the creeping acceptance of gays in the sports world. Kluwe and Ayanbadejo are just two more examples of that accelerating process.