If my high school senior-self were to travel into the future and look at my life now, I think he'd find a lot to like about it. I live in New York City, I'm writing, I'm performing, and meeting new, fun people every day. He'd have a lot of questions, too: "What's Twitter?" "Why haven't you been updating your MySpace page?! I just figured out how to make it snow!" "What'd you guys end up naming the first Hand Drawn Epic album?" But I think there'd be one thing that he'd have a serious problem with:
"Hey, Older Me! What's with all the FOOTBALL, sell out?!"
played suited up for the football team in high school (no one wore those creases sharper than me), but I had a realization junior year. There's something in every football player that drives them, that keeps their knees pumping up and down and their feet pushing them through the guy in front of them. It makes them incapable of sleep until their body can go no further. It forces them to use every spare moment in their pursuit of physical perfection; it makes them realize the incredible tool their body is. To them, the drama that unfolds on the field, in the backfield and along the line of scrimmage is far more enthralling than anything put on a screen, stage, or page. It captivates and intoxicates them. And back in high school, I didn't have that thing. I was just not a football player.
If I remember correctly, I had this realization moments after being nominated as president of the Creative Writing Club, during a meeting of the club that I had skipped football practice for. Suffice it to say, I took that as a sign, turning in my pads and helmet at the end of that season and never looked back. The next fall, I took up another pursuit of excellence that utilizes the body's natural gifts to create drama and intrigue in another arena. One that required the nimble footwork of the running back, the complicated pattern recall of the quarterback, and, occasionally, the upper body strength of the lineman: musical theatre.
And I was great at it! My senior year was a far more enjoyable experience for me after having found the disciplines my mind and body were built for: creative writing and musical theater (ladies). It's incredible how congratulations and applause after years of coaches' verbal dissections of one's masculinity can improve one's outlook on life. I took to the drama crowd well, and that social course led me away from touchdowns and punt returns to the improv comedy and writing I love today.
My experience actually ran quite parallel to a similar one thousands of other high schoolers who find themselves drawn to the drama crowd experience: Once I was honest and open about what I liked, I was free to explore the things I loved! Though I'd say my experience involved a lot less ANTM marathons than the other high school drama kids'. Through the end of high school and into college, I explored my creative side and found much more than I expected to.
Along the way, I lost even a passing interest in professional sports. Those were the things the jocks and male friends of my parents talked about, probably because they didn't know themselves. I had, like, read some philosophy, man, and I wasn't scared anymore. Have you ever even heard of Descarte? Probably not. I talked about friggin' life, and like, the mind, man. My friends and I didn't care how the blue shirts were going to home the most runs against the white shirts.
We spent our conversations pondering questions like, "If there's a speed of light, then, like...what would the speed of dark be?" Y'know, important stuff. Sure, we could go to a sports bar to watch the Giants play, OR we could watch this Comedy Central stand up marathon until midnight! Yeah, we could put in Madden 2KWhatever, OR we could play Risk! Or Monopoly! Or we could find a way to combine Risk and Monopoly, and then make the board look like Middle Earth! Someone invite some girls over, this'll be great!
I carried this outlook into college, where I found myself surrounded by a more diverse crowd. There were Jewish kids in this drama club! And openly gay people! Coming from a Catholic high school, this was a bit of a culture shock for me, but I opened my mind and made friends. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the sports fans, blending in, as if they were one of us. And my theater friends were accepting them with open arms, on the basis of merit alone.
I begrudgingly went along with the changing tide and rolled my eyes when conversations with friends turned away from Harry Potter and towards this week's NFC matchups. I attended football parties, went to wing nights, and played along to be accepted by my new friends. I adopted the Giants as my team and flew under their blue logo. It brought back memories of my dad taking my brother and me to Giants games when I was younger, and the homemade banner we put along the side of our station wagon; of the Giants pullover snow jacket my mom got me in fifth grade that was warm enough for her to be sure I wouldn't get sick, but short enough for me to be able to do sweet air kicks in.
Before I knew it, I was signed up for a weekly football pool. I said it was, "just for the trash talking," but deep down I knew what was really happening, even in my self-delusional state. I was paying money to be able to talk about football with my friends. Somewhere in the midst of his college theater career, the former president of the Don Bosco Prep Creative Writing Club became a football fan again.
The realization that you simply don't possess within you the proper tools, or spirit, or drive that you need to accomplish the goals you've set for yourself is a scary one. It can be both humiliating and freeing, humbling and scary. It can take you in a lot of directions. But the realization that deep down, you've been repressing a part of yourself that you thought was repressing you to begin with is just...well, I still can't tell you what that feels like. It's so confusing that I still haven't figured out how to process that realization four years later. When the Giants came up and stomped out the Patriots' dream of a perfect season in Superbowl XLII, though, I knew I was hooked. Rogers & Hammerstein couldn't script emotion like that if they had two chorus lines, a tap number, and a troupe of dancing seals on stage.
This past season has been another emotional hook for me. The drama has come from two sources: the Giants' perennial insistence on showing up in the second half of both their games AND their season, and (yep, even I'm going to talk about him) Tim Tebow.
For us here in New York, it's been a roller coaster ride for Big Blue this year. We were hot, we were dumps, then we were hot, then dumps, and back and forth until we suddenly started playing like CHAMPIONS again! It's the story of any city whose team has a shot at the Superbowl, and it's enough drama and intrigue to keep any feeling soul enthralled from season to season. This season, however, has spilled a whole decade's worth of spicy drama salsa onto the nachos, and the salsa is full of jalapenos that are...Tim Tebow, I guess.
Look, my terrible metaphor aside, this season has been amazing to follow for a huge reason. Like him or hate him (and usually, I find it's both for the same reason), Tim Tebow has electrified the story of this season. I wanted him to go all the way to the Superbowl (to be crushed by the Giants, of course). I wanted it for him bad. Not because the Broncos deserve it, or even because I though he deserved it.
I wanted him to go all the way to prove that someone could.
Just to see the absolute longest of shots somehow connect. To see everyone's heads explode across the country. It would have been talked about for decades! But, proving that the NFL has no shortage of hilarity to match its incredible dramas, the big messianic, superheroic Denver run this year was put down in the most inarguable, unquestionable, and conclusive of ways. David finally met a Goliath he was truly outmatched by, and none of his prayers, hopes, or dreams could do anything to stop the demolition. Football Jesus was put down, out, and under by the NFL Devil himself, Tom Brady, in a soul-crushing 45-10 defeat.
It was hilarious. As much as I wanted Tebow to somehow pull it off, I couldn't stop laughing.
It's a modern day pantheon of warring gods, a more dignified gladiator arena. With no script or actors playing parts, we're presented weekly with loss, victory, and betrayal, heroic highs and devastating lows. It's a thrilling drama, this contest of human physical perfection. We may get bogged down in rules, commercials, salary caps and the ethics of performance enhancers, but beneath it all is what brings people to movie theaters across the nation every weekend, and what drew people to the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's day.
In these battles, we see people that are what our ego wishes we were: Perfect. In control. Unstoppable. And we see see ramifications for error: penalties are called, touchdowns are scored. It's immediate gratification, heroes and villains, and strategy in one package. It's pulled us in not because of commercialization or glitz and glamor. It's pulled us in because it satisfies our need for great drama, week after week, season after season.
And finally, I have something to talk to my parents' male friends about.