(This story was published in 2004).
By: Bill Konigsberg
The following takes place in an NFL locker room in a city to remain nameless except to say it is located somewhere north of Los Angeles and south of Russian River and the Sonoma Valley. The protagonist, whom we’ll name Jeff, is a well-known, all-pro quarterback. For ease of purpose, the rest of the team will work as a sort of Greek chorus (pun intended?), speaking their thoughts in unison.
JEFF: You must be wondering why I called this team meeting. Well, thanks for coming. Basically I feel like I owe you guys an explanation, maybe even an apology. Mostly, I just want to make sure you hear it from my lips before the rumors start flying.
TEAM: Don’t tell us.
JEFF: C’mon, let me speak, let me speak.
TEAM: Dude, are you a …?
JEFF: I said, let me talk! Look it. We need to talk as a team here. I need to admit something to you guys. If I don’t, you’ll hear it somewhere else. God, this is hard to say. One time, I had sex with a girl.
(Jeff covers his face with his hands in agony).
JEFF: I was really drunk, it was college, there were no guys around, and, well, it happened. It’s really embarrassing to me now, but hey, it’s the truth.
JEFF: Let me finish. You gotta believe me. I’m NOT STRAIGHT. OK? I made a mistake. I told you. Not straight. Booze was involved. So were earplugs, very dim lights and a Scott Bakula movie playing on the big-screen TV in the background, but that’s another story.
TEAM: Man … That’s some sick stuff. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of our best friends are straight. We even had a straight trainer once, and when the cheerleaders gang raped him in front of us, we even thought about stopping them.
JEFF: I almost killed myself. Does it help that I was totally disgusted with myself after?
TEAM: A little, dude.
JEFF: There have been rumors about me, I guess. You’ve probably all heard stuff before. It’s the way I talk, right?
TEAM: Yeah. You talk all straight and shit.
JEFF: In the past, I’ve heard lots of speculation. “Stupid Breeder,” they yell. “Two-point-five kids…” I know it’s because of how I speak and that my apartment is sparsely and poorly furnished.
TEAM: That’s right.
JEFF: So, I have a deer head on my wall. So what? I’m allowed. So what if I don’t wear a belt with jeans all the time? I am who I am, dammit. I am ME. Not straight. Not straight!
TEAM: Here’s a test. Did Janet Jackson’s nipple turn you on?
JEFF: From a sexual or aesthetic point of view?
(Jeff dry heaves repeatedly.)
TEAM: That’s a relief, dude.
JEFF: Wait. There’s more I need to tell you.
JEFF: I’m so, so sorry. There was, also, a porn movie.
TEAM: Dude! Straight porn?
(Dry heaves reverberate through the room).
JEFF: I was poor, OK? These guys came up to me and offered me big bucks to bang some chick, and I was like, “Hey, dude, back off. I’m gay.” And they were like, “Would an extra hundred change your mind?” And I thought about this fabulous pair of ass-less chaps I’ve had my eye on, and I was like, “What the hell.”
TEAM: Shameful, dude. You’re going to Heaven in a handbasket.
JEFF: I know! And little did I know I’d become a professional athlete and suddenly the whole world would be on my jock for having done it with a girl. How embarrassing! But I’m telling you. It was just that one time. And the other, in college, when I was drunk. But that’s it. Otherwise, totally gay. Major bottom, too.
TEAM: You straight, dog?
JEFF: I told you …
TEAM: No, we mean, you telling us the truth?
JEFF: If you need me to prove it, I’ll prove it. I’ll stick it to a guy for the whole world to see if I can just make sure nobody thinks I’m straight.
TEAM: We’d feel more confident if you shamelessly objectified some men for us right now.
JEFF: Colby from "Survivor"? Anytime, anywhere boy. Shwing!
(Pantomimes riding a bull … teammates hoot and holler in support).
TEAM: Yo, we got your back dude. You made a stupid, disgusting mistake. You’re our teammate. We’ll stand with you. Just do us a favor.”
TEAM: Stay the hell away from straights, dude. We don’t want to hear about you hanging out in places where straights frequent. The rural South. Bakersfield. North Dakota. You feel us?
JEFF: If that’s what it takes to get your respect again, I’ll do it.
TEAM: Know what, dude? We love you. No matter what. Even if you were straight. We wouldn’t want to hear about it, but because we love you like a brother, we’d tolerate that shit.
JEFF: Thanks, guys. That makes me feel… makes me feel … just … great.
(Jeff sobs. Team envelops him in a loving hug. Jeff does the hetero half-hug backslap thing with one of his teammates. They glare at him suspiciously. Lights dim.)