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Tales from a gay football fan

Alex Reimer shares the complicated relationship between his sports fandom and sexuality.

Every week during the fall, I am faced with a crucial decision: Tom Brady or Sunday Funday?

For most of my adult life, the choice was non-negotiable. As a full-time personality for WEEI, the legacy Boston sports station, it would’ve been a dereliction of duty to spend any Sunday without Saint Brady. Patriots games drive the conversation for the entire week. It’s safe to assume most of the station’s listeners don’t miss a single snap.

But over the last couple of years, my work situation has changed, and I am no longer responsible for following the daily drama surrounding Brady or the Patriots. That means I am free to take part in bottomless mimosa brunches and afternoon rendezvous (pre-pandemic, of course). But I keep finding myself getting pulled back to the RedZone Channel, because I like watching football. It’s just too bad it usually has to be watched alone.

Welcome to the plight of a gay sports fan!

My esteemed colleague Cyd Zeigler wrote last week about the annoying stereotype that gay men have to be “masc” to watch the Super Bowl. He says he’s been labeled as “straight-acting” for playing in a flag football league and still occasionally receives mocking texts from friends when he sits down to watch a game. I can relate. Spending a Sunday listening to Tony Romo instead of Kylie Minogue can feel like a treasonous act.

As a result, I often take on a self-deprecating tone when discussing my sports fandom, lamenting how I am the “worst gay ever” because I can more easily name the Red Sox’s starting nine than the latest contestants on “Drag Race.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not necessarily proud of this. And behind every joke, there is some truth.

Throughout my teenage years, I used my aspiring career as a way to avoid introspection. Instead of exploring my temptations, I turned on the game. This continued even after I had come out. For years, my media diet solely consisted of sports TV and sports talk radio — with a little “Maddow” thrown in.

There was no time for “Mrs. Doubtfire,” never mind the Housewives.

I am changing that about myself. I used quarantine to binge on some “Drag Race” and become a little more versed in culture. And guess what? I have my gay sports friends to thank.

My foray into the gay world began when I joined Boston’s LGBTQ flag football league in 2016. I started dating men three years prior, but until then, my gay life basically ended in the bedroom. I wanted to change that. So I turned to what I knew best: sports.

While I am not a great athlete, I certainly felt more comfortable on a football field than other places. Plus, I figured I would have something to talk about with the other guys. These familiarities eased my trepidations about entering a gay space.

Five years later, I am now a veteran in the league, and anxiously awaiting its return. I’ve experienced so many important gay firsts with my football friends: drag shows, weddings, visits to Montreal’s Gay Village. They’ve helped me thrive as my true self.

I’m not saying there are right and wrong ways to be gay, of course. But my personal aversion to femininity, and basically anything with a modicum of flamboyancy, was rooted in self-loathing. I was holding back part of myself, and sports were my mask.

Today, my relationship with sports is less obsessive. Back when we used to go places, even my football friends wouldn’t stay in on a Saturday night to watch the Celtics playoffs, especially if it was one-hit wonders night at the local bar.

That meant a lot of bleary-eyed DVR sessions for me, trying to plow through the fourth quarter before my 9:00 a.m. Sunday radio show.

But this Sunday, I will be proudly sitting on my couch, watching the Super Bowl live. The numbers show many of you will be, too. Co-founder Jim Buzinski recently wrote about a new survey that found 30 percent of gay men and 40 percent of lesbians identify as “passionate sports fans.”

So let’s raise our martini glasses together in celebration of the big game. Sports represent different things to different people, but for LGBTQ sports fans like us, it’s our bond.