This AI image was created by using a description from an NFL scouting report in 2008. The prompt was "football player well-built frame with good muscle tone, chest and tapered thighs and calves."

In scrolling through Grindr the other day, I came across these profiles:

“V-shaped torso with a well-defined upper body, good bubble, developed calves and good chest thickness.”

“Muscular frame with good development in arms shoulders and chest, along with thick thighs and calves, a tight waist and abdomen and good bubble.”

“Solid, thick build with tapered thighs and calves, athletic physique with a tight waist and hips, low body fat and defined upper body.”

Sounds pretty hot, we need to meet. But when I looked closer I realized I wasn’t on Grindr but rather had stumbled on NFL Draft scouting reports on circa 2008 and realized how much they resembled gay personals.

Scouts back then regularly threw around terms like “muscle definition,” “tight abdomen,” “well-built frame” and “tight bubble,” which led me to conclude that these were certainly more accurate than most descriptions on hook-up sites.

Plus the photos weren’t 10 years old.

Things, alas, have changed. In scouring scouting reports for the 2024 NFL Draft that starts Thursday, it was hard to find any physical description anyone would call vivid or hot; they were uniformly pretty bland and would fit in just fine on a Christian Mingle profile.

These days, the descriptions on run to phrases like “heavy hands and explosive hips,” “girthy” and “long and athletic.”

I do admit that “explosive hips” sound intriguing, but what the hell are “heavy hands?” Draft expert Daniel Jeremiah, in his list of the top 150 prospects, uses “muscular” once and “bubble” zero. Boring!

Contrast the pablum of 2024 with this description about a draftee in 2008:

“Has a well-built frame with good muscle tone, a thick back and chest and tapered thighs and calves.” That paints a lovely picture, but also seems like necessary detail germane to the player’s overall physical shape. It’s certainly better than “girthy.”

I asked an AI bot to come up with an image based on the description and what it spit out was Tom of Finland, the Tight End Years:

What accounts for the neutering of these scouting reports? I think it’s a form of “de-gayification,” a way to signal that there is nothing erotic, just business. The homoerotic aspect of football has long been a controversial topic of discussion, most memorably by folklorist Alan Dundes in his 1978 paper “Into the End Zone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football.

Men vividly dissecting other men’s physiques while scouting them was a topic the mainstream NFL media discussed openly in 2008 when things started to change. Witness this quote from then San Franciscos 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan to writer Mike Silver:

“This is absolutely normal to me, but a lot of people on the outside think we’re crazy,” Scot McCloughan said. “I’ll mention someone’s abs or a– or hips or thighs, and they’ll say, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ But hey, I’m in Northern California, so I guess it’s OK.”

And this quote from an agent about a client left little to the imagination:

“They talk about ‘Winning the Beauty Contest’ – that was Brodrick Bunkley,” Gary Wichard says of the 2006 first-round pick. “When he weighed in, there were murmurs throughout the room. His legs were exploding out of his shorts, and it looked like his skin was swathed in Saran Wrap. You had a bunch of grown men who acted like they were at a strip joint outside of town. I thought they were going to offer him money for a lap dance.”

Wichard sounds like he’s a regular at the Abbey or Revolver.

The fun started to end around 2008, when the weigh-in portion of the NFL Combine was no longer televised and players weren’t shown shirtless.

“There was concern from current NFL players that the participants would be more comfortable if they were not paraded around without their shirts on,” combine director Jeff Foster said at the time. “It was an entirely appropriate suggestion. The weigh-ins should never have been televised.”

In addition to latent homophobia, I suspect players were understandably not comfortable being judged by their physical appearance, especially as social media became more prevalent and any unflattering photo went viral. There were exceptions, such as now-Seattle Seahawks stud receiver coming into a 2019 scouting interview shirtless.

It’s ironic that as the NFL has become more gay-accepting, the language around the players whose physicality is vital to their success has been sanded down to a dull finish.