The Gay Superbowl: a gay sportswriter decribes meeting Brendon Ayanbadejo
Eight days before the gayest Super Bowl week on record, I walked toward the Baltimore Ravens' locker room in New England consumed entirely with thoughts of football, pure football, undiluted football.
I am that exotic creature, a gay male sportswriter, but on this frigid walk I was thinking only of Baltimore's rout of the Patriots and how it had sustained my sense of the Ravens' uncommon camaraderie. Hoping to learn more about a cohesion I had admired for five years, I joined the reporter scrum at linebacker Terrell Suggs' locker, known to be a harbor of humor and insight.
Just then, before Suggs spoke to us, I looked off to the right to see a big bruiser of a man pulling on his haberdashery at a locker beneath the numeral "51." Six years of living overseas had blurred my player-recognition skills and jumbled my recall of jersey numbers, so I had brought along a lineup card. I fished it from my pocket and found the "51."
Oh . . .
There stood Brendon Ayanbadejo, age 36, born in Chicago to an American mother and Nigerian father, educated at UCLA, three Pro Bowls as a noble special-teams sort, a man whom I had never met but for whom I held a vast gratitude. In a giddy locker room in which the great Ed Reed waltzed around singing Eddie Money's "Two Tickets To Paradise," I momentarily had misplaced Ayanbadejo's face. In fact, in the urgency of the game, I had not thought of him all weekend. Yet here was a man I had never expected to exist in all my life, a heterosexual football powerhouse who had spoken up voluntarily and beautifully and repeatedly for g-g-g-gay people.