King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Study finds 1 in 3 high school football players gay! Well, no, but it does offer encouraging news about homophobia. Plus: NFL Week 10 picks.


King Kaufman
November 9, 2007 4:00PM (UTC)

You may have seen headlines in the last week or two about a study finding that a third of American football players have engaged in gay sex. Does that sound ridiculous? It does to Eric Anderson, and he should know.

He did the study, in which 19 of 47 former high school football players said they had engaged in gay sex.

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"The headlines are quite a bit misleading," says Anderson, an American sociologist who teaches at the University of Bath in England and who wrote "In the Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity."

"It's not 'One-third of American football players have been shown to have sex with men.' And it's a qualitative study: It's not designed to reflect a sample; it's not designed to reflect a population at large. What it is, though, is it's yet another piece of my puzzle to show overall that homophobia is on an amazingly rapid decline amongst university-age men, including men who are traditionally quite conservative, quite homophobic in their sex and gender views."

Anderson defined gay sex as activity intended to give sexual pleasure to another man, even if it was part of a three-way sex act involving a woman. So despite the dismissal of the study on various blog comment threads for counting participation in a three-way as gay sex, high-fiving a tag-team partner was not included.

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"I'm not trying to say that these men are gay in any way, shape or form," Anderson says. "That isn't the point of this. The point is to simply make the point that homophobia is reducing at an unbelievably rapid rate, and this is one of the multiple benefits that come with that.

"I'm afraid people will get lost in the nitty-gritty of 'He's trying to say a third of football players are gay,'" he says. "No. It's just that, can you imagine this [the former players speaking openly about their experiences with other men] happening in the mid-'80s? No way in hell."

Anderson says he "strategically selected" the 47 men in his study: They were former high school football players who had failed to make their university team and had instead gone into cheerleading, a logical place for ex-football players to land, Anderson says, because it's a sport that can be picked up at a late age without experience and there's a constant man shortage.

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"They once used to be hardcore macho American football players," he says. "I wanted to see what would happen when you take men who used to be football players and you put them in a field with the people they used to make fun of, the cheerleaders. And what I found was that they very quickly undo their homophobia, if they had homophobia. They very quickly change their views about women. And one of the things they do, they very quickly undo the 'one-drop rule' of sexuality."

That is, Anderson, 39, says, "When we were in high school, you kissed another man, you were a fag, fag, fag, and that was that. You'd get the crap kicked out of you. That is not the case at all anymore."

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Anderson says studies since the '50s have shown that men have had sex with each other without identifying as gay. "The primary difference here is that in their peer culture, these behaviors aren't stigmatized anymore, or are considerably less stigmatized," he says. "The key here is that it doesn't threaten their heterosexual identity in the peer culture anymore. They can do this now -- which really isn't anything new -- but the difference is their teammates don't go, 'Oh, you fucking faggot.'"

Anderson says he anticipated another common blog reaction: "Cheerleaders? Duh! Of course they're all gay.

"This is occurring in other segments of the population as well," he says. "This is the norm for university-age students now, to be this, I call it, inclusive. I tell people: Don't take my word for it. Go to Facebook, pull up photos of university-age men, and you'll find that they are all over each other. The fear that they once had of being thought gay for showing intimacy towards another man just doesn't seem to exist like it did for our generation."

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Anderson says that although the former football players in his study dropped any homophobia they had upon becoming cheerleaders, homophobia is on the decline generally, even in the places we expect it to still be strong, such as on a football team.

He says he's working on research surveying football players at three major universities in the American Southeast. "Eighty-six percent say that they're not a homophobe and they have no problem with a gay athlete on their team," he says, adding that black players are a little more homophobic than white players, and coaches are way more homophobic than either.

"What does it mean to be gay and what does it mean to be straight?" Anderson asks. "It's becoming increasingly complicated. Wonderful thing, in my opinion."

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NFL Week 10 [PERMALINK]

No Patriots-Colts this week. It's such a ripoff that the NFL can't come up with a game like that every week. A game of the century, I mean. The NFC version of that battle of the titans figures to be a Thursday night game on Nov. 29, when the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, both currently 7-1, meet in Texas.

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But there are a few warm-ups to that involving the two 6-2 teams in the NFC. The Packers will visit the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, four days after the Lions host the New York Giants. And this Sunday the Cowboys go to the Meadowlands for a rematch with the Giants, who have won six in a row since losing to the Cowboys and Packers to open the season.

Now, most of that winning streak has come, as almost all NFL winning streaks of any length do, at the expense of the sickest, wheezingest pack of opponents to come down the pike since Toro Moreno was on the way up. The Giants got on track by beating Washington, and since then have taken lunch money from Philadelphia, the Jets, Atlanta, San Francisco and Miami. In the last month and a half the Giants have played every disaster this side of Countrywide. Or St. Louis.

The Giants will get a chance to show that their recent sack-happy ways aren't a mirage, and the Cowboys will get a chance to establish a dominant lead in the NFC East. That's the game of the century -- uh, week -- but Jacksonville at Tennessee is right behind it.

Here are the Week 10 picks, with winners in caps and the picks of my kids, 4-year-old Buster, who picks games based on a formula only he knows, and his sister Daisy, the coin-flippinest 2-year-old who ever drove a 4-year-old crazy, added as usual.

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Sunday early games

Jacksonville (5-3) at TENNESSEE (6-2)
A crucial game for the Jags, who have already lost to the Titans this year and would be tossed into the last-playoff-spot soup with about five other teams if they lose, while the Titans would be off in a group of one for the first wild card. Unfortunately for Jax, the Titans do the same thing they do -- run and play defense -- only better.
Kids: Tennessee

Atlanta (2-6) at CAROLINA (4-4)
The heartwarming story of the Vinnie Testaverde comeback: The sequel.
Kids: Carolina

Philadelphia (3-5) at WASHINGTON (5-3)
Both teams really need a win, even though both teams are probably going nowhere. The Eagles are going there faster.
Kids: Washington

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Cleveland (5-3) at PITTSBURGH (6-2)
The Browns opened the season at home against the Steelers and they got smo-ho-ho-hee-haw-hoo-hoked. Since then they've gone 5-2, though they've only outscored opponents by 21 points in those games, and they've gotten to play both of the league's 0-8 teams. Still, the Browns, with their high-scoring offense and lousy defense, are fun, and they're more competitive than it looked like they were going to be after Week 1 -- Romeo Crennel for Coach of the Year! This will be a good measuring stick for them. Can they give the Steelers a better game now? Might be more than a measuring stick if the Steelers, coming off a Monday-night beatdown of Baltimore and remembering that Week 1 slaughter, let down. They won't.
Kids: Pittsburgh (9-point favorite)

ST. LOUIS (0-8) at New Orleans (4-4)
The Rams are also in danger of a letdown after their best week of the season. Bye week. The What the Heck™ Pick of the week has pretty much come down to a coin flip between the Rams and Dolphins, and St. Louis winning in the Superdome seems just a bit more absurd than Miami beating the Bills at home, so the Rams are it.
Kids: New Orleans (12-point favorite)

BUFFALO (4-4) at Miami (0-8)
Don't get me wrong, though. The Dolphins beating the Bills seems kind of absurd.
Kids: Miami

Denver (3-5) at KANSAS CITY (4-4)
The Broncos have been routed by five touchdowns twice, including last week at Detroit, and they're banged up, though quarterback Jay Cutler was expected to play Sunday. The Chiefs have their own problems, with Larry Johnson on the shelf, meaning Priest Holmes is the starting running back. Twenty-three skidoo. That aside, the Broncos are too messed up right now to get a win at Arrowhead.
Daisy: Kansas City
Buster: Denver

Minnesota (3-5) at GREEN BAY (7-1)
Record-breaking rookie Adrian Peterson makes the Vikings a dangerous team, though a badly flawed one. Like, a living quarterback would be nice. The Packers are playing enough defense that Brett Favre hasn't quite had to revert to chuck-n-duck mode, but he does have six interceptions, four fumbles and five touchdowns in the last four games. Call it a modified chuck-n-duck. In the first four, he had two interceptions, two fumbles and eight touchdowns. The Vikings will keep it close, but the Packers will escape.
Kids: Green Bay (6.5-point favorite)

Sunday late games

CINCINNATI (2-6) at Baltimore (4-4)
The Ravens are coming off that Monday-night drilling by the Steelers and they've got injury and illness problems in their secondary and with running back Willis McGahee, who's expected to play but is coming off a concussion. The Bengals get Chris Henry back from suspension. They beat the Ravens on the first Monday night of the year -- remember when this matchup looked pretty good? -- and have lost six of seven since. The Ravens, unable to exploit Cincinnati's very bad defense, will join the Bengals as also-rans.
Kids: Baltimore

DALLAS (7-1) at N.Y. Giants (6-2)
I'm starting to make a habit of talking down Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, even though I think he's a pretty good quarterback. But I think he's going to have problems with the crazy Giants Stadium winds, assuming he can escape the crazy Giants pass rush, which I think he can do. Hot, desperate and playing at home, the Giants will give the Cowboys hell as they try to get their revenge for Week 1 -- Tom Coughlin for Coach of the Year! But Romo will make the plays he needs to make to get a close win. Watch No. 81.
Daisy: Dallas
Buster: New York

DETROIT (6-2) at Arizona (3-5)
The Lions have been winning games by forcing turnovers. The Cardinals, led by Kurt Warner, quarterbacking against his old coach, Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz, seem like a good candidate.
Kids: Arizona

CHICAGO (3-5) at Oakland (2-6)
This is another one of those games where a team will get a win to save its season, even though its season's probably over already.
Daisy: Chicago
Buster: Oakland

Sunday night game

INDIANAPOLIS (7-1) at San Diego (4-4)
This game's a little trappy for the Colts. They could let down after the Patriots game, even though they lost it. They played the Patriots to a standstill, which for the moment is good enough. The Chargers, meanwhile, had recovered with a three-game winning streak before they got dumped in Minnesota last week. They're desperate and playing at home. Should be a shootout, but the Colts are too good at this point to lose games they should win.
Kids: San Diego

Monday night game

San Francisco (2-6) at SEATTLE (4-4)
Flex schedule, where are you? Not on Monday night, that's where. Clearly.
Kids: Seattle

Season record: 79-51
Last week: 9-5
What the Heck™ Picks: 0-8
Number of times the What the Heck™ Pick has not been the Rams or Dolphins: 5

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See you Tuesday [PERMALINK]

This column will be off for the holiday Monday, returning Tuesday.

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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