Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mesmerized by His Astonishing Eyes

There’s a scene in the not-as-good-as-I’d-hoped Big Fan in which the main character, having followed an athlete he idolizes into a nightclub men’s room in hopes of just happening to strike up a conversation, is overcome by shyness at the last second. I had a nearly identical moment the evening my brief, but deeply embarrassing-to-remember career as a male groupie began.

B. Mitchel Reed, the hippest DJ in LA, had announced that The Who would be visiting him at the Hollywood Blvd. studios of radio station KRLA. I persuaded my friend Dave, whom I hadn’t yet persuaded that The Who were the greatest group ever, to go with me to gawk at them. Ascertaining that they’d be entering the second-floor studio through its back entrance, we staked places on the metal stairway leading to it. After a while, a limousine pulled into the parking lot down below, and my idols emerged, looking godlike. In his orange bouffant hair, Daltrey (who a couple of months later would tell Tommy Smothers quite credibly on national TV that he was from Oz) looked as though from a different planet. And it turned out that Townshend’s remarkable gigantic snout was only his second most arresting feature, his startlingly blue eyes being No. 1. As they drew nearer, though, I was overcome by shyness; it was sheerest coincidence that I happened to be there admiring the view of the back of the coffee shop next door at that moment.

When they’d finished their interview and come back out, though, I was ready. I managed, in a much higher register than usual, to speak my idol’s name. He was gracious enough to pretend not to recognize me from before, and I thrust at him some lyrics I was hoping he would want to set to music. (Forty-two years later, I still remember the first lines: Lovely leggy Sybil, let me nibble at your ear and whisper words of wisdom of a sort you seldom hear. Not bad for a 20-year-old! Not that good either!) He looked at me with those astonishing eyes and told me in his inexpressibly cool accent that he’d look them over and pass them along to his music publisher if he liked them. Naturally, I was speechless.

He claimed, years and years later, to remember that first meeting, but I think he was just being charming. His publisher didn’t contact me, and no, I don’t fail to notice the homoerotic underpinnings of the foregoing paragraph. But in all honesty it never went farther than my being mesmerized by those astonishing eyes.

Two years later, I was working in Burbank for Warner Bros. Records, mostly because I’d written glowingly about The Kinks in my college student newspaper. Ray Davies came to Burbank to hobnob with the company’s brass. Later, having been advised that I was the biggest Kinks fan on the premises, he dropped by my office for a wee chat. I realized after a few minutes that while he continued to sit in the chair opposite my desk, I had come to be kneeling before him. A natural posture of supplication!

He was as gracious as Townshend, and I was all over him like a cheap suit. When the whole group did their first American tour in four years, I was there to welcome them to New York on behalf of Warners —— and to suggest to Ray that he bring me on stage at the Fillmore East to play percussion on one song; my gall was boundless! And he tried to do it; only a zealous stagehand stood in my way!

When the group got to LA, I was there to drive them around to radio interviews in my VW microbus — at least until Warners’ incredulous promotion man apparently called company headquarters to shriek, “Can't somebody call this idiot off?” When The Kinks attended a party in their honor at what I think was still called the Daisy, I was there in poor Ray’s pocket, zealously Being Seen With Him. Oh, the embarrassment (oh, the despair!) to remember this stuff! (And yet...via Facebook, a young woman I was secretly smitten with at the time recently admitted to having been terribly impressed by my and Ray's apparent friendship!)

Several months later, when The Kinks came back to town, and holed up in their beloved Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, I got the Los Angeles Times to send me to interview Ray. The bloom was off the rose in a big way by now, though. He was sullen and monosyllabic, and, as no else I’ve ever interviewed, conspicuously made his own recording of our conversation, presumably so I wouldn’t misquote him.

As though I would have! As though, however many months before, I, the shameless toady, hadn’t rapturously reviewed The Kinks' show at the Whisky even though they’d been brazenly under-rehearsed, out of tune, out of time, and generally appalling!

I decided henceforth to let only women break my poor heart.

[Exciting news: On, where you can hear my new album Sorry We're Open, I am now ranked 80,573rd; next stop: stardom! Facebookers: Read more little essays and subscribe here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Life As a Writer

I learned early on that I was good with words. I began writing a novel about pirates at eight, but never finished because my dad was so proud and excited that he whisked the manuscript off and induced some poor secretary at his place of employment to type it up even though it ended literally in midsentence. By 14, I was winning the creative writing award at my junior high school two years running, and then getting to sit up on stage with the big shots at graduation because I’d composed the most heart-tugging speech. My high school English teachers oohed and aahed.

In the lonely summer before my final year of college, I composed a diatribe against The Doors just for something to do, and quickly found myself writing regularly first for the student newspaper’s arts section, and then the Los Angeles Times, and then Rolling Stone. The Monday after the Friday of my graduation (which I skipped so I could interview my idol, Pete Townshend), I began a well-paying job writing advertising and other copy at a big record company, an opportunity I failed to appreciate because of the Groucho Marx Effect — how good could any job for which I’d be hired be?

I felt the beneficiary of a case of mistaken identity; couldn’t people see that I wasn’t very good at all? Wasn’t it obvious, insofar as my reviews were concerned, that my playing this scathingly dismissive character in print was meant to conceal either that I had no idea what I was talking about, or actually didn’t care one way or the other?

I guessed not, because for around four years there, magazine editors kept inviting me to write for their magazines, and record companies kept offering me big bags of gold to write advertisements, and book editors in faraway New York were only too delighted to agree to read the unspeakably awful first novel of which I managed to grind out three sample chapters.

As I started to get better, the world became less and less interested; I’d been praised (and paid!) far out of proportion to my abilities at 23; couldn’t I, at 35, at least get a job? After years of declining income and then poverty, I took the first non-writing jobs (typing, and then word processing) of my adulthood, and boy, did I feel humiliated.

In my 30s, I wrote a great many screenplays I thought very much better than most of those being produced. None was even optioned, and most of the time I didn’t even have an agent. I finally got a literary agent, and she got me deals to write books about The Kinks and David Geffen, but it was my fiction I cared most about, and nobody wanted it. By the early 90s, I’d pretty much abandoned for good the idea of writing for a living, and turned instead to digital design — which wasn’t exactly a hardship, as I adored it, and in fact still adore it, and consider myself better at it than at writing.

I finally managed to get my fiction between hard covers while living in the UK, but had to come in through the back door. Dominatrix: The Making of Mistress Chloe, which I ghostwrote for a big reputable mainstream UK publisher in 2002, was a novel masquerading as a memoir, but no one was supposed to know.


While working on another novel, about a body-dysmorphic guy who imagines himself into a state of painful alienation (write about what you know!) I was invited to do a biography of Kate Bush. My editor acknowledged that Bush was unlikely to cooperate, and agreed to let me add obsession with her to my fictive protagonist’s list of problems, slipping in biographical information as and when I could. Waiting for Kate Bush wound up around 20 percent biography and 80 percent fiction. A couple of people wrote very nice things about it, and it was translated into German. Kate Bush’s fans loathed it, as I pointed out that, while she’s been brilliant, she’s been unlistenably self-indulgent and silly just as often.

The editor nonetheless assigned me another book, about The Pixies, whose manager said the group would cooperate. This was splendid news, as I hadn’t much cared for what little I’d heard of them over the years, and relished the idea of writing a straightforward reportorial biography rich in fascinating detail, free of my own opinions. The manager lied, though, and the book wound up half biography/critical (very critical; the more carefully, I listened, the more I loathed The Pixies) overview, and half a series of short stories about how her love for the group affects a particular young woman over the course of 20 years’ fandom. Pixies fans wanted to disembowel me, and then feed my entrails to rabid dogs, and then to boil the dogs alive, and then to defecate in the water, and then to drown me in it, assuming I'd survived the disembowling.

I’ve since written a couple of complete novels, about a third (enough for prospective patrons to make a judgment about) of half a dozen others, about a third of two memoirs, and a screenplay. I had an adoring young woman agent in the UK who didn’t sell anything for me, and then defected to the other side, becoming an editor. I briefly had another literary agent, an ebullient Manhattan-based Aussie who predicted big things and didn’t deliver even little ones.

Trying to get another has been like removing impacted molars — of someone who refuses to open his mouth. I'll send out around 120 query letters, and in response receive maybe 20 form rejections and half a dozen invitations to send sample chapters and a synopsis. Of that half dozen, three will never be heard from again, and as we speak, the only writing I’m able to do for actual pay is for a Website devoted to triathletes (write about what you know!), and that only because the editor’s a pal. A graph with my success on one axis and the quality of my work on the other would look like a big X.

I just knew it. I should have been a rock star.

[Exciting news: On, where you can hear my new album Sorry We're Open, I am now ranked 80,573rd; next stop: stardom! Facebookers: Read more little essays and subscribe here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why the Very Famous Stop Going Out

I was in a line for tickets to Disney On Ice at San Francisco’s Cow Palace sometime in the mid-90s when a guy behind me started bellowing, “Joe! Hey, Joe! Over here!” I assumed he’d recognized an acquaintance named Joe, but was mistaken. Whom he’d recognized was San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, at the time enjoying — if that’s the operative word — a status in the Bay Area just between God and Jesus Christ. Joe had apparently imagined he could come see the show with his wife and daughters, and they were indeed able to see it, but only after a mob of security guards rescued them from the frenzied mob that formed in response to the bellowing of the guy behind me.

If you have a lot of fame, you can always be assured of getting a table at a restaurant — and of being harassed while you try to enjoy your meal. Between the countless tens of millions who want more of it and the several thousand who want far less, and not counting the weirdos and Buddhists who want none at all, there might be around half a dozen people in the world who have an amount with which they’re happy.

I was friends with David Bowie when he was a couple of months into his Ziggy Stardust-fueled ascent to the toppermost of the British poppermost. When he and his then-wife took me and Big Patti to dinner in London’s West End, he was the only diner there with flame-colored hair, and was approached, while he tried to enjoy his meal and our company, by an endless succession of wide-eyed fans. Not one of them wasn’t well-mannered, but not one didn’t compel him to put down his soup spoon, glass, or fork. And not one actually wanted his autograph for himself; it was invariably for a sibling or friend. It amused me to see how his fans seemed to imagine that they weren’t intruding if it was on behalf of an unseen other.

I was famous on a small scale myself there for a couple of years, around the time the noted music journalist Bud Scoppa referred to me as The King of LA. It was very much what game theorists might have described as a zero-sum situation. On the one hand, my having managed to woo ‘n’ win Big Patti might have owed, if only subliminally, to my fame. On the other hand, what very hard work! Well-meaning people with whom I had no particular desire to interact were forever coming over and telling me, at best, how much they liked my work, but what do you say after “thanks”? I’d say exactly that, and then holler, in body language, “Off you go then,” and they’d continue to stand there beaming at me, reveling in the fact of our interaction. Over and over and over, when I finally excused myself, I felt as though hurting the feelings of people who’d been nothing but sweet. Be gracious and accommodating with people and they think you want to be BFFs. Be self-protectively brusque and get a reputation as a stuck-up so-and-so. I can well understand why the very famous stop going out.

Not, of course, that you have to actually be famous. For a number of years, it was impossible for me to walk through an airport, say, without somebody stopping me, squinting at me accusatorily, and demanding, “Hey, you are somebody, aincha?”

Become sufficiently famous as an athlete or performing artist, of course, and you become fair game for magazines and Websites in the business of exposing dirty laundry. But American celebrities don’t know how soft they’ve got it compared to their British counterparts. In the UK, which earlier gave us Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens, there are magazines unashamedly devoted to photographs of celebrities’ cellulite, moobs (man boobs, you see), and dark underarms. We tend to think of celebrities who lash out at paparazzi as brats and dickheads, but who among us would be comfortable with barbarically unflattering photographs of us being published above captions like, “The other morning when s/he went out to pick up the morning newspaper, So-and-So was hideous enough to terrify impressionable children.”

I always loathed The Eagles, but I’m not sure I’ll ever write a line better than this, from The Sad CafĂ©: “Fortune smiles on some/And lets the rest go free."

[My life-affirming new album Sorry We're Open can't understand why you've been so remiss about listening to it. Facebookers: Read more of my little essays, and in fact subscribe to 'em, here.]

Hats Off to Dexter

This will be short; I will be unable to vouch for its sweetness. Last year, my favorite book was Joe Queenan's memoir Closing Time, in which there was hardly a paragraph lacking an exquisitely expressed observation. Now I'm reading something just as wonderful -- Pete Dexter's Spooner, a fictionalized memoir, which abounds in very understated wit, and reminds me of Mark Twain.

I hate books that make me guffaw at ever having considered myself a writer, and adore them. Spooner is one of those.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Was a Teenaged Hippie!

The first person I’d ever heard use the word hippie was a kindred spirit in the astronomy class I took my first year of college because I was an idiot and didn’t realize it would involve a lot of physics, for which I’d found out that I had no knack whatever my senior year in high school. Bill Wolfe looked pretty outrageous by the standards of the day, and turned out to be a guitarist. He made a reference one day to an effects pedal or something that all the guitar-playing hippies on the Strip were excited about.

When I heard the word again, it no longer had the meaning of someone who was unusually au courant, but defying conventional expectations. Whatever you called them, they seemed, when my girlfriend Mari took me up to Haight Street to gawk at them, to be a cheerful bunch, and my understanding is that they had lots of sex, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I didn’t drop out of college because I knew it was costing my parents a fair bit of money, and I didn’t want to forfeit my student exemption from the draft, but I did start attending lectures barefoot, and in a beaded necklace I, embracing the creativity that was a hallmark of the movement, had strung myself. Nobody seemed to notice or care, but did they imagine I could be dissuaded so easily?

I’d fallen in love with the Art Nouveau-inspired artwork Wes Wilson was doing up in San Francisco for Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium, and spent every free moment up in my dorm room trying to replicate it. I had a few of my more appealing pen-and-ink drawings printed on fluorescent paper, took my shoes back off, and headed up to the Sunset Strip, where I would sit on a wall in front of an office building a block east of the Whisky and offer them for sale to passers-by for 25 cents. I wasn’t much of an artist, but in many cases the brightness of the paper was enough to make prospective customers regard my posters as groovy, and sometimes I earned as much as $7, half what I’d made the year before parking cars for eight hours at a Polynesian restaurant in Malibu.

The Strip was a real magnet for young servicemen in those days, as I suspect it remains, and I had lots of shouting matches with uniformed boys from the flyover states who seemed to regard me as the living embodiment of beatnik depravity. More important, I became an object of interest to the likes of a young nursing student from the sleepy faraway seaside community of Portuguese Bend. Her attire and bouffant hair marked her as provincial, but one as shy as I couldn’t afford to be fussy, and we wound up paired romantically for a few months. She later married one of Led Zeppelin’s road managers just to spite me, or because she adored him.

I made a nuisance of myself at the first head shop in West LA, Headquarters in Westwood Village. One of the proprietors, the journalist Jerry Hopkins (later to co-author a best-selling Doors biography that recounts an apocryphal confrontation in an elevator between me and Jim Morrison) offered me a job taking apart huge sheets of lapel buttons bearing such zany slogans as Take a Hippie to Lunch. I knew from the first hour that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.

It soon occurred to me that I generally found hippies pretty grotty. I didn’t want to believe we were all one, man, and scoffed at the idea of anybody thinking they knew anything at all about me on the basis of my astrological birth sign. I always felt foolish trying to speak in hippie patois; the “man” in the foregoing sentence was satirical. I repudiated barefootedness, removed my necklace, got what we Americans, to the infinite amusement of Brits, call a shag haircut, and went on to lead a life of uninterrupted bliss.

[Exciting news: On, where you can hear my new album Sorry We're Open, I am now ranked 80,573rd; next stop: stardom! Facebookers: Read more little essays and subscribe here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gridiron Memories

Watching all these NFL playoff games has made me nostalgic about my own adventures on and off the old gridiron, none remotely illustrious, but several indelible.

I was a timid kid who longed for nothing more than to be like other boys, but seemed to lack all the usual masculine attributes. I was mechanically inept, and neither good at knots nor interested in becoming better. (Or maybe my complete lack of confidence in becoming better was what inspired me to feign disinterest.) I wasn’t a Boy or Cub Scout. I'd never went camping. Unlike my neighborhood's alpha boys, I didn’t like running over lizards on my bicycle, making all their internal organs squirt out.

But one day when I was 10, I played tackle football on the beach near where I lived, and sustained a very bloody nose — without crying! God, was I proud; I felt like a real boy! “I just had a little agreement with Kenny Woodruff,” I was able to explain laconically, shrugging, when Mom nearly fainted at the sight of me.

On day in PE when I was in the eighth grade, I somehow managed to talk my way into playing quarterback. On my first play from scrimmage, the other team put on a ferocious rush. Panicking, I just heaved the ball over their heads with all my might and hoped for the best. And got it; our team’s fastest player had somehow managed to run under the ball, and then into the end zone. A touchdown pass!

At 14, I was on the ninth grade all-star football team at Orville Wright Junior High School — not because I was any good, or even big (I was the third smallest boy in the whole ninth grade), but because inclusion was a reward for perfect attendance in after-school intramural sports. My presence was an outrage to the bona fide jocks on the team, but in practice one afternoon, the coach actually let me go out for a couple of passes, and damned if I didn’t make a remarkable diving catch of the second, inspiring my teammates to quit for at least five minutes trying to harass me into quitting.

I remained pint-sized in 10th grade, my prevailing gridiron memory from which is lining up in PE across from a black kid with biceps as big around as my head, and a Sonny Listen glower. I thought he might kill me, but he only swatted me aside like a papier mache sculpture on his way to the quarterback, whom he seemed to take great pleasure in knocking halfway down to the beach, “touch” be damned. Our instructor, a sadist, as all male PE teachers are, cackled delightedly before imparting that most time-honored of PE teacher suggestions to the moaning quarterback: Shake it off.

At college, noting my long (for the time) hair and (very slightly) outlandish attire, the football team called me a faggot. My girlfriend urged me to ignore them. She didn’t have to do a lot of urging. I wasn’t really a lover, rather than a fighter, but certainly much more the former than the latter. I was much more just about anything — a trapeze artist, a test pilot, a quantum physicist — than the latter.

My first major adult life partner and I used to enjoy watching televised football games. She enjoyed rooting against the Los Angeles Rams because star receiver Lance Rentzel had been busted for exposing himself to little girls. We both used to enjoy watching those little guys who stands on the sidelines holding a yardage marker drop them in terror when a player hurtled their way. We also used to enjoy seeing photographers and others knocked sprawling.

While researching my ultimately quashed biography of David Geffen 19 years ago, I carried a walking stick just in case the great man, known to be undelighted by my efforts, dispatched a team of goons to disappear me. When I explained that the stick was to do with an old football injury, one of the very few record biz types who'd agreed to an interview snickered, "Somehow you don't strike me as the football type." I nearly hit him with my purse.

Having had my shoulder replaced 14 years ago, I can no longer heave a football, or anything else, for that matter, except underhand. There have been lefthanded star quarterbacks in the NFL, but never an underhander. Yet another career choice now denied me!

[Exciting news: On, where you can hear my new album Sorry We're Open, I am now ranked 80,573rd; next stop: stardom! Facebookers: Read more little essays and subscribe here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Speaking of Women's Breasts

A fellow has a special feeling for a friend with whom he’s chased skirts. With whom else do you soar to comparable heights (when the girls say yes) and plunge to comparable lows (when the girls say get lost)? Who else sees a secretly shy non-soldier such as myself having to summon comparable courage?

I’ve done all my non-solo skirt-chasing with fellow members of bands I’ve been in. First, there was Tot, the 1930 Four’s (we thought it would give us license to wear pinstriped gangster suits, which we never wound up buying) teen guitar prodigy. At 15, he’d forgotten more about being hip than I would know at 45; ‘twas he who turned me on (to marijuana) for the first time. Built like a middle linebacker, he looked sort of like a bowling ball in a Brian Jones wig, but do you suppose that slowed him down with the girlies? Not for a millisecond. “They want it,” he’d shrug when I tried to get him to reveal the secret of his success.

I should have learned from his example that it’s nothing to do with looks, and everything to do with confidence, but it’s always been my custom to allow such revelations to take a few decades to sink in. I remember with considerable embarrassment staring at the back of the head of a Ben Frank’s (Sunset Strip coffee shop) mod girl who, in spite of its being dark, found me less interesting than the scenery out the passenger window while Tot and his own new friend moaned and slurped and gasped and unzipped up a storm behind us.

The Kiddo and I were on more nearly equal footing. He was a lot more self-assured — I remember his having engaged in conversation a little blonde of considerable allure in a Marina del Rey disco we went to together in mid-1975 within about 90 seconds of our walking in — but I’d blossomed into a smoldering Semitic sexpot in my own right by then, and sometimes four persons left a place that only two had entered together.

The problem, if that’s the word we’re looking for, was that I’d been the only child (for almost nine years) of a mother who hadn’t felt that anything else in her life had worked very well, and who made very clear that I was the center of her universe. I was ever on the lookout for another woman who’d make me feel that way.

So much was gained when I got one, but something lost too. That which I enjoyed most about being in bands was the camaraderie, the feeling of being part of a gang. The last one, The Pits, would converge at our (formerly The Motels’) rehearsal room and pretty much race through our repertoire so we could get over to the nearby Arby’s and tease one another. The rehearsing felt like work, the bantering like fun. Being the center of a woman's universe, though, leaves little time for hanging out with the boys.

It’s my impression that working class fellows are more likely than we moisturized cognoscenti to enjoy that sort of camaraderie well into middle age, in their bowling leagues and fraternal organizations and so on. As a child watching The Honeymooners, I used to marvel at Jackie Gleason’s Ralph wanting to go bowling rather than spend the night with Audrey Meadows’ Alice, who looked awfully good to little Johnny. But now I get it. A man (or guy, as they insist in the enlarged prostate and limp dick commercials) needs a couple of times a week to be around other men, to belch and fart, not only without embarrassment, but with a shared appreciation of the act’s inherent hilarity. To wear mismatched clothing without apology. To speak of women’s breasts.

The commercials referenced above give the impression that the scriptwriters are paid according to how many times they can refer to men as guys. I’d bet that intensive consumer polling revealed prospective customers to be more inclined to buy a medication that solved a middleaged guy’s problems than a middleaged male’s or man’s. (In the UK, I suspect guy started its decades-long race toward parity with the indigenous bloke as a result of the ubiquity of the Chan Romero song "Some Other Guy", a staple of the Cavern-era Beatles repertoire.)

I have gone off on a tangent, but am an unapologetic fellow.

[Hear my life-changing new album Sorry We're Open here! Facebookers: Read more All In Tents and Porpoises essays and subscribe here.]

Sunday, January 17, 2010

For Whom to Root?

I watch the NFL playoffs with interest — and embarrassment. Being human, I characteristically pick one of the two teams to root for — and then spend the rest of the game wondering if I made the better choice. Yesterday, for instance, I watched the Saints beat the Cardinals. For whom to root? I liked New Orleans when I went there for Mardi Gras, but I adore the Grand Canyon beyond my ability to express. Advantage: Cardinals. How many of the Cardinals, though, are actually from or of Arizona? A tiny fraction, I think it’s safe to assume, just as a tiny minority of my once-beloved San Francisco 49ers were from the Bay Area. And why assume that any of them was as humbled by the Canyon as I? Because of an extraordinary innate talent for a particular athletic task, these are young men who are treated like God Jr. throughout their early lives, and then paid gigantic salaries and treated, in many cases, like God Period. Advantage revoked.

And why should my loyalties be geographically ordained when those of the vast majority of the fans filling the Louisiana Superdome, the Saints’ home, are not? Had native son Early Doucet, a wide receiver from New Iberia, Louisiana, who played for Louisiana State University, have caught the pass that beat the Saints, the fans would have been grief-stricken. They reveled instead in Drew Brees, a Texan who studied (at least in theory) at Purdue University in Indiana, throwing three touchdown passes. No fewer than 26 former high school stars from the New Orleans area play in the NFL, four of them for the Pittsburgh Steelers, none for the New Orleans Saints. Wouldn’t it make more sense for local fans to be rooting for the former than for the latter?

[Since originally writing this, I have discovered that Drew Brees has been fervently philanthropic in New Orleans, which obviously gives the locals every reason to root for him. How delicious, the taste of my own foot.]

How about, then, that Kurt Warner, the Cardinals’ quarterback, had a long, uphill fight to prove himself capable of leading an NFL team, and at one point, while others his age were already appearing in Sports Center game highlights, was stocking grocery store shelves. Advantage: Cardinals.

But wait. Warner’s also known to be an avid Christian, and I can’t be sure that means someone who’s loving and charitable and tolerant and Christ-like, on the one hand, or, on the other, repressed, smug, and judgmental. I know that Peyton Manning of the Colts contributed to the re-election campaign of George W. Bush, for which reason I will be rooting against the Colts with gusto; for all I know Warner is the poster boy for homophobic legislation somewhere. I can’t take a chance. Advantage revoked.

It’s highly likely that a large percentage of both team’s players, in any given NFL playoff game, are arrogant bullies who’ve gone their whole short lives feeling majorly entitled because of their extraordinary ability to throw, catch, kick, or run with a football — or to tackle one attempting to do any of the foregoing so brutally as to knock him unconscious. How do I know that the Cardinals roster has more or fewer such players than the Saints’?

This stuff can drive you crazy.

Today, the Jets, for whom one line of thinking would have me rooting because I’m a resident of New York’s Hudson Valley, will be playing. I like that their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, isn’t only a rookie (who doesn’t root for David over Goliath?), but a Latino. A quick visit to Wikipedia, though, reveals that he’s a Latino who doesn’t even speak Spanish, and who was accused of sexual assault while at USC.

Every professional sports team is an assemblage of mercanaries, the overwhelming majority of whom have only a fiscal tie to the city they purportedly represent, and the more talented of whom will sign a more lucrative contract with another team at their first opportunity. I know that the old system, of players being tied to a particular team until it pleased the team to release or trade them, was deeply exploitive, but it was ever so much better from a fan’s point of view. How are you supposed to make an emotional connection with a player you know is going to lease his services to the highest bidder the moment his present contract expires?

Oh, for a new Joe Namath, an iconoclast with panache. Failing that, any team that unites in support of a gay player can count on my fervent support. And now I discover that Mr. Namath voted twice for Richard Nixon for president, and my head spins.

In this year’s Super Bowl, I think, regardless of who’s playing, I will root for the 1974 Dodgers, in spite of Steve Garvey's having been a sanctimonious hypocrite, and Don Sutton a raging egomaniac, and...

[Hear my life-changing new album Sorry We're Open here! Facebookers: Read more All In Tents and Porpoises essays and subscribe here.]