A Punter's Point of View
Published Oct 1, 2013 8:00 AM
The New York Times called Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe ’05 “the most interesting man in the NFL.” Kluwe’s online takedown of Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr.’s attack on then-Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo ’99 for the linebacker’s support for same-sex marriage went viral. Now Kluwe has published his first book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.
Q: You say in your book that you can tell a lot about a person by the people he follows on Twitter. One of the people you follow is your former Vikings teammate Matt Kalil, whose Twitter bio starts, “I played football at the greatest university in the nation, USC …”
A: I gave him some crap for that. He played World of Warcraft, so we were able to talk video games — which is kind of funny when you think about a 320-pound offensive lineman sitting down to play WoW. Not what you would expect on the other end of the keyboard.
Q: You and Brendon are arguably the most outspoken players in the NFL on marriage equality, and you’re both from UCLA. Coincidence?
A: I don’t think it is. UCLA has a very long tradition of social activism and justice, and I’m proud that we’re able to keep that going.
Q: How much homophobia is there in the NFL? What kind of response have you gotten from players to your activism?
A: It’s gotten progressively better every year, just as we’ve seen in society as a whole, because people are realizing, what’s the big deal? Of the responses I got from guys in the locker room, 40-45 percent said we may not support you on same-sex rights, but good job writing the letter supporting Brendon — that’s a First Amendment issue — and then the other 55-60 percent said we support you all the way.
Q: What led you to write that letter to Delegate Burns?
A: I was reading what he wrote to the Ravens, which essentially said you need to stifle Brendon’s speech on this issue, no one wants to hear from football players. And I got kind of irked. It was late at night, I was lying in bed, and I just kept thinking, “That is really messed up.” I couldn’t fall asleep. So I pulled out the laptop and wrote something about it, then slept like a baby.
Q: And what’s with the, um, colorful word choices?
A: I find it entertaining. There really is an art to swearing that a lot of people don’t take the time to do. And the thing is, you can make it really funny, and that will also allow people to capture your point and remember what you were saying. It’s getting harder and harder, though, because there are only so many swear words in the English language and I don’t want to repeat myself. I might have to branch out to some other languages.
Q: In your book, you take on Ayn Rand. What is that about?
A: The main thing is that her brand of libertarianism is essentially sociopathic, because she doesn’t include empathy. She’s so close to having really good ideas, but without empathy they’re really terrible ideas, because it turns people into, “as long as I get mine, everything else will work out,” and that doesn’t work in the world. A society functions together.
Q: You talk about loving to read books. Who are your favorite authors?
A: Iain Banks. Terry Pratchett. Neil Gaiman. Mainly sci-fi and fantasy, people who know how to tell a good story. A lot of sci-fi and fantasy is there for entertainment, but underneath it’s based on historical events. You look at George R.R. Martin’s The Game of Thrones, that’s the War of the Roses; it’s just got dragons and some magic. Good sci-fi and fantasy broadens your horizons, makes you think about the world and what our place is in it.
Q: Does any of this have to do with the fact that you were a political science/history double major at UCLA?
A: I really enjoyed the ethics class I took, and several of the history classes, mainly the ones dealing with Greece and Rome — these civilizations that thought they would live forever, but didn’t. Rome thought they had control over the whole world, and now no one even speaks their language anymore. There are long-term consequences to [a society’s] actions, and if you’re not paying attention, eventually you’ll spiral down like everyone else and disappear.
Q: In the book, you bemoan “the banal mediocrity of mindless consumption.” Does the NFL contribute to that?
Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies
Want to learn more about Kluwe’s new book? Visit this address to read community reviews of the book.
A: Yeah, it’s the whole “bread and circuses” mentality. And as one of the members of the bread and circuses, I get to see it on a daily basis. The problem is you can’t value entertainment more than education. You can’t value entertainment more than science, which is what we’re doing right now. We’re spending maybe a fraction of a percent of what we spend on our military on our education system. We’re laying off teachers and closing schools, and we’re building prisons. That’s bad.
Q: You’re in a packed stadium, it’s the end of a close game, and you’re waiting for the ball to be snapped to you. How do you keep from shaking?
A: Having that confidence that you’ve practiced this so many times before that your body knows what to do, then just getting out of the way and letting it do it. You have to be able to block everything else out so the only thing you’re doing is catching the football and getting the punt off. If you can’t do that, odds are you’re probably not going to survive at the NFL level for long, anyway.
Q: What do you see yourself doing after your NFL career is over?
A: I don’t know. Here’s a cliché — I try to take things one day at a time.
Q: Will you watch football on Sundays?
A: (Laughing.) No.