Twitter outlaw @TheBig_Sam talks gay.
When I was seven years old, my father took me to the circus. On a warm summer’s evening, I watched in dumfounded awe as the finest performers Eastern Europe had to offer entertained us into oblivion; clowns chased each other in pimped-out disability cars, miniscule Russian acrobats propelled themselves about the place with the kind of fervour that only living in the back of a van can induce, and trained animals looked on pleadingly, with eyes as sad as a single, abandoned shoe that’s been left by the side of the road.
As my young mind was massaged by the sights, sounds and smells cascading throughout the tent, I turned to my pop, tugged gently on his jasper stone bolo tie and asked: “Daddy – what is a gay?”
It was a question that had been permeating through my thoughts for many months at that time. Thoughts that, for reasons I’ve never came to fully understand, came to a frothy head as I sat in a hot field in Dudley, simmering in the intoxicating scents of popcorn, animal faeces and desperation, whilst becoming ever-more mesmerised by the extraordinary sight of Russian genitals sweeping across the sky like pornographic pigeons.
Only time I spoke about homosexuality with my father
In an instance, my father ripped off the bishop sleeve of his gorgeous taupe poet shirt, and slapped me hard across the face with it. He leaned in close to my face – the flawless mint of his breath doing nothing to alleviate the fear I had become enveloped in – and said: “Gays are the single greatest threat to this country since communism and Rock ‘n’ Roll, son. Stay away from such filthy witchcraft, or I’ll tan your behind with my big hand.”
At that point he held up his big hand in what can only be described as an act of threatening terror. It really was a big hand, to be fair. F**king massive, in fact. When the 1980s arrived and WWF-fever captured the nation, he would wear a Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake foam finger on the other hand just to make the pair match.
It was the first and last time I spoke about homosexuality with my father. Or any member of my family, come to think of it. We all wondered about Shadow George – the Brazilian dancer that dad went rollerbooting with every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but none of us was brave enough to bring the subject up. God knows what my father would do if he found out a man he spent so much time with was, in actual fact, a gay.
Or is it simply… gay? How exactly should I refer to this mysterious bunch? I usually just point my eyes skywards in a diagonal fashion when referring to homosexuality, but perhaps this is precisely the kind of confused rhetoric – not to mention an insistence on squeezing people into the suffocating boxes of judgement – that enables so much of society to struggle with the acceptance of alternative lifestyles.
Team-building night at the disco
The very idea of homosexuality in football has been taboo for as long as I can remember. When I was manager of Preston North End in the early 90s, I took my lads out on a team-building night out to see the sensational synthpop duo, Erasure. As I and many others danced our testes into a pink sludge of sweaty ecstasy, I noticed that a few members of the squad stood there in sullen silence, refusing to take part of the sheer splendour of the occasion.
“What’s up, lads – not diggin’ the vibe?” I asked, my biceps bulging heroically out of my salmon muscle top, as I oscillated wildly to the stunning strains of Who Needs Love Like That?
“We’re totally against this sort of thing,” replied one individual, with an expression that dripped with hatred and mistrust.
“We don’t believe in people’s rights to be different and we will steadfastly oppose the launching of any same-sex initiatives within the game” added another, rather curiously.
Stick to your stereotypes then
I tried to reason with them, and challenge the very notion of their prejudice, but alas it was to no avail. Instead, they began reeling off a list of preposterous reasons why they wouldn’t stand for any gay footballers in the beautiful game.
“What if they’re all, like, checking out my rump when I’m trying to play the offside trap?” asked one, ridiculously (I remember that lad’s hoop and it was mediocre at best).
“They’d probably be really bitchy about my drug use,” the second chap added bluntly.
I soon shook my head in exasperated exhaustion, and returned to the music. I’d tried to enhance their world via the horizon-expanding monocle of my experience and know-how, but it was pointless. They stuck to their narrow, stereotypical viewpoints like stink on a Frenchman.
Jeffrey Archer’s big idea
But, hey, who am I to judge a point of view that I once held myself so rigidly? I, Big Sam, do solemnly swear that I too have been guilty of holding opinions that were perhaps less than impressive when it comes to this thorny issue of homosexuality in soccer.
During my time at Bolton, the great Jeffrey Archer once dropped into training unexpectedly. Jeffrey was researching an idea for a novel he had been toying with, and wanted to study me at close range. The novel was never published, but with a working title of I Suspect He Might Have Been One, we can only drool at the mysterious plot-lines that could have coursed throughout its pages.
As part of his interviewing technique, Jeffrey was fond of throwing out random stats, and observing his subject as they struggled to deal with them.
“Asians don’t believe in geometry.”
“Dwarves can’t make words rhyme.”
“Pigs love racism.”
Truth-bombs that blew my mind
As Jeffrey’s truth-bombs exploded around me, I became drunk with the very liquor of accepted wisdom. Two supposed stats in particular rocked me to the very core of my being.
“Did you know that 1 in 10 people in this world are gay, Big Sam?” he asked knowingly. “And four in 13 people are Chinese.”
As my mind was flooded with information and provocation, I could feel the anger rise throughout my body. I thought about my squad; my legion of trusted soldiers. There was definitely more than 10 players in my squad, so I soon calculated that there was at least one homosexual. I didn’t think I was a homophobe, but I also knew I wasn’t someone who appreciated being lied to. I was livid. I threw Archer aside like a polio-ridden orphan, and marched into the dressing room. Alas, I had become completely cocooned in rage by this point, and had completely lost my train of thought.
“Which one of you f**kers is Chinese?!” I roared, focusing my ire on Ivan Campo, and beating him to a smugless pulp.
In the words of the great Rocky Balboa…
It was a low, violent moment, but one that made me re-evaluate my stance on what a footballer should be. I’ve grown a lot since then. I’ve realised that this pie we call life is made from many differing ingredients, each one just as delicious and vital as the last. I really couldn’t care less what kind of pie you fancy sticking your fork into, quite frankly. I’m just happy you’re tucking in.
As the legendary Rocky Balboa once said: “I guess what I’m trying to say is, that if I can change, and you can change… everybody can change.”
Well, everybody except Erasure. I want their kaleidoscopic disco swirls to stay the same forever.
Not Big Sam is a parody account on Twitter which can be found here. It is in no way related to Sam Neill, Sam Adams, Sam Allardyce or Sam Fox.
- Twitter reaction to Right Behind Gay Footballers and loads of other goodies right here >
- Read more from Not Big Sam on Alex Ferguson, Jessica Ennis, Rafa, Aston Villa over here >