Buff Football

Nothing beats a naked pigskin party for some raw excitement.

Just minutes before the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII, John decides to fill up his plate with Swedish meatballs and cold cuts at a game-day party in an Aurora home. "Sorry," he murmurs as he cuts in front of the TV screen, intruding on everyone's field of vision. John is long and lanky, with round glasses, an Amish beard and shoulders like a clothes hanger. I can't help but think that his penis seems slightly larger than average.

A bit later, I observe that Dave, a middle-aged guy with a soul patch and an earring, has a green shamrock tattoo on his left butt cheek. His girlfriend, Laura, has a similar one on her left breast, situated a bit lower than might be visible if she were wearing any clothes.

"One thing I've noticed," muses Gina, a grandmother who has just removed her T-shirt and gray sweat pants in preparation for kickoff, "is that a lot of people who are nudists have tattoos. When I first became interested, I said, 'If that's a requirement, I'm out.'" Her husband, Frank, sits next to her, wearing slippers and a plush white terrycloth bathrobe, which hangs wide open.

Christopher Smith

"I don't know if tattoos are more common to nudists," says Oliver pensively from the far corner of the living room. "You just see them more." Oliver, it is abundantly clear, has none.

The Panthers' first drive is quickly stuffed by New England. Carolina punts. The doorbell rings. "You got it?" Gina asks, turning to Frank.

"That's why I have the bathrobe," he replies. Frank heaves himself to his feet, pulls the robe closed and pads up the stairs to the front door.

"I don't know half the people in Rocky Mountain Naturists," Gina laughs, "so I'm just letting in whoever rings the doorbell." Luckily, it's Gene, an RMN member who looks kind of like John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Clavin on the TV sitcom Cheers. Until, that is, he removes his Rockies windbreaker out of sight of the group and emerges in the buff, ready for the big game.

"I care nothing for football," notes John.

"Me, either," adds Gina. "I really prefer college football. These guys get paid way too much."

In that sense, a Rocky Mountain Naturists Super Bowl party is like any other gathering of friends that just happens to take place in the presence of an important football game. Still, the confluence of football and nudism raises its own set of specific questions, so I had checked the etiquette section on the organization's website before I left my house. The site contained a helpful mix of everyday good-manners and crowd-specific advice: Bring a covered dish to a potluck. And don't forget a towel to sit on.

As Super Sunday approached, my friends had inquiries beyond the scope of the website. "Do men really get excited when their team scores?" Kyle wanted to know. We laughed. Secretly, however, the Lingerie Bowl made me nervous. If anything might provoke such a response, the cable-only halftime show in which underwear-clad models played football certainly would be it. I hoped we were going to watch the game on CBS.

It occurred to me that a nudist Super Bowl party represents a 180-degree twist in terms of historic athlete/spectator comportment. A couple of thousand years ago, Greek athletes, in celebration of the sporting physique, ran, threw, jumped and wrestled naked, as toga-wrapped citizens of their city-states watched. We know this is true because, like all historically factual events, it's illustrated on old vases.

Here was a complete reversal. Modern football players are so fully clothed as to be practically unrecognizable without names on their jerseys. The spectators I was watching the game with, meanwhile -- none of whom appeared particularly athletic -- were entirely au naturel.

The party is in a 1960s-style suburban house in a neighborhood of similar homes, except at this one, the shades are drawn. The television set and festivities are in a genuine sunken living room, a few steps down and off the kitchen. The room is covered with dark paneling and thick carpeting.

The naked-football idea started with last year's Super Bowl party. Several of the guys thought it would be a nice occasion for the club's men to do something together. The concept continued at nude Monday Night Football gatherings, although the get-togethers petered out when the primary organizer suddenly quit RMN. Eight people are here for this revival.

Gina, the hostess, says she became interested in nudism about three years ago, after watching a cable movie about a couple of guys who stumbled into a nudist colony and ended up having a swell time. When she finally worked up enough nerve to broach the subject of her secret longing with Frank, she received a shock: "It turns out that he'd been doing it for years, and I'd never known about it!" she says. "He would do it while I was out of town."

Now they enjoy being naked together as a couple. Their grown children, if not entirely accepting of the lifestyle, are at least prepared for it. "My son has learned that you just don't bring home friends unannounced," Gina shrugs. Their grandson, meanwhile, seems well on his way toward accepting his grandparents' hobby. "At one event, he took off his shirt," Gina says. "But then he said, 'Grandma, I think I'm going to wear my PJs to bed.'"

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