Sometimes I'm amazed by how much of a man I am. I'll be at the gym, 35-pound plates on both sides of the bar, just ill bench-pressing, and I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror -- muscles taut, beads of sweat cascading down my forehead, iPod blazing Eminem -- and suddenly be overcome by the sheer manliness I exude. Then I'll sprint over to the two jacked goons with the tattoos in the corner and start talking about sports and using words like "lats" and "date rape" and dishing out unsolicited chest bumps. And then it'll turn out that the tattooed goons are flamingly gay -- my gym is in Capitol Hill, after all -- and my sense of manliness is quickly replaced by a surprising yet remarkably potent homophobia.
But my manliness keeps returning in waves of swarthiness. And so I continue to do manly things that men would do, like eat beef jerky and refuse to pay child support and punch out uppity valets who make comments about how I should get a car wash when all I'm trying to do is look at some fake boobs at Shotgun Willie's. The most manly thing I did lately? Grow a beard.
And I'm not talking about some three-day, five-o'clock-shadow, George-Michael-looking bullshit. I'm talking a Grizzly Adams, Zack Galifianakis-caliber beard. I'm talking a dark-face-cloak-capable-of-swallowing-large-chunks-of-venison-as-they-trickle-down-my-chin-chased-by-streams-of-mead-flowing-out-of-a-goblet-quality beard. A beard the way Rome was an empire, the way Pelé was a soccer player. All who saw my beard marveled at its prowess; some even offered to live beside my beard, like those birds that sit atop rhinos, and subsist on what they could cull. I learned that it takes a big man to grow a beard -- but it takes an even bigger man to shave one off.
Growing a beard
And why would I shave a beard that had become an institution, a rock in a modern geo-political landscape of swirling chaos and unrest? Two words: Jay Cutler.
As a young man living in the city of Denver, Colorado, you have an obligation -- nay, a sacred duty -- to look as much like the Denver Broncos quarterback as possible. My entire life has been guided by this ethos. When I was three, people said I looked like a young Craig Morton. In the late '80s, that vintage-Elway era, I would walk around with fake horse teeth in my mouth and a mullet sticking out the back of my cap, just like #7. As Elway aged like a fine wine, I developed a paunch. When Elway was injured and Dan Reeves decided to rotate Tommy Maddox and Shawn Moore to end the 1992 season, I went to school in half-blackface to simulate the situation. (Yes, I did get my ass kicked.) When Brian Griese held the reins, I walked around looking like a fucking idiot, falling over all the time and making lame excuses like I tripped over my dog -- when everybody had heard the rumor that Trevor Pryce beat the shit out of me at a team party. Last year, when Jake the Snake had the best season of his career, I grew my hair long and grew a beard. And this year, when Jake came with the clean-cut look, I grew a beard again, because I wanted to remember him when he was good.
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And now I must look like Jay Cutler.
I held out for a while. I still had the beard when Cutler suited up for the first time as the Broncos starting QB against Seattle a few weeks back; he hadn't done anything to show me I should shave. Then came the third quarter of the San Diego game, and I immediately went out and bought a Schick Quattro. Because when Cutler rolled out of the pocket and delivered a blistering strike to Tony Scheffler in the back of the end zone, I became semi-erect, I'm not going to lie. I hadn't seen anyone in a Broncos uniform throw a ball that hard and that accurately since Elway. Through the quarter, Cutler fired the ball just like a real quarterback, and as a lifetime fan in a quarterback city, that was all it took. I shaved.
And this past Sunday, after Cutler's impressive outing against the Cardinals, I shaved again. My Hollywood stubble was way too Leinart.
Cutler, I invite you to invite me out on the town so I can show you how I'm trying to look like you. We can talk about all kinds of things, and you can tell me what it was like to grow up in a town called Santa Claus and about all the Southern belles you buried at Vanderbilt. We'll share a few drinks, a couple of laughs, our hopes and our dreams, and maybe, just maybe, Jay, I can convince you to grow a beard.