Chris Kluwe's Game Changer

The Los Al High grad and Minnesota Vikings punter is prying open America's last closet: major-league sports

Kluwe has agreed to be the centerpiece of a documentary on spinal-cord injuries, which will be used to lobby for a state law adding a surcharge to driving violations to fund curative research. His day began at 10 a.m., climbing into a wheelchair from bed, then rolling to a rehabilitation center for weightlifting, followed by a trip to a specialty-care children's hospital.

Now he's sitting with a group of young men and women who are also in wheelchairs, but not by choice. Inevitably, the conversation turns to the topic of the gay-marriage amendment.

"It's the same as discrimination," says Kluwe.

"I know it is!" the young woman concurs.

"Fifty years from now, our kids will be like, 'Why did we care about that?'" predicts Kluwe, a sci-fi aficionado. "'We gotta discriminate against the robots!'"

A punter's chances of actually sustaining the type of injury that would permanently confine him to a wheelchair are slim. But it's an illuminating exercise for a guy whose entire life has revolved around the excellence of his lower limbs.

The son of a doctor and a chemical engineer, Kluwe grew up in Seal Beach. Even as a kid, he excelled at sports—both as a baseball pitcher and a soccer goalie—and spent much of his adolescence trying to decide which one he'd rather go pro in.

"The kids didn't play football because they were soccer and baseball players," says his mother, Sandy. "Why would you play football? I didn't think he knew the rules of the game, to be honest."

But during the fall semester of Kluwe's freshman year at Los Alamitos High School, he decided to go out for the school's powerhouse football program. A decade of pitching in baseball had caused an abnormal separation in the growth plate of his shoulder, so on the advice of an orthopedist, Kluwe tried out to be a kicker.

With a little practice, Kluwe's soccer-ball-kicking skills translated well to booting the football. He attended a kicking camp the following summer, where the owners advised him he could have a future in the sport.

"They told me that if I worked at it, I could pretty much almost guarantee I could get a college scholarship, and they said I'd have a pretty good shot at making it in the NFL," recalls Kluwe. "So I was like, 'Well, that seems like the greatest job ever, so I think I'll practice.'"

Kluwe's chance to prove himself came in 1999 during his senior year at a playoff game against Loyola High School. With less than a minute to go, Loyola scored a field goal, putting them ahead by three points.

Los Alamitos got the ball back with 37 seconds to go. They started with a hook-and-ladder that bought them about 20 yards, then chucked a 7-yard pass and ran out of bounds to stop the clock on Loyola's 43-yard line.

The team figured it could either try a Hail Mary pass to the end zone or go for a near-impossible, 60-yard field goal, recalls Los Alamitos coach John Barnes, the winningest high-school-football coach in Orange County history. When Kluwe was sent in, the other team was so sure the kick was a fake that they called a timeout.

"I remember just saying, 'Hey, nobody's gonna expect you to make this, but don't miss it right or left. Kick it down the middle and see what you got,'" recalls Barnes. "And he boomed it."

The kick sailed straight through the goalposts, breaking the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section's playoff record for distance.

"The place went nuts," Barnes says. "They started chanting his name—'Kluwe, Kluwe'—the whole next three or four minutes while we got prepared for overtime."

The team came back and won the game. Kluwe was named a USA Today "All-High School" player, and his last-second heroics remain legend in OC prep sports—unheard of for a kicker.

* * *

"This is fucked-up," Kluwe thought as he lay awake in bed one night in early September.

The source of his unrest was an article he'd found earlier that evening on Profootballtalk.com, an insider site he frequents for sports news. It was about a letter from Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti regarding linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who had been appearing in ads advocating for gay marriage. Burns warned Bisciotti that it wasn't appropriate for a player to take such a controversial political position.

"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions," Burns wrote.

After about 20 minutes of tossing and turning, Kluwe sat in front of his computer and organized his thoughts into a rebuttal.

"I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government," it began. "Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level."

Kluwe finished the letter in a little more than an hour and sent it to Deadspin, where he'd been tapped as a semi-regular contributor. Then he went back to bed and slept like a baby.

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12 comments
stevenwyork
stevenwyork

I finally had a chance to sit down and read this from a physical copy...(sometimes Weekly articles just read better on paper than the internet)   It still brings a shit eating grin to my face to know such an amazing humorous voice for equality has never forgotten his OC roots. 

 

Open up that damn gaming store in OC already! 

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young

Dude looks like a homeless can collector that hangs around Dana Point harbor.

laurakanter
laurakanter

Way to go OC Weekly, Andy Mannix and Chris Kluwe!  Thanks for representing the OC.  This is coming from the Director of Youth Services at The Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County and also, to support my credentials, the OC Weekly's 2012 Best Voice for the Little Gay.  Our youth groups would love to meet Mr. Kluwe and tell him about their amazing safe schools/anti-bully program.  So if you happen to be checking comments Mr. Kluwe, please contact me!  

Laura Kanter

http://www.ocweekly.com/bestof/2012/award/best-voice-for-the-little-gay-1324113/

 

Laura Kanter, MSW

Youth Services Director

The Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County

laura.kanter@thecenteroc.org

714-953-5428 x206 

jefe001
jefe001

On Thursday OC Weekly drops in LBC, and I usually pick up my copy on Friday. All three of my haunts have empty racks. DAMN YOU LUSTFUL COCK-MONSTER DEFENDER. DAMN YOU TO *HELL!*

 

(And, thanks for destroying every single negative stereotype I’ve held about football players. ALL of my friends know of you and have “lustful cockmonster” as part of their everyday vernacular. Even my Mom (err, thanks?).

 

You’re a radiant light showing the way, Chris Klewe. And Andy Mannix, a great article well-written!

 

PS: Is it “clue-y” or “clue”? Aside from whether it’s a LUSTFUL cockmonster or lustful COCKMONSTER, this is the most vocal debate we have these days.

ageofknowledge
ageofknowledge

Another pro dick sucker? Take the shameful behavior back into the closet where it belongs.

kbear09090
kbear09090

 @ageofknowledge You could teach him to be a pro. Wait..what...I can't understand with that in your mouth.

jefe001
jefe001

 @ageofknowledge But really, who wants to be an *amateur* dick sucker? Go big, or go home, right?

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

 @ageofknowledge WHAT?! You're a homophobe? I knew you were stupid, but this now guarantees you will never get any respect from us again.

ageofknowledge
ageofknowledge

 @GustavoArellano  Lol... you know as well as I do that this entire organization is incomplete without me here to make the necessary corrections via this forum. 

 

And, there's nothing respectable about pushing homosexual behavior at people Gustavo. If getting your respect is predicated on me accepting the homosexual agenda, then I'll respect myself instead.

 

 

ageofknowledge
ageofknowledge

 @kbear09090  I don't need respect from a dirtbag low-life like you. In fact, if you tried to give me that piece of coal: I wouldn't even accept it. As for your universal claim to speaking for the whole world, we both know that's nothing but a fart in the wind. Don't forget to wipe ahole.

 
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