Super Bowl activities are taking place across the street from my apartment complex this week, and one of my transgender friends has dreams of being the mistress in a sex scandal with one of the athletes on the eve of the big game. Even if she weren’t joking, her ploy would be no more tawdry than all of the other attempts at making a buck in a city that currently has the scent of freshly printed dollars wafting in its breezes.
For more than a year, I’ve felt a casual social pressure to vacate my apartment for a few days to make a couple thousand dollars on an Airbnb rental – something I just don’t have the entrepreneurial (or hospitable) spirit to pursue. It’s also a violation of my lease, and my apartment complex hires three security guards to make sure tenants don’t rent their parking spaces during sporting events and concerts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so I’m pretty sure they would have questions about the millionaire coming and going from my apartment during the Super Bowl.
Nearly every ride-share driver, restaurant worker and weed dealer I’ve come across in recent weeks has been giddy about all of the money Super Bowl 53 is bringing to town. Walking home from the store the other day, I noticed the streets outside the Super Bowl Experience plaza had as many Jehovah’s Witnesses as security guards, and no matter how good the former’s intentions, I’m sure there’s someone in the church who could tell you the financial benefit of every soul saved.
Bars are staying open later all week, and you can have fun imagining the steps Atlanta’s famous strip joints, sex clubs, and adult bookstores are taking in anticipation of the influx of visitors with rich appetites. By any measure or definition, Atlanta will be the most lubricated city in the country while we host the country’s biggest party.
Although sports fans and our broader culture may still be waiting for the first openly gay athlete in a major league, this week’s game in Atlanta will include a bit of history as the first Super Bowl to feature male cheerleaders. Being a male cheerleader does not automatically mean one is gay, but after seeing interviews with the LA Rams boosters, they either have a uniquely bubbly interpretation of heterosexual manhood, or their appearance on the Super Bowl sideline represents an LGBTQ milestone.
Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies exude a flamboyant joy that would get them blocked or rejected on many gay dating apps where masculinity is clung to and coveted. The reaction to them performing with the LA Rams squad at the Super Bowl has prompted a torrent of pejoratives and predictions of Rapture that many gay men spend much of their lives trying to avoid.
Peron and Jinnies respond by smiling, thriving, and cheering on others, including some players who would likely shame or ridicule them. This Sunday, they will achieve a goal they probably didn’t think was possible this time last year and will redefine what it means for male cheerleaders to make it to the top of their sport.
It’s statistically likely that at least one other gay man is enjoying the apex of his career as a player for the Patriots or Rams. I bid that player or those players well, and wish they had the strength and courage of cheerleaders, as well as the joy.
“Aye Napoleon, you think Atlanta is ready for us?” Peron asked his teammate on Twitter, adding three winking emojis with their tongues sticking out.
Atlanta is ready, and thanks to you two, soon the rest of the world will be, too.