It’s Wednesday, and all America is looking forward to Superbowl Sunday.
Except for me. And Howard.
I always liked Howard, but when did like turn to love? When did I go from fan t acolyte, from someone who realizes how good he is to how important he is? When I first heard him talk about the Superbowl.
“I don’t give a Shit about the Superbowl,” he said. “It’s a pigf——.”
That’s right—football, baseball, hockey, basketball—Howard has made it clear it’s not his thing. Each day he speaks to a valuable demographic of men between the ages of 18-55, prime football-lovin’, Sports Center watching, game betting fans, and he’s just completely honest with them: he couldn’t care less.
I related. I followed baseball and football as a kid—my favorite book was Jerry Kramer’s autobiography—but I eventually lost interest. When my friends talk about scores and quarterbacks and Sunday game lineups, I zone out. I used to ask a friend who follows college basketball to brief me during March Madness so I’d be able to exchange a few knowing comments with my other male friends. Yeah, North Carolina put up a great D. Then I stopped: Really, who the fuck cares? It’s a pigf——.
Listening to Howard, I realized I wasn’t alone. Here he was, talking to guys, admitting he couldn’t care less about pro sports.
Which demonstrates the number one, be all, end all, bottom line Stern-Rule-for-Life: Be Yourself. In a word: Authenticity. Macho is not having to act macho. Maybe only pussies hate sports, but it takes a real man to admit it.
Talk radio is a man’s world. It’s guys listening on their way to work. It’s guys calling in to vent and rant and rail because no one else cares about their opinions and frustrations and the guy at the other end of the phone gets money to listen— not to care, mind you, just to listen and figure out how to turn the Id and angst of the American male into good radio.
My friend Teresa Strasser, who used to co-host the Adam Carolla Show on KLSX, said the chances of landing a lead drive time radio gig for a woman are close to zero. Lots of reasons: men won’t bare their souls in public to a woman; men can’t ultimately relate to a woman—if she’s too macho, she’s a freak, if she’s not macho enough, she’s a wife. And it’s even more basic, Teresa told me: people get tired of the higher pitch of a woman’s voice.
I for one could listen to Teresa day in day out— but I get what she’s saying: most men can’t. What I love about Howard is despite the fact that he rules FM talk, he’s not like most men.
It may be the most subversive aspect of Howard Stern: not the way he’s brought lesbians and hookers and reality programming into the mainstream, but how he has modeled a different kind of American Macho.
Take the whole gay thing. Long before it was popular to support gay marriage or gays in the military, Howard did it. With humor, yes, but also with passion. If someone wants to die for his country, he’d say over and over, go ahead and let him, who cares what he does in bed. The way Howard put it was much more clever. Hey, I don’t have the balls to go fight. I don’t want to die for my country. If some gay guy wants to take my place, why would I want to stop him. When the history of gay liberation in this country is written, it will have to include a few paragraphs on Howard Stern.
By playing the coward, Howard made gay equal macho. And he did it over and over, years ago, before the head of the Joint Chiefs finally had the balls himself to reverse Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. WIth Howard it was always, Don’t Ask, Don’t Care.
Same with gay marriage. If a couple of gays want to give a kid a good home, what do I care? Was the way Howard put it. I don’t want to raise these kids without homes. I don’t want to commit. If they want to, I say let them. Howard made gay look tough and professional sports look silly. He reversed the stereotypes, and subverted the American Macho ideal.
But he didn’t just destroy the ideal, he replaced it with one a lot of men, like me, can relate to. It’s not the Budweiser commercial, Army recruitment trailer man- that’s the one we’ve been sold our whole lives. In Howard’s world, real men love straight sex but don’t fear gay men. They like to work out and play chess. They listen to Rob Zombie and Katy Perry. They love Terminator and American Idol. They talk about doing shots and about turkey chili. They want to see Osama Bin Laden and his cronies bombed until their DNA evaporates, but they don’t want to, as Howard said today, “send young men to die in winless wars.” They can love Dancing With the Stars and hate the Superbowl. They can be their authentic selves, no apologies.
I suppose they can, like Howard, even admit to crying while reading Marley and Me.
( I didn’t. Let’s face it: That’s just gay.)