I am Hubris the Great…but sometimes even I am at a loss to understand the American zeitgeist. I have overheard – on more than one occasion, come to think of it – a phrase that seems like a compliment from the sound of the inflection, but, to me, seems more like a polite way of saying that someone has the moral depravity of a Boston councilman. The phrase is a sports colloquialism, and it is this: “He’s a good guy to have in the locker room.” Or: “He’s a good locker room guy.”
At first glance – followed by a quick casting of the eyes away from such a sordid scene — a “good guy in the locker room” would indicate a naked man among other naked men, a preening man eager to please unclothed men. I am in tune enough with the common folk to know that homophobia is on the wane, but not so much in the realm of hairy-chested, brawny men whipping around various balls, like footballs, baseballs and basketballs. To these dull brutes, a gay man cavorting among them in the locker room would warrant total ostracism followed by the mother of all wedgies, followed by long captivity in a locker, followed by a press conference wherein the good guy in the locker room answers the even more titillating charge that he wears a toupee. Or is there a special custom within the sanctity of the malodorous confines of a male sports grooming chamber that allows for one man to attend to the gonadal pleasures of his teammates? Is there an area in a mirrored corner, not far from the entrance to the shower, where the “good guy” massages the testicles of his fellow athletic warriors, much like how Patroclus made it his duty to sooth Achilles before and after waging battle on the plains of Troy?
Or is it the “good guy” more of a flattering coquette who stations himself in the steam of the rushing showers so to offer male ego-bolstering commentary?
“Hey, Champ,” would say the designated locker room altruist, “your schlong is looking sleek and inviting this fine day. You should not have to resort to forcing yourself on a drunken young lady in a dark hallway of a sports bar tonight, ala Ben Roethlisberger.”
“Thanks, Good Guy in the Locker Room, that makes me feel good about myself.”
“What about me?” would then pipe up another teammate, lathering his chest and shoulders.
“Oh, please, Bronson, your sperm-sack hangs like the proverbial glistening bunch of grapes on the vine. You should have them puppies photo-shot and sent to artistic glossy magazines.”
These questions were on my mind when, last night, my dearest Virago, Toc and I sat down in – oh the coincidence! – a sports bar to watch a Bruins game. On the blaring TV, mention was made of a certain guy who was “good in the locker room.” Now it was time to humble myself and ask other people – one of whom, Toc, had about as much cerebral incandescence as a moldy jock-strap — about the origins and meaning of this most puzzling phrase. I articulated the question as to include my speculations as to what really constitutes a “good guy in the locker room.”
Virago and Toc spit out their beer in laughter.
“What made you think that?” they asked, which was code for, How could such tawdry images have radiated from such a brilliant and usually chaste mind?
“Okay,” I said in qualification. “Maybe, then, what the ‘good guy’ does is shave the beards of his teammates, or makes sure that there is enough stock of bad cologne to ensure the attraction of cheap women. Or maybe he supervises the laundering of the uniforms, post-game.”
“Hube,” smiled Toc, who never looked happier than he did now at his one chance of intellectual superiority. “A good guy in the locker room is a leader of the team. He makes sure that the other guys stay focused on their game. He gives advice and inspiring speeches to the team.”
“And,” chimed in Virago, “he knocks the heads of those guys who’re disruptive assholes, like Manny Ramirez, who, thank Christ, is finally gone from our lives.”
“But why,” I said, “does all this have to happen in a locker room? Can’t he give advice over a quiet dinner at a fashionable restaurant? Or in a conference room at the hotel? Or at a book club meeting?”
This verbal “slider” gave pause to my two compatriots – that is, before the forever surprising Virago – the love of my life – answered my doubts:
“Because, honey, jocks don’t read books, and nor can they scratch their nuts in a fashionable restaurant.”