I am standing in a porta potti, putting on flared jazz pants amid a blizzard of sparkles. My metallic-blue lightning-bolt-patterned shirt flows open at my midsection. If David Cassidy had a gay, color-blind brother who worked as a magician’s assistant in Vegas, he would have looked like this in the 1970s. But not today.
I have somehow fooled the NFL into letting me perform in the pregame and halftime shows at the Super Bowl, but I am now realizing it is they who have fooled me. I knew I was out of my element ever since I filled out the registration form, which asked for my grade and principal’s name. Nevertheless, Leslee Fitzmorris, who has run the pregame show for 18 years, and must simply no longer care, decided to give me three pregame parts, one of which required choreography. There was talk of having me do some couples dancing until Bob Best, the executive producer, looked at me and said, ”Your butt isn’t good enough.” Not to talk out of school, but it’s not like Bob’s butt was blowing me away. We dancers can get so catty.
I show up at Serra High School on Thursday at 6 p.m. for my first, four-hour rehearsal. It is me and 500 15-year-old girls, including some who’ve been flown in from around the country. As if I wasn’t self-conscious enough, I quickly discover they are the same 15-year-old girls who didn’t talk to me when I was a 15-year-old boy. They are cheerleaders and members of things I’ve never heard of called dance teams and flag squads. These are not Academy of Science people.
There are four groups — A, B, C, and M — the last of which is for the 35 guys who are set aside and generally made to feel like freaks, which, considering the circumstances, is kind of fair. The guys who are not me are either in the couples dance or the break-dancing section. I’m more of a large flag holder. I will come out late in Santana’s ”Oye Como Va,” waving a 30-foot bamboo pole with a giant flag of a saxophone, which I believe is meant to symbolize the power and beauty of the saxophone. After my flag waving, I will run over to the other side of the field and do a couple dozen moves I can’t at all follow to Styx’s rendition of Queen’s ”We Will Rock You.”
On Friday, we rehearse at the stadium from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Around noon, I realize I have never worked this hard in my life to report a story. By 3 p.m., none of it — not the jazz pants, not my supervisory ”costume mommy,” not the fact that Styx is singing Queen’s ”We Will Rock You” — seems funny. When Santana thanks us for our ”energy” and again for our ”glowing spirit” and once again for ”your purity and innocence,” my only thought is ”Yes, we do have a certain purity and glowing spirit.” This may be because I have only had one of my allotted two water bottles for the day.
Super Bowl morning, me and my 500 new best friends in the whole wide world are picked up at our high school, where a police motorcade blocks off I-15 South for our entrance into the stadium. My stomach churning, I push past a group of Raiders on the sideline to get to my position at the 35- yard line, and I believe for a split second that they are rooting for me — rooting for me, perhaps, to get out of my outfit as quickly as possible for the sake of our gender. My performance goes smoothly, even though I don’t face the right way on any of my Styx/Queen moves. But this is okay, since this act isn’t shown on TV at all. I’m not sure why I ever thought Styx singing Queen’s ”We Will Rock You” would be a televised occasion, but you kind of get wrapped up in the excitement.