Steamboat Springs The NFL playoffs are upon us and I find myself wondering, "What's really up with those guys who paint their heads in team colors before leaving home for the game?"
Do you ever stop and think about those guys?
I know it's easiest to dismiss them as wackos, slam another industrial strength Tostito into the bean dip and turn up the volume.
But I think those people who paint one half of their faces red and the other half golden yellow, or one half Kelly green and the other half silver, are tapping into a deep seated human need -- a profound urge to brandish one's tribal insignia, thump one's chest and rant against that ineluctable modality that is life itself.
In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we will freely admit that we all harbor a secret urge to paint our faces and let our freak flags fly on game day.
We are just too repressed to act on it.
So, who are these rare individuals who have broken through the miasma of human self-consciousness to become who they truly are? And why is this phenomenon more prevalent in some NFL cities than others?
And while we're at it, why must they charge $6 for a beer in a plastic cup at sporting arenas? And finally, why should we limit ourselves to painting our faces at football games, when an entire cornucopia of cultural events is begging for some hardcore fans.
If you were among those who tuned into Saturday's games (I am pleased to say I was traveling and missed out on the excitement) you may have decided that the eccentrics in the stands were more interesting than the blowouts on the gridiron.
The Pittsburgh/Cleveland game on Sunday was more of an artistic success, and I noticed some well-turned-out freaks in the crowd.
Most Steelers fans are content to wear team jackets and wave yellow hand towels in the air like their pom pon squad.
But I spotted one guy who had painted his face black and yellow and had a mass of yellow cones sprouting out of his shaved head. On his forehead were stenciled the words "Cowher Power," a reference to Steelers' head coach, Bill Cowher.
One woman was wearing a pair of ear warmers that had the two halves of a yellow styrofoam bus attached to them, giving the impression that the bus, a reference to running back Jerome Bettis, was motoring in one ear and out the other.
Still another fellow was wearing a hat that proclaimed him to be a "Steelhead."
I have always thought of a steelhead as a sea-run rainbow trout, but this guy's hat was shaped like a section of steel girder.
Watching the 49ers stirring comeback against the New York Giants Sunday afternoon, I couldn't help but notice that the loud throng in Candlestick was virtually devoid of strangely costumed characters.
I don't know how to reconcile that state of affairs with the fact that San Franciscans turn out every year for the Bay to Breakers Marathon in costumes that would make Little Richard blush.
And you know that right across the bay in Raider Nation, the "inmates" as Shannon Sharpe calls them, are hard at work making repairs to their costumes in preparation for this weekend's tilt with the Jets. Most of their game-day rigs are dripping with skulls and encrusted in dangerous spikes.
You can hate the Oakland Raiders if you want to, but you've got to give their fans their props.
Those boys and girls in Oakland are really in tune with their inner selves.
Right now, many of you are muttering, "Rats, I've allowed another football season to fritter away, and I still haven't mustered the nerve to paint my face!"
Take heart. Steamboat Springs offers a variety of events throughout the year where outlandish costumes are permitted if not encouraged.
Beginning in February, you and your friends may enter the Winter Carnival Parade as a band of skiing cross dressers and no one will bat an eye as long as you adhere to the traditional Diamond Hitch.
If fans of the Steamboat Springs Rodeo Series were more like football fans, there wouldn't be so many Garth Brooks look-a-likes in the grandstand.
Instead, everyone would be dressed like the rodeo clown and cheer for the bulls to stomp the cowboys' hides.
When July rolls around, a group of us are already planning to attend the opening night of the Strings in the Mountains Music Festival wearing styrofoam cellos on our heads and treble clefs painted on our cheeks.
We will chant, "Yo Yo Ma, Yo Yo Ma," but not until intermission.