I’ve been thinking about how football has a more diverse fanbase than any other sport. Hunter S. Thompson was famously a big football fan, but so were his nemeses Richard Nixon and George Bush. Jack Kerouac played college ball at Columbia before getting injured and becoming a writer. You can overhear discussions about football at a Republican Convention as well as at Burning Man. Girls like it and boys like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pepper-spraying policemen and the peaceful Occupy protesters they sprayed both love football, and in other circumstances, they would probably enjoy watching a game together. In football I see a potential to bring people together.
So I decided to reach out to people you may have heard of from non-athletic fields, and ask them a few questions about football. Today is part one of what I hope to make a series of interviews. I would like to thank legendary hip hop MC Sage Francis for agreeing to talk to me, for being as real as he is in his music, and for being far cooler than was strictly necessary.
Read the entire interview with hip-hop legend Sage Francis, after the jump!
Q: First off, thank you for agreeing to do this with me. You’re usually associated with the Minnesota underground sound. Are you a Vikings fan? Where do you see the team going in the next few years?
A: Although I consider the Twin Cities to be my home away from home
away from home, I’m an east coast boy. More specifically, a New
England khed. I’m not a Vikings fan, but I feel for their fans. I
don’t see anything great happening with that team in the next few
years unless they bring Favre out of retirement. Just kidding.
Q: You won the Superbowl MC Battle in Boston in 1999. How did it make you feel when Tom Brady upstaged you two years later in the regular Super Bowl?
A: I felt upset, but it’s not because I was upstaged by Brady. I
remember that night quite well actually. I was flying home from Europe
and due to a couple ridiculous flight delays I was only able to catch
the last two plays of the game. I wrote a hand-written letter of hate
to the airline and demanded that they return my money for making me
miss the game. I was not reimbursed. I can never be mad at Brady
though. He was supposed to be finished years ago, but he came back
from a horrible injury and continued being amazing. People hate on
that guy for being abnormally great at what he does. Every time people
criticize him it always reminds me of the kid in this video:
Q: In “Life Is What Distracts You From Death” you joke that ‘it’s all downhill just like the Patriots.’ It was released on an album in 2005, but it sounds like a freestyle that was recorded several years earlier. Do you remember when you recorded that line, and do you have any thoughts on that prediction now?
A: That was a live radio recording of mine from 1999 or so, which was
during the tail end of the Patriots’ bummy period. I grew up with a
Pats team that let us down year after year. That’s why, if you’ll
notice, my “It’s all downhill from here like the Patriots” sentiment
made people bug out in the radio studio. I remember it well. And then,
thanks to Brady and Belichick, the organization took an upward turn
and I realized that my line had become temporarily obsolete. I’m sure
it will be relevant once again. Probably sooner than later.
Q: You played some football in high school and college at middle linebacker, where you learned to prefer a 4-3 defense over a 3-4 because you “don’t like sharing that territory.” Tell me a little more about your experience as a player.
A: I played all types of sports growing up, but I didn’t get to play
football until I was in 7th grade. I took to it immediately. I was an
aggressive kid and I apparently had inexhaustible energy considering
how I played offense, defense and special teams all in the same game.
I preferred playing fullback but I was more successful as a middle
linebacker. I started playing on the varsity squad when I was in 9th
grade which scared my silly. I was only 13 going on 14 in my freshman
year, and here I was expected to tackle people who were twice my size.
At one point I considered quitting, but uhh…pops wasn’t having that.
Haha. It didn’t help that I played for one of the worst football teams
in high school sports history, but that’s besides the point. I did
well and I earned some awards in the process. I did a lot of dumb
things too…such as not wearing protective gear if I could get away
with it. I didn’t like how it restricted my movement. Of course I
still feel residual pain from those days. My friends and I used to
call it “Hurt Ball.” The game really seemed to be about how much pain
you can tolerate, and this was especially true when playing in
freezing temperatures. The frozen field was hard as concrete.
Regardless, I still have dreams about playing the game and I miss it a
lot. Those were good times.
Q: Do you feel there’s a connection between getting “in the zone” on
game day vs. getting in the zone when you’re freestyling?
A: I suppose so, yeah. Getting in the zone is all about tapping into
that meta-confident state, where your focus becomes fine tuned on the
moment to the point where you’re operating on the highest possible
level. It can be a transcendent experience. When you’re on, you’re on.
And when you’re really lucky, things just go your way in those
Q: Is spectator football popular in the hip-hop DJ/MC/producer crowd? What other artists do you know that are fans?
A: It is incredibly popular. Like…huge. Our fans don’t seem to know
that, because every time I talk about professional sports on a social
network I get a barrage of negative responses (because, you know,
sports are the devil) or responses like “Wow, I didn’t know you liked
sports. AWESOME!” Truthfully, the only artist I’m close to who doesn’t
really watch sports is B. Dolan. Everyone else has their specific team
or sport that they invest their time and emotions into.
Q: What kind of fan are you? Do you casually tune in to whatever game is broadcast when you’re not busy, or do you make it a point to go to a sports bar every Sunday so you can watch six games at once?
A: I actually didn’t pay too much attention to professional sports
until I was in my 30’s. Sure, I was a casual New England sports fan my
whole life and I’d watch the important games, but other than that I
never felt truly invested in the games. My dad was a fanatic though.
He took me to Red Sox games and a Patriots game. In fact, people wore
Patriots jerseys and Red Sox gear to his funeral. It’s kind of a shame
that professional sports didn’t officially *click* with me until he
was gone, but while he was around it was always good to be able to
speak about sports with him when we didn’t share any other mutual
interests. These days I would consider myself a moderate sports
fanatic. I watch all the football games, I watch the Bruins when I can
manage to find them on TV, and I even watch the Red Sox games that
don’t matter. If that’s not proof enough that I am officially an old
man, I also listen to sports talk radio now. I even look forward to
it. I must be experiencing manopause.
Q: You hate the Cowboys, right? Besides being completely evil, why do you think everybody hates Dallas so much?
A: When I was growing up, the Cowboys were the dynasty. So maybe the
hate that they receive is a residual one. I’m not totally sure.
Personally, I have no particular dislike of the Cowboys. In fact, I
kind of feel bad for their program and their fans. They’ve been
struggling for a while now. They’re due for a comeback.
Q: If you could hang out with any NFL player, who would you pick? What player would you ask to make a cameo appearance on a future album, and what might you rap about?
A: I don’t let people rap on my albums. I’ve recorded 6 studio albums
now and not a single one of them has a featured guest rapper. Not even
Busta Rhymes to do a chorus. That is by design. And the more that I
think about it, there isn’t any NFL player I’d like to hang out with.
It would probably be best to chill with a low profile lineman just so
I can hear him dish the dirt on the more popular players.
Q: I’ve always thought Aaron Rodgers is kind of ugly. Is that why God
loves him so much?
A: I don’t know why you think Aaron Rodgers is ugly. He’s just a
regular looking white guy. He seems like a lot of fun though. If I had
to go on instinct alone, I’d say that he is one of the more personable
quarterbacks in the NFL. BTW, I’m not Slug. He’s a good friend of mine
and I love the dude, but I’m starting to feel like you’ve confused me
for a midwest emcee with the “God Loves Ugly” reference. haha.
Q: Football: more hip hop, or more rock and roll?
A: Football used to be more rock and roll. Because that was the status
quo. Now it is more hip hop. For the same reason.
Q: Some people think big time college and pro football is at best a vessel to sell merchandising, and at worst a distraction to divert the population’s attention away from evil political machinations. You’ve rapped extensively about your thoughts on merchandising. What makes football transcend that mundane viewpoint?
A: Football is big business and highly popular, so of course there is
going to be a merchandising machine around it in a capitalist society.
When you get down to the psychology of it all, it’s strange to realize
that certain teams, sports and communities actually BENEFIT due to the
availability and sales of this merchandise. As a musician, I see how
that works on a much smaller scale. It’s possible that sports are a
distraction to more important matters, but it’s also possible that
sports are what give people of varying political ideologies some type
of conversational common ground. It can act as a bridge.
Q: If you could be molested by any coach at a Division-I college, who
would you choose?
A: Since you brought up this topic, even though it was done in a
distasteful way (oh snap,) I think it’s a good opportunity to mention
how this is a prime example of how sports talk can bridge into more
relavent social matters. I know people who have been emotionally
crippled due to molestation. They carry this shame well into adulthood
and it negatively affects many aspect of their life. Currently, we are
holding adult conversations about this matter and speaking openly
about sexual abuse due to the Sandusky case. Because of that, people
are feeling more comfortable about coming out of the shadows to tell
their own stories which will hopefully educate the public and spare
more children from being victimized.
I don’t want to end this interview on such a heavy note, so let me
just offer you something on a lighter note. I really look forward to
Tim Tebow’s imminent freak out and career ending scandal. I don’t say
this because he is a Christian missionary posing as an NFL
quarterback. I say this because he is Satan’s spawn posing as a
“All great truths begin as blasphemies,” proclaimed the fiery playwright George Bernard Shaw. It’s a sentiment that can be applied exponentially to the works of rapper Sage Francis and his exhilarating new album Li(f)e. Francis has never been afraid to provoke. As a result he is a sometimes polarizing and increasingly important figure in modern music. Adored by many, reviled by a few but never ignored and always essential, Sage Francis has emerged as the reigning agent provocateur of hip hop.” — strangefamousrecords.com
For me, Sage was one of the most important artists to get me into listening to hip-hop. He epitomizes underground hip-hop, how it sounds, what it stands for. Sage is one half of the Non-Prophets, with DJ/producer Joe Beats. Besides being affiliated with Rhymesayers and Anticon, he founded Strange Famous Records in 1996. You can visit Sage at sagefrancis.net, you can purchase his albums at strangefamousrecords.com, or listen now on the Strange Famous youtube channel.