Chris Kluwe's last Minnesota hurrah will be as the grand marshal in this weekend's Pride parade

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2013 - 2:46 PM

Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Chris Kluwe makes up words.

He made up “sparklepony” after people spewed their coffee reading another made-up word that sounded insulting to roosters. And monsters.

“They just came to me,” said Kluwe of the phrases that led to this straight professional football player riding as grand marshal of the Pride Festival parade next Sunday. He laughed. “It’s a scary place inside my head.”

While no longer a Minnesota Viking, the controversial punter is back for the parade, and to promote his first book of sharp-tongued essays. For all the records he set on the field, he may be missed most by people who barely got to know him.

A recap for those just joining the game:

In September, Kluwe wrote a blistering, dark-of-the-night response to a Maryland politician who had demanded that the Baltimore Ravens stop one of its football players from speaking in favor of same-sex marriage. Kluwe’s missive also was profane, with an especially memorable reference to male genitalia. And monsters.

He posted it on the sports website Deadspin, then went back to bed. By morning, a bazillion thumbs on Twitter had made the screed go viral, which led to a backlash about his vulgarity, which led to a revision.

In place of the crude phrases were expressions such as “lustful frolicking ostrich,” “disappointed lemur face” and the one that led to his book’s title: “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

With that version, Kluwe became an unexpectedly hilarious ally in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage. In a way, he also was fighting for himself.

Back to live action:

Next weekend’s activities may be Kluwe’s last visit to Minnesota for a while, despite a standing invitation from Andy Parrish to go fishing together. Yep, the same Andy Parrish who was deputy campaign manager for Minnesota for Marriage, which fought hard to keep marriage solely defined as between a man and a woman.

Parrish and Kluwe got into some feisty Twitter debates, which led to doing a couple of radio shows together. “I’ve gotten to know Chris and, believe it or not, we’ve become friends,” Parrish said.

“He’s a tremendous guy who is very passionate, just on the opposite side of the issue, and how can you not respect a guy who literally put his career on the line?” he said. “He’s earned the right to be grand marshal. I’m glad his side is acknowledging he played a role.”

So Kluwe had an impact?

“Sure, he did,” Parrish said. “I always tell people, anytime you lose by such a small percentage, everything they did was correct. … We never saw the wave they’d built up coming. Chris was more a distraction — ‘Here’s Chris, this shiny object. Focus on him,’ while they kept doing what they were doing.”

It’s the empathy, stupid

Kluwe is back in his native California, where he’s now an Oakland Raider after being cut by the Vikings. He had been a punter here since 2005, but this past year likely was the first time when people who don’t know a punter from an outfielder recognized his name.

  • related content

  • Kluwe became a vocal opponent of the 2012 same-sex marriage amendment, then became allied with the legislative effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota. He says his goal is “raising awareness that people aren’t being treated with empathy.”

  • At the Cause nightclub, Jesse Damien Revel and Chris Kluwe of Tripping Icarus play a farewell set.] ORG XMIT: MIN1305080004401048 ORG XMIT: MIN1305081233251127

  • “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies” is Kluwe’s first book, but expect more. MIN1306051713233088

  • Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe speaks to reporters after practice at an NFL football training camp.

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