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Q&A: Billie Joe Armstrong

Posted: Thursday September 8, 2005 1:13PM; Updated: Thursday September 8, 2005 2:31PM
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.
Rich Schultz/AP

SI Associate Editor Richard Deitsch recently interviewed Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (http://www.greenday.com/) for the magazine's weekly Q&A. The band is part of the NFL's Kickoff Weekend. Here are additional excerpts from the interview.

SI: On a level of 1 to 10, what level of sports fan are you?

Armstrong: I still follow football and the Raiders a little bit. Probably a 6.5. Maybe I shouldn't say I'm a Raider fan going into the Pats game.

SI: Do you know you share a birthday with some of the most famous athletes of all time?

Armstrong: Let me think. Who could it be? Joe DiMaggio?

SI: Jim Brown and Michael Jordan were both born on Feb. 17. You think Jordan knows he shares a birthday with Billie Joe Armstrong?

Armstrong: That's awesome, but God forbid Jordan knows he shares a birthday with me.

SI: You, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool were at a restaurant in Park Square watching the Sox sweep the Cardinals. Describe the scene afterward?

Armstrong: It was one of the most surreal moments I've ever seen. Everyone that happy. We went outside of the bar and just watched people walk and parade down the street. People were floating. It was like they were levitating. If there was one moment that I could think of watching hordes of people in total harmony and bliss, it was watching the Red Sox fans after Boston swept the Series.

SI: Do you any similarities between your music and the outlaw image of the Raiders?

Armstrong: I would definitely say the Oakland Raiders are the punk rock band of football. I don't think there's an NFL player that honestly couldn't say I would look really good wearing silver and black. Even when Jerry Rice came over, he just looked good. There was a sense of pride about him. It was like, 'F*** yeah, I'm wearing the silver and black'.

SI: Growing up in Oakland, what did the A's and Raiders mean to your life?

Armstrong: My Dad would take me to see the A's play and I remember watching the last Super Bowl that Oakland was in before it went down to Los Angeles. The Raiders played the Eagles and I remember Kenny King scoring a long touchdown down the sideline. We grew up in the East Bay so there were 49ers fans and Raiders fans. All the tough guys in school wore Raiders hats. All the 49ers fans got beat up the Raiders fans when I was in high school.

SI: How did the band get involved with the NFL?

Armstrong: The first thing we ever did was Madden 2005. We had American Idiot on there. Then they asked us to do the Patriots game. Last year we were in Boston when the Red Sox won. The next night we played in Worcester, put on Red Sox hats and played We Are the Champions That was probably the smartest thing I've ever done.

SI: You likely gained some sports fans simply by being in the Madden game?

Armstrong: I think so, yeah. The way the culture goes. For a lot of kids and whoever, people will buy video games before they even buy a record. For some young people, their first experience ever hearing punk rock music was playing the Green Bay Packers on Madden.

SI: Is football the sport you most relate to?

Armstrong: Football is the one I played the most as a kid.

SI: Describe your brief football career at John Swett High School in Crockett, Calif.

Armstrong: I played my freshman year. Wide receiver and halfback. All the sophomores had the seniority on junior varsity and I ended up switching back and forth with this guy who was a sophomore. I was faster than him but because he was on he team before, he automatically had the job. They ended up putting me there during the running plays. The quarterback from the team is an old friend of mine. He actually gave me the jersey a year and a half ago.

SI: What was your football highlight?

Armstrong: I ended up scoring the only touchdown pass the last game of the season. The lowlight was the first kickoff of the season. I received it. All of a sudden these monsters were running after me. I remember running down the sideline and getting past all these guys. I was just running for the fear of God. All of a sudden I was on the opposing team's sideline and I got blasted. I looked up and it was the f------ kicker. That set the tone for the entire season. Me running out for passes and getting blasted by free safeties.

SI: Why did you quit?

Armstrong: I started getting into punk rock music. I started to hate the jocks. Blah. Blah. Blah. My brother David was a great athlete and I knew there was no way I could live up to that. I knew I could play guitar. I started getting into music and my grades got really bad.

SI: There's a quote from you where you said we are bombarding with useless information, whether its the Michael Jackson trial or Terry Schiavo. Do you think people are bombarded with useless information when it comes to athletics?

Armstrong: I think so. Sometimes I think the steriod use gets sort of out of hand. It's steroids, it sucks, guys injecting themselves. At the same time I feel the media blows it out of proportion too. And I think people then lose interest because they can't find anything honest in sport. For kids, instead of trying to keep it under raps to a certain degree, this is what they hear. That baseball players and NFL players are all f****** junkies. It just gets blasted out of proportion and the kids don't find any positive things going on. No wonder the Oakland A's can't pack the Coliseum.

SI: Is there one stadium that you enjoyed playing in because of the sports connection?

Armstrong: I took my kid to see his first baseball game at SBC Park and I went to see the Rolling Stones there and a couple of years later. Now here I am to do my own headline show. Amazing.

SI: What's your favorite thing about sports?

Armstrong: The thing I love about is that the athletes nowadays are such amazing physical specimens. The things that people do now in sports, you can't even believe. These are complete total athletes. To see what human beings can do in the highest level is amazing.

SI: What pisses you off about sports?

Armstrong: It's the way that athletes go from team to team all the time regardless if it's the money. I like the fact that you know Brett Favre will retire a Green Bay Packer. I like the fact that he's a franchise player. I think there's that sort of loyalty. You look at Favre and he has that loyalty to his team no matter what. The lack of loyalty, whether it comes from the owners or players, that's the part that bums you out.