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It started last summer when, at the height of the NFL labor dispute, Kluwe took to Twitter under the handle @ChrisWarcraft and called multimillionaires Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and a handful of others at the negotiating table "douchebags," for what he perceived as greed in refusing to settle while mere millionaires went unpaid. Nate Jackson, a former Broncos tight end, responded on Deadspin with a blistering 1,271-word diatribe titled "Dear Chris Kluwe: When We Want the Punter's Opinion, We'll Ask for It (We Won't)." Kluwe fired back with an open letter of his own, employing a writing style that he says was forged on online gaming message boards. "You need to set yourself apart by having a logically sound argument coupled with really colorful profanities. That tickles a nerve in people," he says. "You're kind of funny! And you're kind of making a point!"
Kluwe struck again this season, taking to the Internet to blast Maryland state assembly delegate Emmett Burns, Minnesota archbishop John Nienstedt and Ravens center Matt Birk for their opposition to gay marriage. Though his brother-in-law is gay, Kluwe says his passion on the issue is stoked less by personal connections than by notions of fairness and empathy. "Just treat people the way you want to be treated," he says. "If I can get married to someone I love, why can't someone else marry the person they love?"
He laughs when he hears it argued that gay marriage corrodes society. "Look at the blasted wasteland Canada has become ever since they legalized gay marriage! The zombie apocalypse is everywhere!"
As you'd expect within any subset of the population, some of Kluwe's teammates agree with him, and others don't. But they all agree that it's rare for an NFL player—especially a punter—to be so outspoken on a controversial issue. "Chris is unique, but it's outside the office, the locker room," says Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. "If you're good at what you do and basically keep your mouth shut, guys respect [you]."
Adds Loeffler, "I don't paint plastic figurines. I think I quit that around the third grade. But to each his own. We all respect each other."
Already a hero in the gay community, Kluwe's status as a cult phenomenon was cemented when he recently posed topless for the gay magazine Out. His Twitter time line is flooded with calls for him to run for public office. (No chance, he says, before launching into a frighteningly informed diatribe about campaign-finance laws.) He enjoys similar status on WoW message boards. "Whenever a celebrity enters the community, it's a big deal," says Alex Ziebart, editor in chief of WoWInsider.com. "It's like learning that Barack Obama likes the same sports team that you do."
Sure. Sort of.
If all of this has echoes of the handsome football star inviting the marginalized outcast to sit at his cool table ... well, Kluwe doesn't see it that way. "We like to lump people into categories. He's a nerd. He's a jock. He's gay. He's religious. Whatever. Human beings are more complex and complicated than a single word," he says. "Football is part of my life but not the whole of who I am. Gaming is part of my life but not all of who I am. Balance all of those to be a complete human being. What was it Aristotle said—everything in moderation?"
In his current quest for moderation, Kluwe has lately throttled back on World of Warcraft, devoting many of those hours to his wife, Isabel, and two young daughters, 4-year-old Olivia and 2-year-old Remy. He plays bass in a Twin Cities rock band, Tripping Icarus. He is devouring David Weber's sci-fi series Safehold. Having declined an offer to invest in Curt Schilling's ill-fated video game company, 38 Studios, Kluwe opened a small tabletop-gaming and miniatures store, Mercenary Market, near his off-season home in Southern California.
"It's never boring," says Loeffler of the punter's presence. "He's always got something going on—a new idea, a new game, something that makes him curious."