Kenetria Harris: The Dead End Life of NFL Groupies

Football season is officially underway, and you know what that means: NFL groupies have officially come out of hibernation to begin their search for a professional athlete to upgrade their lifestyle. For some athletes, groupies are as much a staple and accessory as the diamond watches, designer clothes and shoes they wear; it is nearly impossible to see one without the other. The relationship between groupies and professional athletes is not a new phenomenon. Yet, as the salaries, celebrity status, and accessibility of these athletes has drastically increased over the past few decades, so too has the number of groupies.

As a result of these trends, I truly believe that groupies are one of the fastest growing subcultures of young, single women.

Common Origins

While it’s impossible to pinpoint the origins of the groupie world, they likely start at a young age.  Think back to high school.  The most popular guys by default were the athletes, which of course meant more options of girls. You see this same idea played out in almost every teen movie – the cute (and in some cases, not so cute) quarterback usually has most of the girls in school throwing themselves at him.

I can still recall my first encounter with the idea of groupies in the 9th grade. A couple of my female classmates brought in the front page of the sports section of the local newspaper into Civics class, where a current NBA player, who was at the time Arkansas’ Sophomore of the Year in basketball, was featured. One of the girls was plotting on how she was going to meet him and make him her boyfriend. I couldn’t grasp how she possibly wanted him as a boyfriend when she had never even met or spoken with him.

Little did I know what I was in for.

Media Driven Growth

Four years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to pick Chad Ochocinco (at that time, Chad Johnson) out of a line up. But thanks to the Internet, reality TV, movies, magazines and other mainstream media, professional athletes are no longer limited to the narrow confines of their respective sports. Because of their increased stature and recognizability, they have become much easier targets for groupies.

Like many elements of society, the media perpetuates the groupie subculture. Hollywood has particularly served as a driving force in the recruitment of groupies, with shows like ‘Basketball Wives’ or reality dating shows like “The Ultimate Catch’ that tend to glamorize the lifestyles of wives, girlfriends, and even jump-offs (women primarily there for intimate/sexual purposes).

But the biggest culprit may be social media. With the advent of Twitter, groupies, instead of waiting in long lines at nightclubs or team hotels to interact with professional athletes, can instantaneously tweet comments (and pictures) directly to their prey without leaving the comfort of their own homes.

Annoyances from the Other Side

As groupies have become more prevalent, they have become a nuisance to the wives, girlfriends, and significant others of professional athletes. Not because we fear they will put a magic spell on our mates and steer them away from us – it’s because they are bolder and more disrespectful than ever. I recall one instance when Chris and I were on our way home from a dinner date, riding in his Maserati, when a car with two young women pulled up beside him, in an attempt to get him to roll down his window. Chris complied, revealing me (surprise!) on the passenger side.  Instead of just moving on, the women laughed and asked him, “what are y’all getting into tonight?  I responded, “into our bed, in our home.”  They giggled and pulled off.

There have also been times when we attend parties or hit nightclubs with current or former teammates. The groupies are packed around the VIP area, just waiting to be chosen by a player. Chris and I will make a game out of it: I leave to go to the restroom just to see how many of these women approach my husband.  About 8 times out of 10 he’s getting hit on before I return. Even after Chris tells them he is married, the women often remain in the nearby vicinity and whisper amongst friends, all the while staring me up and down.  Sometimes I walk over and offer to buy them a drink. That usually gets them to re-focus their efforts onto the next closest athlete.

The Harsh Reality

Among the underreported problems with groupies is how difficult they can make it hard for true, die-hard female sports fans to adamantly represent and support their favorite teams or athletes. Oftentimes these groupies are disguising themselves as sports fans, thus making it hard to draw a distinct separation between the two by many, including myself.  My true concern with groupies does not pertain to my husband, but rather the young girls who are growing up thinking that this is a way of life or a way to achieve success. Because, in essence, it is nothing more than a dead end road.

The groupie subculture won’t be declining any time soon. In fact, I doubt it’s even approached its pinnacle.  As long as there is an audience (professional athletes) that will entertain this subculture, it will flourish.  The only thing to wipe out an individual groupie is her age.  As the clock ticks, she becomes less appealing.  There are no health insurance plans, 401Ks, and, most importantly, true love for these “retired” groupies. Just a few material possessions and some stories that they may have acquired along the way.