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Getting dressed for NFL action

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (Aug. 21, 2001) - I consider myself a serious football fan, one who knows most of the ins and outs of the game. However, having struggled with my own fair share of fashion dramas over the years and knowing how long it can take to get ready to go out, I began to wonder what exactly went into getting outfitted for a football game.

I went to the New York Jets for guidance. One sunny afternoon during the offseason, with the blessings of Head Athletic Trainer David Price and Equipment Director Clay Hampton, Equipment Assistant Hunter Hinkle accompanied me into the locker room and handed me a pair of "compression shorts" - tight white, bicycle shorts - and a white polyester t-shirt.

Deciding I needed to go only just so far, I dispensed with the athletic supporter and went off to change.

Wearing my spiffy new clothes, Hunter and I were just about to embark on our adventure, when Jets guard Randy Thomas materialized in the locker room.

Always up for a good time (although insisting the presence of a purse in the locker room was just wrong), he appointed himself my adviser and determined it was time to get my ankles taped.

While Hunter went off in search of items that might fit me, Randy steered me into the training room, where assistant trainer John Mellody awaited.

I settled onto one of the training tables - a sort of luxurious doctor's office table - and John began taping. After placing yellow gook-covered square pads on my ankles, he added a self-adhesive, spongy, charcoal-colored wrap followed by standard white athletic tape.

John completed the job in about 10 minutes and when I hopped off the table I was no longer able to bend. He assured me things would loosen right up.

I hobbled back to the locker room, where Hunter presented me with a pair of thick white socks with green tops. Pair might be overstating things. One was longer than the other and each had a different number written on the bottom.

He guaranteed that they were freshly washed so I put them on. These should go just over the knees. On me they instantly became an alternative style of thigh-highs.

He then brought over the smallest pair of pants he could find (I loved that) and inserted thigh and hip pads into little pockets designed just for this purpose. Although not necessarily looking to augment my hips, in the name of authenticity, I acquiesced. Randy noticed Hunter threading the belt into the pants for me (not a speedy process) and protested. The players do this themselves, along with the insertion of the pads.

Once the pants were fully prepared, I pulled them on, which was no easy task but I was reassured that they are always tight on everybody.

Now 30 minutes into this escapade, Hunter was coming at me with shoulder pads. Once they were over my head, he instructed me to buckle them. I couldn't, so with Randy making more disapproving noises, Hunter buckled them for me.

He then brought over No. 83 - Santana Moss. Once it was on, I was reminded it needed to be tucked in (an un-tucked jersey is a fineable offense). With the pants already laced and buckled, I started shoving the jersey in wherever it would go. At this point, Randy could restrain himself no more and started helping. I finally escaped his clutches and finished on my own.

I still needed cleats. Once again, we invaded Santana's locker. They were dirty but since I was already wearing someone else's socks I forged ahead.

I realized I should have put on the shoes prior to the shoulder pads when I discovered that a) I could no longer see my feet and b) leaning over to tie the shoes with the pads on put me in great peril of tipping over.

Now it was time for gloves, which I was informed also get taped, including between and around the fingers by linemen for the best possible support and injury prevention.

Finally, the helmet. It was tight, I could neither see nor hear very well, and it was digging into my forehead. In his most unsympathetic tone, Randy told me to stop complaining and snap on the chinstrap.

With that in place, the helmet became even tighter and I couldn't speak clearly. The inside contains pockets of padding filled with air, allowing them to be custom fitted to each player but I'm told it still takes some getting used to. Randy donned his own helmet and enthusiastically offered to head butt me. I declined politely and surveyed myself in a nearby mirror where I had just one thought: Maneuvering into a pair of pantyhose has nothing on this get-up.

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