Wide receivers in drag: A look back at that messy gay football arc on ‘Dawson’s Creek’

Image Credit: ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ Sony Pictures Television

The third season of the beloved, seminal late-’90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek is notable for many controversial developments—the blossoming of the Joey (Katie Holmes) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson) love story, the introduction and hasty exit of the show’s worst-ever character, the oversexed and underdeveloped Eve (Brittany Daniel), and a revolving door of unsuccessful showrunners following the exit of queer creator Kevin Williamson—but it’s not all bad! An early-season arc involving gay teen Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith) becoming an unlikely football star is surprisingly sweet, with a nice message and fun twists. 

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some “season highlights” (because sports!) of Jack’s short-lived but memorable football career.

Season 3, Episode 2: “Homecoming”

Image Credit: ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ Sony Pictures Television

Highlights: Jack’s Dad SUCKS…

And not in a good way! The conservative, homophobic Mr. McPhee (David Dukes–RIP!) pays Jack a visit at Jen (THE Michelle Williams) and Grams’ (Mary Beth Peil) house, where Jack’s been living since he was kicked out for coming out. Mr. McPhee tells Jack and his new, found family that Jack’s drippy and mentally ill sister, Andie (Meredith Monroe), is about to be discharged from the psychiatric hospital and come home. Jack takes this as an invitation for him to return home, too, but Mr. McPhee doesn’t think it’s a good idea. 

Later, sardonic and counter-culture Jen somehow becomes head cheerleader and Jack keeps catching the football while the crappy varsity team practices, catching the eye of Dawson’s dad, Coach Mitch (daddy John Wesley Shipp). Jack is then recruited to be wide receiver—and there’s not a pun in sight! Mr. McPhee learns his son is now a football player and this somehow makes it okay for Jack to move home, but Jack says no, he’s found his footing with Jen and Grams. Go, Jack! 

Lowlights: Eve, who looks 40, is somehow a high school student and still bent on seducing Dawson. Coach Mitch thinks it’s cute that his underage son is getting some.

Season 3, Episode 3: “None Of The Above”

Image Credit: ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ Sony Pictures Television

Highlights: Jack Finds His “Fug”

While the rest of the cast is accused of stealing the PSAT answers that Eve stole, Coach Mitch pushes Jack to his limit at football practice. Jack keeps getting hurt and roughed-up and is convinced that the team is being mean to him because he’s gay, but freshman football buddy Henry (oh look, it’s Michael Pitt!) tells him he’s just got to get a gimmick—er, mantra. Jack somehow comes up with screaming the word “fug!” as he plays and turns out, Jack is tougher than he thinks. Also, Henry—giving major incel vibes, but it’s the ’90s—really likes Jen and asks if Jack can set him up with her.

Lowlights: Eve, who still has not stated her purpose for existing, steals the PSAT answers, which is somehow a big deal even though the test has the word PRACTICE in it. 

Season 3, Episode 4: “Home Movies”

Image Credit: ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ Sony Pictures Television

Highlights: TOUCHDOWN!

It’s the day of the show—er, game—and Dawson’s been tasked with doing a TV news interview with someone on the team. He thinks it would be great to interview out football player Jack, but Coach Mitch thinks it’s a terrible idea, because he’ll end up with a target on his back and Jack is meant to be the sleeper. Andie—who continues to be drippy and infuriating—also thinks it’s a bad idea because Mr. McPhee will be disappointed.

Dawson goes ahead with the interview anyway and Jack is outed to everyone. At the homecoming game, the opposing team does in fact target Jack, and it gets pretty ugly, with one player even calling him a “limp wristed homo.” Dawson and the cheerleaders save the day by obscuring the team’s numbers and—wait for it—applying garish, drag-style makeup to every player. Jack is finally able to use his wide receiver skills (again, no pun intended) and scores the winning touchdown!

Lowlights: Just about everything else in this episode is a lowlight, from the casual homophobia to a truly bonkers subplot in which unwitting head cheerleader Jen is forced to kiss a winning bidder for charity. Of course, Henry wins, and she turns out to sort-of like him, but this is never explored again because the new showrunner is about to be replaced.

Just a hot shot of Kerr Smith since you got through these episodes. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Did you enjoy our little trip down Dawson’s Creek memory lane? This season is an unmitigated disaster, but it’s kind of fun to watch. Plus, Kerr Smith is pretty hunky, right?

You can watch all six seasons Dawson’s Creek on Hulu—just don’t don’t be as alarmed as we were when Paula Cole’s iconic “I Don’t Wanna Wait” theme song is replaced by Jann Arden’s “Run Like Mad.”

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