Stand by Your Fan
Wife tolerates costumed Griz fan’s game-day antics
By Amy Joyner
Whump, whump, whump, whump.
It was 8 A.M. and those loud whumps were coming faster and faster from somewhere in my kitchen.
Fridge? Dishwasher? I got up to investigate.
What I found in my new kitchen that September morning in 2001 was just the beginning of my life as the “Most Tolerant Wife in Griz Nation.”
At the controls of our filthy air compressor was my brother-in-law, Tim Joyner ’93. He was airbrushing maroon and silver paint onto the shaved head of my husband, Jim Joyner ’92.
“This is overkill,” I remember thinking. Until then, my husband’s game-day attire had been limited to large Griz paws and logos. To save my cabinetry, I forced them onto the porch.
Ah, just another Grizzly game day that I would have to endure and clean up after.
Brothers Jim and Tim hail from Great Falls. My husband of sixteen years, now sans the majority of his hair at age thirty-nine, has provided Tim’s blank canvas for the past seven years.
“I knew that Jim was foolish enough to do it,” forty-one-year-old Tim says of his initial painting idea.
But the painting became predictable.
He‘s got the look
I don’t often offer artistic opinions; neither does Tim’s wife of thirteen years, Jennifer Avery Joyner ’90. She was dubious, though, in 2004 when Tim slashed a $50 No. 37 jersey with his hunting knife for a post-apocalyptic uniform that now stands as Jim’s legendary look. Fans at the tailgates and in the North End Zone can’t miss him. It’s that signature Road Warrior look that won Jim a $1,000 grand prize in a sports fan contest four years ago from video-game maker EA Sports.
A souvenir of Tim’s 1980s trapping days inspired the resin bobcat skull chained to the costume. I asked Tim once, “Why on earth did you have a bobcat skull just laying around?” His reply: “I always knew it would come in handy someday.”
Handy. It’s handy to have one brother who is artistically inclined and another who’s impossible to embarrass. I am humiliated for him, often walking a few feet behind him, pointlessly hoping people won’t think we’re together.
Jim scowls for the camera during the 2004 Division 1-AA National Championship football game in Chattanooga.
Another part of Jim’s notorious costume is the shoulder pads, which were hand carved and cast in durable resin by Tim. “At first I wasn’t sure he’d wear [the shoulder pads],” Tim says. “Now I can’t get him out of them all season.”
Jim and Tim are like mad scientists when working on Jim’s game look. “I usually come up with the ideas,” Tim explains.
“And I trust his lack of judgment,” Jim adds.
One idea in 2003 was a plaster mold of Jim’s head, gently named, “Head.” Head became so popular that another fan copied the idea.
“Head” began with another huge mess in my kitchen, as Tim put straws up Jim’s nose for breathing, greased Jim’s head with Vaseline, and applied mesh and plaster around the entire head. I hope to never see that again.
The mold was later filled with taxidermy foam. Tim said he was never as self-conscious as the day he came out of a Bitterroot taxidermist’s with a human head tucked under his arm. “It was like I just had it stuffed,” he says.
Like father, not like son
Our son, Jackson, insists that he will never have his head replicated or face painted, saying, “The shoulder pads I would wear, but makeup is for girls—and my dad and clowns. And clowns are kind of creepy.” He thinks his dad is far from creepy, though. The two often join hands and enthusiastically skip along the sidewalks at tailgates, just to see the crowd’s reaction.
Perhaps Jim’s most daring costume, however, didn’t involve paint.
It was so courageous that I couldn’t help but fully support Jim’s shopping on eBay for an ample-sized, maroon, floor-length, chiffon ball gown for Homecoming 2004. He walked the chilly parade route and attended the game with a rhinestone tiara and “Miz Griz” banner across his chest.
Sitting among the astonished crowd, Jim says, “There are 2,000 people here who think I am the stupidest idiot alive … and another 17,000 who wish they had the guts to do this, too.”
I am thankful that he wasn’t a good-looking woman and will never do that again.
Tim paints Jim’s head at the University Center, beginning with white paint, which always goes on first.
For the first three years, our family sat in the South End Zone, where I laughed along with everyone else when my hero, complete with a knee-length “Super Fan” cape, stirred the crowd by bouncing along the length of rail behind the goalpost. This past year, however, tried my tolerance to a new level—30 feet—when Jim was featured in newspaper and magazine ads for Blackfoot Wireless. I knew billboards were planned, but my car did an unanticipated swerve into the adjoining lane when I saw my costumed husband’s photo hanging over a fast-food restaurant on Highway 93. Now it wasn’t just people at the games who would see my super fan, but all of Missoula. Aarrgghh!
After each game, Jim and I spend nearly an hour removing the paint. Still, I have thrown away many pillowcases because paint hasn’t fully scrubbed off.
What is permanent is the patterned sunburn created when sunlight penetrates the white paint on Jim’s bare head. “I always have some residue left over from the weekends, but by now everybody understands,” Jim says.
For the past eight years he has worked in hospital data analysis and information systems at St. Patrick Hospital. His co-workers know all about his celebrity at Griz games.
And understanding is what game day is all about.
With my 1992 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I am not always able to attend home games. North End Zone fans will tell you how—even when fully costumed—the 6-foot, 2-inch, 240-pound Jim tosses me onto his back and carries me up twenty-eight rows of stairs to our seats.
When I do go to games, I am still amazed as we walk through the crowds. Total strangers—even congressmen and legislators—line up to have their pictures taken with Jim. Many people even call out to their buddy, “Triple G.” As an active user of eGriz—an online Griz fan message board—Jim’s screen name is “Good God Griz.”
Superfan Jim struts his stuff during Homecoming 2004, where he walked the whole parade route in a woman’s formal dress. “The gown fit him like a glove,” says wife, Amy.
“If you think it’s not a phenomenon,” Tim says, “Google ‘Jim Joyner Griz’ and see what happens.” Twenty hits, minimum.
Yes, it’s humbling to be the “Most Tolerant Wife in Griz Nation.” Maybe this year I will attend without the anonymity of my floppy hat and sunglasses.
Amy Radonich Joyner ’91 is an Anaconda native who frequently writes for newspapers across Montana. She is a staff reporter for the Montana Business Quarterly.