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SDGLN Exclusive: The story behind the same-sex kiss that rocks Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl edition

SAN DIEGO — The Internet isn’t big enough for a photo compilation of every time Aaron Ochoco has kissed a guy in a bar. It’s not surprising then that he would be caught on camera planting a smooch on his friend Greg at a gay sports pub in San Francisco during his beloved 49ers NFC Championship game two weeks ago.

What makes this picture special, however, is that it appeared on page 48 of the Super Bowl issue of Sports Illustrated, the same publication that runs a world-famous swimsuit issue, because swimsuits are somehow a sport.

In an article by a San Francisco-based contributor for the magazine on the diversity of the 49ers fan base, the picture speaks a thousand words. It catches a raw, spontaneous moment celebrating a pivotal moment in an intense game. The photo has been viewed, linked and shared on social media sites hundreds of thousands of times.

“If I remember correctly,” Ochoco told SDGLN, “the kiss occurred after Navarro Bowman knocked down Matt Ryan’s fourth-down pass. I grabbed Greg and kissed him.”

For his part, Greg, who preferred not to use his last name, jokingly told SDGLN, “I was not involved” in the kiss. A close look at the picture shows Greg was like a purse in a roller coaster — more or less along for the ride.

The two are not a couple and they are not dating. They are simply friends who met while playing softball.

Ochoco says he is surprised at all the attention the photo is getting.

“It’s exciting. I’m a little shocked that it’s big news,” he said. “I came out in an article in the Handford Sentinel in November of 1994; I was a senior in high school. Since then I’ve been blessed to have the support of my family and friends. That support has allowed me to take for granted that this wouldn’t be news to anyone.”

Ironically, Ochoco is a San Diegan who happened to take a trip up to San Francisco that weekend to soak up the atmosphere of the game. He brought Greg along, a recent convert to the “Niner Faithful.” Ochoco lives in Mira Mesa and works for the State of California. He plays softball for America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL) and can often be seen at many of San Diego’s favorite night spots, like Urban Mo’s and Flicks, the video bar that sponsors his softball team.

Ochoco is a die-hard, 49er fan who bleeds red and gold, and says this season has been great. “I think this season is an extension of last year,” he said. “I’d describe it as ongoing love affair. I’ve never left their side, I never will. I think many of the 49er Faithful have felt a little bit like a neglected wife over the last decade. They’ve improved their look and game. The romance is hot again and I’m still in love.”

Like any true fan, he has his opinions on the course his team is on, including some controversy surrounding the team this year.

Earlier this season, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh sat his starting quarterback Alex Smith, who by all accounts was having another career year, in favor of the younger, faster and more dynamic Colin Kaepernick.

The move wasn’t without its detractors, given how well Smith had been playing. Ochoco backed his coach.

“I went through the Joe Montana/Steve Young controversy,” he said. “Montana is still my hero to this day, but when the time came I supported the change to Young. The 49ers are my religion. I want to win, period.

“That said we all know Smith has his limitations, with Kapernick the sky is the limit. I do respect Alex Smith and how he has handled the situation.”

With Kaepernick at the helm, in just nine starts, the team has continued its torrid march through the NFL, securing the NFC Championship and a spot against the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

More 49er controversy arose earlier this week when cornerback Chris Culliver told a conservative radio host that gays don’t belong in football. “"I don't do the gay guys, man," Culliver said. When asked if there were any gay players on the 49ers, he said "No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.”

The 49ers acted quickly to distance the team from those remark and addressed the matter with Culliver privately.

As a life-long fan, Ochoco was undaunted.

“You know, I’m from the Harvey Milk camp,” he said. “Any news can be turned into good news, just keep them talking about you. I think Culliver’s comments actually lead to a positive. The 49ers responded quickly to condemn his remarks. If you listen to the interview, he sounded quite ignorant; almost like a poster-child for what you DON’T want your kids to be like. I read a comment on a 49er fan website that said, ‘Trade Culliver.’ It felt nice that the organization, various players and fans condemned his comments and stood up for what is right.”

The following day, Culliver apologized, and Ochoco said “It seemed contrived, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Ochoco is predicting a big 49ers win on Sunday, 49-26. But he admits he’ll be nervous. “When it comes to the 49ers I’m always nervous.”

And he will probably kiss somebody if they win. Beware!

Caption for Roman Jimenez photos at the left

Aaron Ochoco sits at the bar at Flicks in Hillcrest with the Super Bowl issue of Sports Illustrated showing him kissing his friend Greg, a fellow 49er fan and San Diegan. The two are immortalized as participants in quite possibly the first gay kiss shown within the pages of the magazine.