“Squeeze the ball!”
“Down it hard!”
I was waiting to hear gay softball players shout lines like those. At first, when I sat down to watch the competing teams of the sixth annual Sin City Shootout — a national LGBT sporting event that takes place across the valley for an entire weekend — I was struck by how seriously they took their softball. For a while, I didn’t hear any double entendres, any diva talk, anything that would reduce these sluggers to stereotypes.
And then I heard those commands. And saw one player pretend to butt-fuck another against the dugout fence. Boys will be boys.
Roughly 6,000 gay athletes (including some women) traveled from all over North America last weekend to play in the Shootout, which started as a softball tournament and then expanded to include other sports, such as soccer, tennis, basketball, dodgeball and even ice hockey and golf. And the dudes appeared to be just like their sports-lovin’, beer-swillin’ hetero peers. When I arrived at Desert Breeze Park softball fields on Jan. 19, unsure of how many fields would be occupied by SCS, I looked for gay context clues. All the teams had legit uniforms, worn by normal joes. Once I saw someone with a sleeveless jersey representing the Boston Cream I knew I was among family.
Contest seeding was wrapping up; soon, the weekend tournament bracket would be established. I sat down just as one game began, between the Seattle Browns and the San Francisco Inferno Devils. The former sends up this one big, burly, John Kruk-looking dude who subsequently slams one against the center field wall for a triple. This begins a huge spree of hits for the Browns, an inning that threatened to take up half of the allotted 50-minute game time. The Devils’ defense was so awful, I began to wonder if I could do worse. And then I imagined myself signing up for a local gay softball league. Would they allow a scrawny guy like me, who hasn’t picked up a baseball bat since the 10th grade, on a team of John Kruks?
I then watched some boys play frisbee, wondering when that became a team sport. It looks more exhausting than soccer. And, speaking of which, there was a game of footie going on adjacent to the frisbee contest. I wandered over and sat on the sideline, beside a team preparing to play the next game. One member was brushing his teeth. One whined about a sunburn and it being January. Another asked for a nail clipper. Boys will be boys.
The softball players at Sunset Park the next day are decidedly less vain. The tournament is winding down, and after catching a few innings of one game, I walk over to the other, where the Twin Cities Frostbite play the Houston Revolution. The Frostbite are up and smacking one ball after another into the field, with the infielders fumbling embarrassingly and the outfielders blinded by the pre-dusk sun. This game has the biggest nonplayer turnout for any of the games I’ve taken in all weekend. There’s zero trash-talking by anyone, which I find remarkable, given the cattiness I hear at a gay bar on any given night.
I decide I’ll pick a team to (quietly) cheer on. But who do I root for? I pick the Revolution. They’ve got a terrible case of the butterfingers, but they’re good at the plate (as they prove later, winning the game). They look like a fun bunch of guys, certainly less uptight than the Frostbite dudes. And, what can I say, they’re the hottest team I’ve seen yet.
Boys will be boys.