I think I was chosen last because I was a fat kid with glasses. My birthday is July 23, one week before the cutoff for registering kindergartners for school. So, I was often a year younger than some of my classmates, who had a eleven or twelve more months of puberty, size, and weight than I did. But I was also picked next-to-last because I was effeminate. Even then, it was pretty obvious I was a fag. I figure skated. I sang showtunes and played the piano. And I was too smart for my own good, preferring math to gym class.
But there was also something else. I never roughhoused with the other boys. I spent as little time around them as possible. Because they scared me. They *excited* me. I knew that when Dan Mendez wrestled me playfully and threw me to the ground that it meant something completely different for him than it did for me. I wasn't exactly sure what that feeling was... but I knew that it was bad and weird. So, I missed out on interacting with other boys my age and never learned to run or throw a ball or kick or tackle.
When I turned 35 (five years ago), I got Lasik surgery on my eyes. All or a sudden, I didn't have an excuse not to play sports. Until that year, I wouldn't jog or swim because "I forgot my contacts at home". Suddenly, I could see any time, any where. And entering middle age, I knew that with my bad genes, my options were to exercise or die. So, I joined the local gay hockey team, rode a bull in the Colorado rodeo, and joined a straight rugby team. It was a rush when someone called me a "jock" - the exact opposite from the way that I felt as a teenager. I dropped 35 pounds and got to be pretty good at ice hockey, even if I am still mediocre at rugby.
I'm going to play in the Bingham Cup rugby tournament next weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota... my old hometown. I haven't been back there in over a decade. Most of my friends have moved away. And I wasn't gay when I lived there, so I don't know anybody in the bear or leather communities. Still, it will be good to go back. It's a fantastic city.
I haven't played in a rugby game since I broke my hand last year. In 2008, I played for the San Francisco Fog. I was living in San Jose, and practices were over 45 miles away on Treasure Island... an hour and a half in bad rush hour traffic. But I still did the 2-3 hour trip three times a week for November and December, playing in three pre-season matches and not doing too badly.
Then, during the first five minutes of the the first game of the season against Berkeley, I caught the ball for a 5 yard "carry". I got tackled, and went down hard. Then someone stepped on my hand, breaking the third metatarsal. So, that was the end of my season with the Fog. I went to a few practices and stood around, and cheered them on at their games, but it sucked I couldn't play.
Imagine my surprise when I went to the end-of-season banquet. Rugby dinners are surprising formal affairs, and they always require a jacket and tie. Though some slobs (i.e. props) often wear jeans and tennis shoes to make a point against formality. Plus, there's an official Fog tie to wear. I made sure I had $30 with me before the banquet and went up to the captain of the team to buy a tie. This led to a discussion. He and a few other members had to step in the next room to discuss whether I was worthy to wear a Fog tie, since I didn't play during the regular season. One player said, "We can't let just ANYBODY wear a Fog tie!"
I didn't make any friends on the San Francisco Fog team. Nobody knew my name. I would go up and be social, but found that few people would ever come up to me to talk. And come to think of it... I didn't make any friends on rugby team when I played in Denver. I knew some of the guys on the Colorado hockey team, but found that when I stopped practicing with them, nobody would call me on the phone or want to get together. I can't blame them - playing hockey was pretty much the only thing that kept us in touch. When that went away, so did the friendships.
And now in Washington DC, the pattern is repeating. Just an hour ago, I sat alone at the bar after practice with the rest of the team. I tried to make some conversation with a few of the other players, but I didn't find many takers. But here's the rub - I found out that some people were gossiping about me before practice. I guess some people saw me at the leather street fair and thought I looked stupid. So, they were talking ABOUT me... just not TO me.
It sucks to find a gay sports team, full of people just like me. And I'm still picked last.
The San Francisco Fog had a mild scandal this week when the president of the team resigned over the Bingham Cup selections of who gets to play on the varsity "A" side, and who is put on the beginner "B" side. It turns out 50 Fog players signed up to go to Minneapolis, and the team took their money. Then, the team went out and found 4 MORE guys... really good players who played for other team. But they weren't Fog members, never paid dues, and only played in one regular season game. In short: "ringers".
The Fog really wants to win this year. The Bingham Cup was started in memory of Mark Bingham... a San Francisco rugby player who died in the Flight 93 crash during the September 11 attacks. San Francisco founded the tournament, and won the first two times, but lost in 2006 and 2008 to the Sydney Convicts. They really want the cup back this year - evidently strong enough to kick four paying gay team members off the roster in order to make room for straight guys from out of town. Ah, but that's sports, innit?