Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sports, Gay Men, and a Real Padres Fever

If you enjoy reading this column every other week because it provides a positive message of inclusion and empowerment, you’re out of luck this time. At the moment, I don’t care about gay marriage, DOMA, right wing lunatics, the womyn’s movement, or the upcoming election. Right now, the only thing on my mind is the Padres. (One or two Padres in particular, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Having been fortunate enough to be in Atlanta last year when the Braves finally won the World Series, I am no stranger to pennant and playoff fever. Now, here in San Diego less than two months, I’m already obsessed with these plucky little friars. Heck, even as I write this, I’m still hoarse from cheering all weekend. My blood pressure went up last Thursday, and is just now returning to normal. Fat lot of good that will do me, though, since the team is back in action again this week. And, if I survive that, this weekend finds them playing the Dodgers again, or as a fellow fan likes to call it, battling the blue vermin.

This obsession of mine started innocently enough. I would watch a game or two each week, but I knew I could quit any time I wanted. Then I started paying more attention to the players, and that was when “a game or two” became “every game.” Is it just me, or is the San Diego team the sexiest bunch of guys in tights since Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell were dipped in liquid batsuits?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really do love baseball for the game. This may be a slap in the face of the gay stereotype, but I have loved sports since I was a kid. I played Pop Warner football for a while, but switched to baseball when I realized the other kids were getting bigger and bigger and getting hit was hurting more and more. I wasn’t one of the greatest players to hit the ball field, but I did manage to make the all-star team a time or two. The point is, I love the game. So, the fact that the Padres just happen to have several players on the team who are very, very sexy is just one of those lucky benefits for me. But, oh, what a benefit it is.

If there is one drawback for me, though, it’s trying to find a group of people to watch the games with. We have tried sitting at home with beer and cable tv, but without the cheering crowds the game sort of loses something. I have tried having friends over, but they kept trying to tear my attention away from the game by engaging me in conversation. Please. And then they wondered why I made them go home?

Going to a straight sports bar is okay, but most people there get a weird expression when I call Ken Caminiti the “cute one with the big bat.” And, apparently I’m the only man who ever wondered out loud why the announcers don’t describe Steve Finley as having “pale, beautiful eyes like pools you could drown in.”

What about going to a gay bar to watch the game? Yeah, right. My experience has been that the game - if it’s on - is only showing on a little TV hidden behind a beer lamp, and the volume is turned down so the latest remix of “I Will Survive” can be heard in all its glory. And as if the music wasn’t bad enough, when Jody Reed steps up to the plate, who wants to hear the neighboring table of Gay Gap Groupies drown each other out with mythical tales of last night’s sexual exploits?

But, as we come to the most important time in the baseball season, I believe I have found the answer. I have found a straight sports bar in a gay neighborhood that seems (so far) to welcome everyone. They have TV’s (televisions, I mean) all over the bar, and if a game is on anywhere that cable TV can find, it’s showing on one of them. The beer is cheap, the draft is cold, and the staff is friendly. The crowd is pretty mixed, with one exception - they are all there to watch sports.

So, if it’s game night, you can find me parked in front of the big screen TV at the San Diego Sports Club on University. If you find yourself suffering from a little Padres fever this weekend, feel free to pull up a chair at my table and cheer alongside me. But, whatever you do, don’t try to talk to me unless a commercial is on.

Originally published in San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, 9.26.96