A year ago, I was cynical about adult gays playing kickball. “If I ever turn into one of THOSE guys, put me out of my misery,” I thought. My disdain wasn’t exclusively reserved for kickball. I also disliked gay-oriented dodgeball. These are sports that have thrived in West Hollywood for the last few years. I’d often pass a gaggle of gays wearing kickball uniforms and roll my eyes. Never, never have I ever played nor will I ever play gay sports. I’d then kvetch to friends about how bored I was with gay bars. “It’s the same faces every weekend,” I’d moan. “And I’m tired of drinking all the time. The gay community needs some variety. Why can’t we do activities in the sunshine? As long as the endeavor isn’t KICKBALL.”
Then a funny thing happened. One month before the start of summer vacation, my good friend and gay-bar wingman and I got into a deal-breaking argument. Friendship breakups are especially tough when you hang out almost exclusively with the same person every weekend. To make matters worse, none of my other friends go to bars. What was I going to do? I was in a pickle. (Instead of a pickle being inside me.)
In May, I went to a movie with my friend Tim. Tim’s a really sweet, fun guy. I knew that he played kickball and met his boyfriend through the sport. I expressed interest in playing and, a week or two later, his friend Matt contacted me and asked if I wanted to join his primarily Jewish, gay team: the Matzo Balls. “Yes,” I replied. 39 years of sports-cynicism was circling the drain.
I suppose my aversion to sports is intimately connected to my childhood. Growing up in Texas, I was the anti-thesis of a jock. School football and baseball players performed dual functions in my life: they were often the objects of my desire and perpetrators of anti-gay brutalization. That odd mix of desire and abuse did a number on my psyche. Perhaps my kickball-related scorn was a form of internalized homophobia and self-hatred.
I am now several weeks into my first season of kickball and I love it. Here are just a few gifts the activity has provided:
- I have made a great and diverse group of friends. My team has straight members and people of all ages and walks of life. These are great, supportive, generous men and women.
- The experience has humbled me. I have seen many of the league’s players around West Hollywood for years. Playing kickball has made me aware of my bullshit, preconceived notions of people. I’d often look at somebody in a bar and think, “Next.” That’s such a screwed up, insecure way to live life. As I close in on 40, it’s easier for me to see how airs of superiority are a clown’s way of projecting feelings of inferiority.
- Kickball keeps me on my toes. I’ve only ever participated in competitive activities where I excelled. I’d walk into a poetry slam or speech and debate competition knowing I’d do well. I am fabulously AVERAGE at kickball, and I LOVE it. I step into the unknown each time I walk onto the field. Even if we rout the other team, I feel like it was a close, challenging game. The uncertainty is exciting. Sometimes I get so nervous, I can’t watch an inning. I feel alive.
- Saturday games mean I don’t drink on Friday night, so I only consume alcohol once a week. It’s crazy to think that I drank 5-6 nights a week when I was in my 20s.
- I’m playing first base. Who would EVER think I’d play first base of ANYTHING? But I am! And I’m not bad at it. Here’s to the little kid inside of me who never thought he’d make it to first base—literally or figuratively.
- The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep my cynicism in check. Joining this team is the best decision I’ve made in a long time. And, to think, my own self-policing and unfound contempt could have prevented me from experiencing so much joy. This is a lesson I need to carry with me in other aspects of life, like dating. I’d benefit so much from getting out of my own way.
If you live in West Hollywood and want to expand your social circle, give kickball a shot. Visit Varsity Gay League.