A home run

Posted on 26 Sep 2014 at 6:30am

Dallas’ third time hosting GSWS is perfect timing for a new era in sports

home-run-1

ON DECK | Players from Dallas teams and visiting teams turn out for play in the early rounds of the Gay Softball World Series, above and right; the opening ceremonies at Annette Strauss Square showed off Dallas well, including an appearance by ally Dale Hansen, opposite.

It’s been 10 years since the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association chose Dallas to host its Gay Softball World Series, and this year’s series seems to have exceeded expectations already.

The last time was marred by near-constant rain interrupted only by extreme heat. So far this year, the weather has played ball with the more than 3,500 players who have descended on North Texas for a week of play on and off the field.

At Monday’s opening ceremonies at Annette Strauss Artist Square, local officials including councilmembers Scott Griggs and Adam Medrano and Sheriff Lupe Valdez welcomed teams from as nearby as Austin and as far as Vancouver. Valdez mingled and posed for pictures with players who, initially, gathered at a respectful distance … until they were told, “In Dallas, we hug our sheriff.”

Dale Hansen, the local sports broadcasting legend who helped usher in a spirit of gay inclusiveness in sports with his strident defense of Michael Sam in February, spoke to a rapt crowd —the only time during the ceremonies that were met with complete quiet followed by a large ovation.

“We’re not a bunch of redneck sons of bitches,” Hansen informed the out-of-towners. “We only elect them to state office.” He also said that, of the 5,000 emails he got after his video commentary went viral, 98 percent supported gay rights … including those from NFL players.

Games began at three facilities across North Texas on Tuesday, with action on 16 fields of play. With 170 teams competing (according to NAGAAA’s president) and a minimum of six games apiece guaranteed until the elimination rounds, literally thousands of innings of softball with be played until the final strike-out.

But not all the action has taken place on the diamond. Evening events included a trip to Arlington to watch the Rangers play and the GSWS Pageant at JR.’s Tuesday, hosted by Cassie Nova.

On Wednesday, the GSWS’s version of America’s Got Talent — which featured showstopping performances by Drag Racers Laganja Estranja and Mesquite’s own Alyssa Edwards — captivated the sold-out crowd at the Rose Room, showing that not all the skills ballplayers possess are limited to athletic ability. (B Division shortstop and drag performer Latrice Sims ended up winning both the pageant and the talent show.)

Sept. 26 and 27 mark the final games of play (eligible teams will be reduced to about 60), but even members of eliminated teams will probably stick around for the post-game celebrations (a Championship Eve Bash at Woody’s on Friday; the Championship Street Party along Cedar Springs that will close down auto traffic on Saturday).

home-run-2It seems we have really entered a golden age for gay athletics, whether professional or amateur. 2014 has been a watershed for pro athletes coming into their own in football and basketball in particular. Nowadays, the idea of being “gay” and a “jock” doesn’t seem so unusual. (Read our essay about gay athletes — outhletes — at InstantTea on DallasVoice.com.)

But that doesn’t mean gay sportsmen are just like their straight counterparts. We were tickled by the team names and mottos on the jerseys of visiting teams, with messages like “Kiss our cleats,” “Balls deep,” “Stroke my ego” and “Size matters.” We defy heterosport to be as cleverly suggestive.

But at the opening ceremonies, the players were still drinking beer, bro-hugging and high-fiving. The time for stereotypes has ended.

Now it’s time for them to play ball with us.

— Reporting and photography by Arnold Wayne Jones, David Taffet and Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 26, 2014.

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