Lost Souls wants to make the brutal sport of rugby a social outlet for gays

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SCRUM MEN | Lost Souls (clockwise from upper left, Matt Delbridge, Donnie Stantin, Todd Maria, Mark Amayo, Bill McElheny and Richard Blackney) scrum at a recent practice. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

sports logoARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Ever since gay rugby player Mark Bingham became one of the heroes of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, the sport of rugby has exploded in the U.S. — especially among gay athletes.

For a number of years, Dallas had one gay rugby team, the Diablos; in the last year, however, two more have popped up: The Lady Quins (a women’s offshoot of the mainstream Dallas Harlequins with a predominantly lesbian roster) and the Lost Souls. And Caleb Hand thinks he knows why.

“I think a lot of people are realizing there’s a bonding aspect of it that’s not always present in other sports,” says Hand, the general manager and one of the four founding members of the Lost Souls along with his partner, Todd Maria, AJ Tello and Patric Alva. “That’s why I stuck with it — it’s a brutal sport on your body, but there’s a brotherhood. Once you are aware of that, it becomes kind of addicting.”

Addicting, yes, but not necessarily all-encompassing. One of the reasons the Lost Souls came about was to give themselves a breather from the rigors of the game.

“We had a bunch of players who wanted to be active in the sport of rugby but couldn’t commit to the almost full-time schedule the Texas Rugby Union [demands],” Hand says. “We wanted to form a team that would be competitive but allow for friendlies and attend tournaments,” similar to college intramural sports. That means a member-driven team with no club dues, operating solely on fundraising and sponsorships.
Since their founding last June, they’ve succeeded in developing a roster and are still working toward establishing a play schedule.

“We started with HellFest, which is a tourney the Diablos hold in October. We placed third out of six or seven teams, which was great. We played one friendly match against Arlington,” then attended an International Gay Rodeo Association and Board tournament last weekend out of state. (Dallas is now the only city in the U.S. with two IGRAB teams.)

“It’s my first Easter in a while where I won’t have a bonnet,” Hand says.


GETTING ROUGH | Coach Todd Maria, left, and manager Caleb Hand are not only two of the Lost Souls’ founders, they are also a couple.

The sacrifice paid off. Last weekend, they made it to finals, eventually falling in the championship round to the Chicago Dragons, the defending champs. Still, that means the newcomers came in second out of eight teams.

They’ll probably pick up again in the fall with HellFest, plus some “touch” games over the summer.

“The climate in Dallas is about what it was in Phoenix, where I came from, and it’s just too hot to spend hours out in the sun,” Hand says. (Hand himself is retired from play — “they call me Jerry Jones,” he jokes — while his partner, another founding member, is a coach.)

The Lost Souls already have a roster of 16 members — a mix of many previous rugby players, as well as newcomers to the sport.

“It was something we were hoping for, but we were not positive we could recruit new players,” he says. They’ve also netted some sponsorships (including their home bar, the

Round-Up Saloon), and have been active in the community.

“Our members volunteer for BearDance and Honey Pot. And we work with the Resource Center. We want to be part of the gay community, not just a team,” Hand says.

And he hopes people will come out and share the love of rugby — if not as a player, as a fan.

“It’s also a lot of fun to watch,” he says. “It’s exciting and fast-paced, like basketball. There’s constant action.”

And gay guys love to go where the action is — especially if it involves full body contact.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 5, 2013.