[Click above to embiggen: the miraculous thing that got me to admit that there is something kind of awesome about sportsball after all. And — Great Merciful Zeus! — this is actually a bad picture of Kris Bryant! Move over and get out of town, Zac Ephron. You are nothing to me now!]
For those of you who don’t know, Chicago is right at this very moment flush with excitement over the Cubs doing well in their sportsball-playing this year. There are “W” signs all over town, which when I first moved here I thought were left out by people who were either celebrating and/or protesting George W. Bush.
But it has nothing to do with our former president. It’s actually a Cubs thing…with the “W” standing for “Win.” I think. People here go nuts whenever the Cubs win at sportsball real good. The “W” is how they let you know they approve of this sportsball winning on a large public scale. And if you don’t like that, you can just suck it, Chicago-style.
Generally speaking, I know as much about sportsball as the average straight man knows about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Maybe less. Growing up in the ruins of inner city Cleveland, I never played much sportsball as a kid because there weren’t a lot of other kids around to play with. If I had grown up on the halcyon fields of suburbia, maybe I would have turned out differently. I would have still ended up gay because I believe that was baked-into my DNA…but I could have turned out as a gay who was wild about sportsball. I’ve only recently discovered that such jock-strapped unicorns do indeed exist (and are actually quite plentiful in Chicago). Who knew?
For some perspective, the blight and urban decay that accompanies one-party Democrat rule over major US cities had completely engulfed Cleveland in the 1970s…and what I call “The Nothing” inched closer to our street every year throughout my childhood and teen years in the 1980s and 1990s, with families moving away and homes and businesses being abandoned. Those of us that didn’t flee the city for the suburbs got to watch it rot from the inside out, which is something that happened to every city that elects only Democrats to most public offices in town. Detroit. Pittsburgh. Gary, Indiana. Your own town (if you keep voting for Democrats).
My parents loved sportsball — especially the Indians — and every now and again they would have the optimistic idea (or sad delusion) that dragging me to a sportsball game would either be a good idea or be “good for me,” or both. This, in retrospect, would be like your taking your gay bestie from work to Hooters for his birthday and hoping he’d see something he liked (other than the boneless Thai chili or peach habernero wings on the menu). Bless your heart. Your poor, sad, delusional, but well-intentioned heart.
I have two sportsball memories from those sporadic Indians games at the falling-down, rusted, rat-infested, Old Municipal Stadium that once stood on the lakefront.
One time my Aunt Vesta dragged me down to where the dugout was to line up with a bunch of other 1980s kids and harangue the players (none of whom I knew) for autographs. I wanted no part in any of this, but there was never any reasoning with Aunt Vesta. This was a woman who had an obsessive, decades-long infatuation with Liberace (who would actually write her back when she sent him fan mail…on a weekly basis!) that involved her refusing to admit (or even believe) that he was gay (and not her potential second husband, all lined-up and ready to go in Las Vegas if anything ever happened to my Uncle Vic). I was really embarrassed when some of the players did come over to the fence because I had no clue who any of them were, but they expected all the kids to know who they were and answer whatever questions they asked us about who they were and how much we all loved them.
I felt like I was at the strangest zoo on the planet, where these large sweaty animals I had never seen before had wandered towards me from their grazing field and I was being quizzed by zoologists about creatures I had never even heard of and didn’t know really existed. It didn’t even help when they scribbled things on the pieces of paper that Aunt Vesta had pushed me to wave in front of them, since it was all illegible chicken scratch. That could have been Babe Ruth or Other-Famous-Baseball-Player or Someone-Like-Babe-Ruth (because Babe Ruth is the only sportsball player I know) out there, generously scribbling the meaning of life to me on the field of dreams and I wouldn’t have known. Boy, Aunt Vesta was sure mad at me for not appreciating whatever machinations she went through to get me into that autograph zone (which she scolded over and over for years that not every kid ever got to go near)…but I just have never cared about any of this stuff and efforts to make me care have always ended in disappointment and heartbreak for family members.
My parents failed again when they bought tickets (which were a lot of money…I would later hear over and over again) to some big special thing called a double-header that also involved a concert by someone famous (or at least famous in Cleveland) at the time. When I first heard them say “double-header,” of course I thought of some kind of dragon or something from my Saturday morning cartoons, flying down from the sky and landing in the middle of the stadium, belching fire and brimstone from first one head and then the other. Which would have been cool. Instead, we all had to get to the stadium super early and then be there all day watching sportsball in the blazing sun. And then some country music band that played songs I never heard before took the stage for what seemed like hours. After that instead of going home we had to watch another sportsball game…and this one went into so many extra innings that it was after midnight before we left. I felt like we had gotten there at sunup and we didn’t leave until the whole summer was over. I think it was the first time I had ever even stayed up past eleven o’clock on a night that was not New Year’s Eve. But, I wasn’t excited in the least, since I was trapped in the living, endless Hell of neverending sportsball (with a soundtrack of country music being played by tiny little dots in the middle of the green field that looked like a flea circus because we were so far away).
I didn’t know what I had done to deserve such punishment but I promised to be good and begged my parents to never do that to me again. They, of course, thought it was the best day ever and loved every minute of the excitement of the extra innings going on and on and on. They couldn’t believe they were lucky enough to get to be inside that stadium for 15 or 16 hours or however long we were there. I had a summer buzz cut when we arrived but looked like Jim Morrison by the time we finally made it back home and I never shared my parents’ appreciation for the surprise surfeit of extra innings sportsball. What’s wrong with you? was said to me so often on the long Trail of Tears back to our car that night (or early morning) that eavesdroppers would have thought that was my given name.
This past weekend, my friend Althea challenged me to rethink my position on the Cubs (if not all sportsball), because she insisted I was really missing out. Technically, she told me I was nuts to not be all about the Cubbies. Like the Indians, the Cubs are supposedly cursed (and I do find supernatural mysteries interesting). Wrigley Field is gorgeous (and just a few blocks away from my apartment…so I can literally hear the games and the cheering of the fans even if I’ve never watched the Cubs play). The team colors are patriotic, which I love. They have an adorable mascot (a bear…and sometimes also a goat…so it might be either a were-goat or a were-bear, depending on what it is when it’s not a full moon). Like everything about Cleveland, the Cubs haven’t caught a break in a long time and they have been the butt of more jokes than anyone could ever count…yet, they keep on truckin’ and never pay the haters any mind. And they were part of Back to the Future II‘s vision of a strange and magical future (where they were the actual World Series champs). All of these are solid reasons why I should have at least a passing interest in the antics of the Cubs professional sportsballers.
Althea thinks they are going to go all the way this year (but, Althea thought they were going to go all the way last year…and prove Back to the Future II correct). Saturday was a big game (even though every time I hear anyone talk about sportsball, it’s always a pivotal, big game…until the next pivotal, big game tomorrow). She insisted I go out and try to have some fun and promised that Cubs fans are the best of the best.
“Plus, you should be a Cubs fan just because you went up against that White Sox princess and beat her sorry ass all over town. So your getting into the Cubs is another way to get back at that bee-yotch karmically,” Althea insisted.
She’s talking about Bridget Bittman, the granddaughter of Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, who was the owner of the White Sox in the 1950s and the last Comiskey to own the team (which once played at Comiskey Park on the Southside, a rival to the Cubs playing in Wrigley Field on the Northside). Bittman was the spokesman for the Orland Park Public Library during the investigation that Megan Fox and I conducted a few years ago into sex crimes happening in that building through the years that were all covered up by staff. After public officials in Orland Park used the corrupt police and other methods to try to threaten and scare Megan and me away and silence us, trustees at the library encouraged Bittman to file a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) lawsuit against us to obliterate us. SLAPPs are tools that public officials use to try to silence free speech. If you report on wrongdoing by a public body, the public body finds someone to sue you for defamation…and it’s basically a form of extortion, since they promise to drop the lawsuit if — and only if — you agree to never write about the public body again and you stop looking into their wrongdoing. Public officials that file SLAPPs have deep pockets and they count on targets of the SLAPPs not being able to afford to defend themselves in court. So SLAPPers win a lot of the time, when members of the public or reporters who are hit with SLAPPs give in to the public body’s demands because they just can’t afford to stand up to these bullies and fight the bogus litigation.
Megan and I wrote a book all about beating Bittman and others in Orland Park and making them look like fools. It’s called SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment. It was the most banned book in the Chicagoland area in 2016, with members of the American Library Association actively working to suppress and censor the book and the Orland Park Public Library to this day refusing to allow it on their shelves. We detailed what it was like to go up against the scion of one of Chicago’s most famous families and make her look like a complete idiot (who apparently ruined herself financially by hitting us with her SLAPP).
As much fun as it is joining in with the Cubs-versus-Sox rivalry to spite one of the worst human beings I’ve ever met (who used to call me a fruit whenever Megan and I would be at the library for board meetings and who had to publicly admit that she told lies about Megan to reporters in what was part of the Alinsky effort to discredit us and scare us away), I still wasn’t sold on Althea’s idea to give up a Saturday night doing what I normally do (teaching English to people in South Korea or Japan over Skype) and instead go out and experience all things sportsball.
But then Althea brought out the big guns.
“Go on and Google someone named Kris Bryant. And then tell me you don’t want to ever care about the Cubs. Go on, I dare you.”
I headed over to my computer where I accessed the Googles via the Internets and I was awestruck by pure, unadulterated handsomeness. Apparently, the guy who does the modeling on all of the various billboards all around town is not only a stunning male supermodel but he’s also a movie-star-looking multimillionaire sportsball player. There’s a great chance that he could also be Batman. Why on earth did nobody ever tell me about him before?
[Click above to embiggen: Just about the only thing imaginable that would get a gay man even thinking about shopping at Express. Sweet Whitney Houston!, that boy is fine.]
“I was saving him for when you really needed a fun surprise, and now that you’re single again and need to get out and have fun once more, here you go. Have at it. Join us all in the Kris Bryant fan club, already in progress.”
If there really is such a thing as an official Kris Bryant Fan Club, no doubt it is legion. And it (not surprisingly) includes tons of gay dudes…who are into sportsball, for reals..and who also happen to be pretty damn awesome themselves.
I lost interest in the whole Boystown scene years ago, starting even before I met Justin. When I first moved to Chicago, Boystown was really at its zenith and it was the absolute place to be most nights of the week. Only Tuesdays and Wednesdays would be dead. The rest of the nights would be jumping, jumping.
Back then, Boystown was better than Bourbon Street in the French Quarter or any other party epicenter I had ever been to, because — unlike Bourbon Street — Boystown was just club after club all along Halsted for many blocks, with each of them having a different vibe (but all of them being gay). It was Pleasure Island in Pinocchio where all the lost boys and misfit toys settled in and met up and had the time of their lives. I had some really great times in Boystown back in its heyday (ranging from PG-13 to things that only Prince would sing about), but it started going downhill and dying out when apps like Grindr and sites like Craigslist made it possible for people to meet up for hookups without having to spend a cent in a bar (taking their chances that they wouldn’t even meet anyone on a given night, despite dropping $60 or $100 on way-overpriced booze).
Somewhere around 2009, a tipping point happened where the police stopped even trying to control crime in Boystown. I think this was a casualty of political correctness, since all the predators hunting in Boystown are black and all the prey are gay men…and it’s politically incorrect to ever talk about black people coming up from the Southside to rob and pillage in other neighborhoods up north. No one is supposed to notice this is happening or acknowledge how worse it gets year after year as all of Boystown collapses into the sinkhole of black-on-gay tribal violence. Add into the mix the fact that police are terrified of Black Lives Matter and that the City’s sitting on a powder keg since the murder of black Laquan McDonald by a cop (with Rahm Emanuel doing all sorts of nasty tricks to try to keep video of the murder from ever being released) and Boystown’s basically a location shoot for The Walking Dead at this point. It is scary as Hell to be out after midnight on Halsted, with hordes of black thugs openly targeting people for robbery and harassment as they walk what used to feel like a safe space up until just a few years ago.
In the early evenings, it’s still fun sometimes…but it’s nowhere near as packed as it used to be. Word’s gotten out that it’s just not safe anymore. And everyone’s smart enough to get home before midnight, when the Menacing Hour and Robbery Hour or Anarchy Hour begins (with not a cop in sight to ever stop it).
With Justin gone back to Arkansas for good now, it is time for me to get back out there in the dating world but I don’t plan on ever making Boystown a haunt for me again. I will, however, make it a point to have drinks in one of the gay sports bars every once in a while…because I actually had a great time during the Cubs sportsball game that Althea made me go watch with gay Cubs fans.
The guys who care about the Cubs winning are a totally different kind of gay guy from the ones who couldn’t care less about sportsball and avoided any place that had the game on the tee-vee last Saturday. The sportsball-loving gays were actually super cool, down to earth, and not the superficial drama queens who plague pretty much everywhere else in the gayborhood. I felt like Indiana Jones (as played by Matt Bomer) discovering a lost tribe somewhere, which had created its own civilization while being completely isolated from other similar beings of their kind. And this alternate, sportsball-rooted gay plane of existence was really, really good. I had a blast. (And I met someone great…and we have a date this week…but I don’t want to jinx it.)
“Toldja so,” Althea triumphed. And she deserves that rare crowing because she was right. I really had been approaching sportsball in the wrong way all these years. I found it boring because I always tried to force myself to make the game interesting, even though guys using their hitting sticks to whack the ball towards a fence and then chase each other around with it if someone catches it with their leather oven mitt is never going to be interesting to anyone, except maybe cats or dogs who want in on that fun of chasing things too.
What makes sportsball — especially sportsball involving Kris Bryant — worthwhile is the handsomeness. Great Merciful Zeus, oh there was so much handsomeness. Althea didn’t even tell me about Ben Zobrist. Or David “The Gray Wolf” Ross. Or Jake Arrieta. Or Jorge Soler and even Anthony Rizzo (who is always photographed holding exotic and rare animals for some reason, so maybe he’s a zoologist in the off-season or something). There is literally a roster of handsomeness and someone picks out what order they get to come out and be in the spotlight at bat…to get ogled for their handsomeness. One after another. Like at a fashion show with the world’s best male supermodels. Only, they seem like normal and nice guys instead of pampered, catty, divas.
When you watch a sportsball game in a gay bar, the sound is turned off and Madonna, Britney, Whitney, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift music is playing instead. That right there is a huge improvement that makes sportsball so much more interesting to me. I realize that I really hate the sound of those play-by-play announcers and I could do without the organ music at the games. Blaring club music instead makes it all so much better and never distracts from all the handsomeness. It enhances and shines a spotlight on the handsomeness, in fact.
The Cubs’ uniforms are really cute with their pin-stripes and everything, though they are a little too baggy. Someone needs to wash them all in hot water and shrink them. Just like with men’s gymnastics, I don’t know why they even need shirts at all when running around topless would be so much more fun for everyone. Why not put on a better show when swinging their hitting sticks so the crowd can marvel at the development of those arms and back muscles?
The little guy squatting down with his face all covered like Hannibal Lector was funny, too, because he would sit down there behind the guy with the hitting stick (who I don’t think knows he is there) and he’d make vulgar shadow puppets with his hand near his crotch to amuse or possibly taunt the guy throwing the baseballs. I never knew any of this was going on and I find the dynamics fascinating. It’s all so eccentric, to be squatting there like that, doing weird sign language between his legs while someone else throws things. Where else on earth would that even happen, let alone be allowed or even encouraged?
On Saturday, the Cubs were playing the Dodgers, who had someone throwing their baseballs that I thought was Ken Jeong from the tee-vee. He used to be a medical doctor and then became an actor and now I guess plays sportsball. I always thought the Dodgers were from Brooklyn but apparently they all live in Los Angeles now, which was news to me. This must have just recently happened. I swear there was a thing called the Brooklyn Dodgers, so maybe there are two teams named Dodgers, like we have two Dakotas and two Carolinas and two Virginias. Or like how Hillary Clinton admits she has two positions on everything (one public, one private).
I also found out on Saturday that Toronto has a sportsball team too. I thought that Canadians only played things that needed ice skates or caribou, but here they were with their hitting sticks and oven mitts going up against my hometown Indians. I think it’s funny that instead of Chief Wahoo the emblem for the Indians is now just a generic “C” for Cleveland. If they are going to be PC like that, why not just revert back to the team being the Cleveland Spiders? If a team can’t have a great mascot like the Cubs (a bear/goat) or even the Bluejays (a bluejay, duh) then why bother? I think the Dodgers have a mascot of a bleeding eyeball staring down from Heaven. Or it might be the sun, shooting cosmic radiation at the word “Dodgers”…so I guess the point is that the Dodgers are the ones who dodge whatever that is being shot down at them (and they are skilled at this). Since LA is as much of a war zone as Chicago, those could be bullets as well raining down.
Just like with the election, everyone had a bunch of stats and surveys about who was going to win the big sportsball championship on Saturday. All the gay sportsball lovers knew everything about all of this. I felt like how when I’m somewhere that people don’t obsessively follow politics and I start talking about the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act or whatever, they have no idea what I am talking about and I lose them the first time I say “FOIA.”
I actually thought it was really cool listening to these guys talk about sportsball and how much they love it…and to hear them cheering when different things happened on the screen. It’s really rare for me to shout and cheer and exclaim over anything because I’m a very reserved person by nature. I’m the one who is taking the notes and remembering the details and burning the memories into my head so I can write about it later. I’m never out there in life hooting and hollering and living it up and I realize that’s kind of a shame for me. I smile a lot and I really was happy for all of the Cubs fans when they beat the Dodgers (wherever the hell they are from), even though I didn’t realize what was happening.
Everyone in the bar was going on about what a great game it was and how it would be talked about forever or recounted in epic poetry but that nuance was lost on me. I had a really great time and enjoyed discovering this glorious new fount of on-demand handsomeness (where you literally are encouraged to stare at a whole flock of sharply-dressed gorgeous men in the prime of their lives who regularly draw public attention to their groins, with the flimsy cover of it being a sporting event as an excuse for your completely socially acceptable staring). It was totally another welcome thing that took me another step forward in getting over the breakup with Justin. And I met so many great people who were fun to talk to and who all love something that gets them excited and cheering…which is a great thing in life.
Most of my friends the last few years are all people I work with on different projects or ghostwriting clients or friends I won from exes during or after our breakups. I have friends from the Hillary-2008 campaign and friends from other political work and people I know through freelancing gigs or this website or who I’ve known since college…but I think it would be fun to know a bunch of people through the Cubs (or some other sportsball connection, though I am heavily leaning towards getting into the Cubs and just seeing where that takes me…for as long as Kris Bryant is on the team at least).
Apparently, Blackhawks players might even be more handsome than Cubs players, so I might have to check those games out as well. Cross-check them even. After baseball apparently there comes hockey and that is a double-header I can actually get behind.
That means I have to publicly apologize to all the sportsball fans who I discounted in the past.
I’m really wrong to just outwardly dismiss sportsball because I caught a glimpse into why people love it. It was never my thing, but I did find real emotional and social value in what I experienced on Saturday. It had never occurred to me to look at it as something else than just the rules of the game itself…but to look at it as this social event and unapologetic display of athletic male handsomeness to be enjoyed by one and all. Gay, straight, closeted…even LESBIANS love how the Cubs do their sportsball with all their handsomeness.
It really was better than a runway show (even a really well-staged international-themed countries-of-the-world speedo runway show) because instead of just walking out and turning around and walking away, all the handsomeness did other things (the crotch-centered shadow puppets thing, the hitting stuff thing, the running around thing, the adjusting themselves either strategically or provocatively thing). I really loved how absurd and sexy it all was, especially with dance music playing and everyone totally ignoring the go-go boys, who themselves were even entranced by what was on the screen.
The game was so riveting that twenty-something go-go boys were total pariahs because all eyeballs were glued to the tee-vee screens. That was totally unexpected.
Who would have ever thought that my first truly fun night out in Boystown in over six years would all be owed to sportsball?
Besides Althea, obviously. Who was as right as rain on this one.
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