Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 33 / 17 August 2017
 

The final score

Sports


Clockwise from upper left, Esera Tuaolo, Matthew Cusick, and Jim Provenzano at Chicago's Wrigley Field during Gay Games VII's closing ceremonies. Photo: Yuri Andres
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"Understand that the promise of a butterfly is contained in the death and transformation of a caterpillar. Be willing to eliminate your attachment to the present moment so you are free to create what's ahead."

That's a horoscope I found online earlier this month while I was Googling yet more information for yet another, and one of my last, Sports Complex columns, which I've been writing since 1996.

Ten years (actually, ten and a half). Let's see, that's more than 520 articles, about 300 rolls of film, about 1,000 interviews, a few hundred Web pages, more than 40 sports, three dozen tournaments, three Gay Games, and a big dose of gratitude from me to all the people who made the work so satisfying.

When I started this column, I had a rather lighthearted perspective on the subject. Gay jocks? Who took them seriously? But I soon began to see the rich legacy, and the persistent tenacity of local teams and individuals that I covered.

In the following years of writing Sports Complex, I began to see that the LGBT sports movement was going to be a big deal, and continue to expand. By 1998, I started a modest Web site archiving some columns. That's grown to include links to more than 100 of what I hope is my best work.

Certainly, there have been controversies, particularly when this column verged into the satirical avenue, befuddling some readers. But really, where else could you find articles like, "Beneath the Planet of Why I Hate Pro Football?" This list of felonious NFLers was only one of several columns showing how hypocritical it is for pro athletics to disdain gay athletes while their own ranks are so full of bad role models.

When I got serious, as in the eight-part series of articles investigating the financial problems with the California AIDS Rides, its devoted participants railed against such an examination. Two years later, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation dropped its contract with Pallotta Teamworks Inc., and that for-profit company, accused of AIDS profiteering, bit the dust.

I didn't shy away from other controversies, like the financial collapse of the fifth Gay Games, and its rampant medals controversies in figure skating and other sports.

For Sydney's Gay Games VI, I chose not to compete, and instead enjoy the freedom of covering as many sports as possible in interviews and photos.

And to those who wished for more statistics and scores, but failed to provide them – expecting me to actually attend every game or match – uh, sorry. But along with trying to cover pretty much every sport going on around the world, I did have a few other things to do.

And now I have a lot more to do. As some readers may have noticed, since September, I've been doing the arts calendar for this publication. It's gratifying to be working full time again. Even at my lowest points – helping a sister-in-law dredge her valuables from a 9/11-ravaged Manhattan apartment, enduring family deaths – and high points, like being around the world at Gay Games in Sydney and Amsterdam, I never missed a deadline. Okay, once, but who's keeping score?

My apologies to anyone whose name I misspelled, or whose silver medals I listed as mere bronzes.

One thing I will not apologize for, however, is my coverage of the Outgames/Gay Games controversy. Since 2003, when this whole brouhaha started after the failed contract negotiations between the Federation of Gay Games and the committee that eventually appropriated the Gay Games concept to create its own event, I gave representatives from Montreal their chance to explain their actions.

Unlike some other lazier members of the media, I didn't take their statements as facts, but found dissenting viewpoints to counter what have been proven as boastful, and alleged fraudulent claims.

The financial mess that resulted from the Outgames proved more than a bit of vindication to the few vocal critics of my final analysis and critique of the Outgames, whose organizers I called collectively "the Eve Harrington of the gay sports movement." I think I was being too polit

Women of the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby's volleyball team at Sydney's Gay Games VI in 2002. Photo: Jim Provenzano
e.

Hundreds of vendors, sports equipment, and facility providers have been left to foot the bill left by this negligent cabal of poseurs. Even volunteer referees have been left with expensive hotel bills that the Outgames and its puppet front organization the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, have abandoned.

And yet, some still delude themselves into thinking that this group can provide a viable model for future sports events. How anyone in his or her right mind can think of doing business with anyone associated with the Outgames is beyond me.

And so is continuing to try to provide a balanced perspective when Outgames representatives are literally hiding from the media they so thoroughly hoodwinked.

It's no fun taking on controversial topics when those accountable are such cowards. I'm going to have to leave that struggle to those more steadfast and persistent.

Some other gay sports media outlets seem to think that imitating mainstream sports media while ignoring LGBT events, or churning out redundant fitness features, is an easy way to provide the ever-needed content. I'm not going to detail the frustrations I had in trying to get Web sites I worked for to take queer sports seriously.

When my column expanded to being syndicated in several other publications in 2004, I got a bit more serious about finding diverse people to interview, and hopefully, shared the message of how important, vital, and fun sports are.

Strangely, or perhaps predictably, some of the most widely read columns involved more lurid topics, such as the Romanian wrestler who was dumped from his country's Olympic team when it was discovered that he'd made dozens of gay porn videos. That story was swiped and posted by more thieving bloggers than I can count. When such a tale proves to be the most read column, you know that the culture still needs to evolve.

Even so, it's been a fun and amusing journey, working to visualize real LGBT athletes as more than eye candy, which is how most gay publications portray them.

I offer some advice for those who want to promote their own sports. Take a cue from the arts events I'll be once again focusing on. Get your press releases together. Keep score. Provide photo galleries for writers to choose from. Don't expect the work to be done for you.

For those who have upcoming events and press releases to submit, my trusty replacement, Roger Brigham, will be offering a new column starting in 2007, called "Jock Talk." Send your info and story proposals to Roger at jocktalkroger@yahoo.com . For stories with more national appeal, send your info to author Dan Woog at OutField@qsyndicate.com.

It's been wonderful, annoying, challenging and – for the most part – satisfying to explore, promote, and document this active, diverse, and vibrant community. I've received my share of thank yous and honors; a lovely Lucite award from the Chicago "100 Champions" sports gala, held earlier this year; an honorary black belt from Triangle Martial Arts; and separately, my second Gay Games medal, a silver, won, appropriately, by running in a relay with others, three men on San Francisco's Track and Field club. That medal means a lot, because it was won not through my efforts alone.

As the culmination of this group effort, "Sporting Life," the exhibit I guest-curated for the GLBT Historical Society, closes this month, I can feel some level of satisfaction in knowing that I did everything possible to take sports seriously, in all its complexity. I also made a lot of good friends along the way.

Thanks for reading, and playing along.






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