Growing up in a Mormon house with five athletic brothers and a football coach father taught Rory Ray (photo) lessons about himself, sports and family. It also unwittingly helped prepare him for his latest gig as a member of an ensemble cast on the newest entrant into reality television.
This offering, though, provides a new twist: six members of the gay basketball team Rock Dogs living together in a San Francisco loft in the weeks leading up to the National Gay Basketball Association championships. Reality television has done drama, fashion, real estate, comedy and design, among others. But Logo's "Shirts & Skins" -- which premieres on Logo tonight at 10 p.m. EST -- ventures into the locker-room with a candid look at an amateur basketball team that can dribble and dunk with skill yet also happens to have a roster full of gay men.
Ray, a 6-foot-3-inch forward, finds himself in the middle of the mix. He joined the Rock Dogs in 2002 while living in San Francisco and continues to play with the team despite a move to New York City last year. Ray joined five others in the loft for more than three weeks as the team prepared for the tournament earlier this year.
What followed was a mix of serious and fun, drama and deeper understanding. There's plenty of skin, Ray included, though it seems fitting given the athletic focus of the show. But there's also plenty of substance, including an intense debate between Ray and Jamel Lewis that begins in the first episode of the show when Jamel tells his housemates that being gay is a choice. Former NBA player John Amaechi, who came out as gay in 2007, helps mediate, one of a handful of big-name appearances in the series that also includes Sheryl Swoopes, who plays for the Seattle Storm and came out in 2005.
Ray balanced his work as a web developer, including his web development work with Outsports.com, and training with the team during the show's taping before returning to New York and his boyfriend of nearly a year. He's branched out from basketball, no doubt channeling the athletic prowess of his brothers, and taken up flag football, last year being named Most Valuable Player of the New York Gay Football League and to the all-offensive team at Gay Bowl VII. He'll compete on the Los Angeles Motion in Gay Bowl VIII next month in Salt Lake City. Ray and other teammates will also be blogging during the run of the six-episode series on Logo.
Matt Hennie blogs on Atlanta's gay sports scene at Gaytlsports.com.