The decision this week by a gay rights legal group to sue the national gay softball organization over its policy limiting the number of straight players has stirred up a great debate on Outsports. But it has also been covered by the non-gay media because of its inherent news value.
Barry Petchesky of the mega-sports site Deadspin looks at how the rule is applied in gay softball leagues ("The Homo Quota") and what teams do to get around it.
Players have a love/hate relationship with the Homo Quota, as they call it. On one hand, they're happy to have a league for themselves, where they can comfortably be as out as they want to be. On the other hand, it seriously limits the talent pool. Those two "straight spots" are often used as ringers, and the more competitive teams will do whatever they can to find two great straight players — and occasionally more.
"We ended up losing one of our straight players because he got a girl pregnant," says "Rob," a gay player from Florida. "So I asked one of my straight friends to join our team and play outfield. After my team evaluated his performance they told me he could permanently join our team, but since he was only 'good,' but not 'really good,' he would have to 'be gay' in the eyes of the league because we didn't want to waste one of our straight spots on the roster on a straight player who is only pretty good."
This gets at the heart of the whole debate: Gay teams in leagues with quotas seldom invite lousy straight players, proving their addition to a roster is less about inclusion and promoting tolerance and more about winning. The quotas, though, do lead to some bizarre investigating:
The Homo Quota leads to gamesmanship, not only in smuggling straights onto your roster, but questioning players on other teams.
"After I'd played most of the teams," says Rob, "I found out from our team captain that the other teams were going to protest our wins because they thought that I was straight. I would have put us over the straight quota. So I wanted to know how exactly do I need to prove that I'm gay? Do I need to dance at a certain level, do I need to actually make out with men in front of a committee? I don't know what he ended up saying to stop them from protesting but they didn't go through with it."
I have mixed feelings about this issue and will write more next week. I see the value in some limits at national tournaments, but don't see why they are necessary in local leagues, where it is easier to expand the number of teams if more players want in. Ultimately, though, I guess it's a sign of progress when straight jocks want to play with their gay brothers.