(This story was published in 2006).

Medals devalued: Medal inflation continues to get out of hand at the Games and it’s something not unique to Chicago. In some sports, with lots of teams or lots of individual competitors, winning a medal means something – lots of hard work, dedication, sacrifice and skill. In other sports, they basically hand medals to anybody who walks by.

One example of the latter was the men’s 4×100 track relay for ages 45+. Team Philadelphia won the bronze … with two of the runners being the mothers of two male runners. Were these super moms? Hardly. There were only three teams entered, so had the team raced a 4-year-old they would have won as long as the kid didn’t drool on the baton. Or maybe they should have entered the family dog and he could have been the first Pomeranian to win a Gay Games gold and earn an Alpo endorsement. The problem is that the “free” medals look the same as the ones that were really earned.

In the women’s 1,500 meters race, five of the six age groups had only one entrant and they all “won” a gold – you shouldn’t get a gold for just being able to finish. Someone quipped that in figure skating there were more medals than athletes.

There should be a rule that there have to be two fewer medals awarded than competitors in an event or age group – if there are three entrants, only the gold is given, which means you would need five athletes to have gold, silver and bronze awarded. If there are two or fewer entrants, no one gets a medal (and they shouldn’t bitch, since it’s supposed to be about participation anyway). This would eliminate someone winning a gold medal when they were the only competitor; it’s a system that devalues real athletic accomplishment and makes it seem as if gay and lesbian jocks get graded on an easier curve. –Jim Buzinski

Rockdogs win gold: The San Francisco Rockdogs, playing in memory of a beloved teammate, dominated the men’s competitive division to win the basketball gold medal, 49-33, over the New York Warriors.

The Warriors took an early 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by long-range bomber Mike Rios with less than a minute gone in the game, then failed to score a point in the next 12 minutes of the game as the Rockdogs went on a 17-0 spurt. The Dogs, led by guard Mike Survillion, were much quicker than the Warriors and outhustled them for rebounds and missed shots in a game that was sloppy and ragged. It was clear that both teams were gassed after playing for six straight days in a University of Illinois-Chicago gym that resembled a sauna most of the week.

The Warriors, who beat the Rockdogs by four in a round-robin game, got as close as eight points with 14:43 remaining, but never mounted a sustained comeback. It was the Rockdogs’ first gold since the 1998 Games in Amsterdam.

The Rockdogs wore white practice shirts with #51 and “Williams” printed on them, in honor of star player Martin Williams who died from cancer two years ago. Demarco Majors (top picture, left, with a friend) was dealing with more tragedy, losing his grandmother and sister in the last two weeks and he dedicated his win to their memory. –Jim Buzinski

Golden boy: Rory Ray (lower picture, left) had quite a Games. On Wednesday, playing receiver and pass rusher, he helped Team Outsports to a flag football gold. Two days later, he was a member of the Rockdogs’ winning team.

Ray, Outsports’ web developer, is the first athlete to win golds in competitive basketball and flag football in the same Games. A New York Warriors player also won two medals – a gold in flag football for Outsports and a silver in basketball. Both of them spent the early part of the week racing between football and basketball, playing multiple games in both sports each day; they were real iron men. –Jim Buzinski

Too much: A problem at every Games is the amount of games team sport athletes need to play. In flag football, my team played six games in three days (each game lasted about 90 minutes); the team we played for the gold, the New York Bad Apples, played seven. In basketball, teams play six straight days, and the same goes for soccer, volleyball and others. By the time the finals are reached, the play is not as crisp and it’s more of a matter of survival. Our football gold medal game was not nearly as exciting or well-played as games both teams played earlier in the tournament. It’s a shame, since gold medal matches should be of the highest caliber, but that’s not often possible given injuries and fatigue.

One solution would be to give an off-day between the first rounds of playoffs and finals; it might mean compressing more games into fewer days at the front, but people are fresher then and it might make the finals more enjoyable. –Jim Buzinski

Blades win hockey gold: In news as shocking as the sun rising in the East, the Los Angeles Blades beat Minnesota, 5-1, to win the men’s hockey gold. This victory was all but assured when the Blades registered the two best players in the tournament in defenseman Steve Sarauer and center Paul Jene. Both played college hockey at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. And Sarauer reportedly was drafted by an NHL team.

Both are straight, which ruffled the skates, so to speak, of many hockey players at the Gay Games. One player from a team that lost to the Blades said it was a joke that both played and said they might as well awarded L.A. the gold without playing any games. Prior to the Minnesota game, he said there was 0% chance L.A. would lose. Had the players been gay, the feelings would be different since these are the Gay Games; it usually seems that in gay sports the mediocre straights are seldom invited on a team. And neither player lives in L.A. (one is in Milwaukee, the other in suburban Chicago).

One skating official said that Sarauer and Jene were #1 and 1A in talent at the tournament, and the next nearest player would be #14. There’s a sports term for players like these — ringers. –Jim Buzinski

Note: A letter came in critical of the Blades item above. We are reprinting it here:

It was with great frustration that I read Outsports.com’s commentary on the LA Blades gold medal in ice hockey. The article was riddled with inaccuracies, based largely on hearsay, and seemed intent only on stirring up gossip and trouble. No one from the Blades organization was contacted for comment or to verify the accuracy of facts. Allow me to detail the problems:

1) The article is based on gossip and hearsay. No sources are given for the information other than “one player on an opposing team” and “one official.” Your article admits that the player who complained was on a team that lost to the Blades — would it be any surprise that they would be critical? Further, the official is not identified, so it only bears the hint of authority — who is this official? If no one will go on record with their name, I wouldn’t trust the information. At that point, it’s just gossip.

2) The article is full of inaccuracies. Paul Jene grew up in the Midwest, but has lived in Los Angeles for a few years now. He regularly plays with one of our house league teams in Torrance, Calif. His girlfriend has also played on the same team for two years. Paul played with the Blades in the 2005 Coors Cup and regularly coaches the team and runs our practices. To intimate that he is not affiliated with our hockey club is just a straight out falsehood. Steve happens to be one of Paul’s best friends — and it was Paul who asked him to play with the Blades in Chicago.

3) The article ignores the larger problem faced by the men’s hockey tournament: only ONE team registered as an Open level team — the LA Blades. ALL nine other teams registered in the recreational division. The tournament staff made the choice to rank the teams and split the divisions into Open and Recreational — 5 teams a piece. The Blades can hardly be blamed for assembling an Open level team, and then not being able to face competitive teams. The Blades team was a legitimate Open team – with or without Steve & Paul.

4) Your article is shockingly hetero-phobic. The Gay Games are about “inclusion” – and our teams have ALWAYS had players both straight and gay on them. To intimate that straight players shouldn’t be allowed because they’re good is patently ridiculous, and ignores the fact that these straight players made the most of their Gay Games experience. Paul & Steve both attended the Opening & Closing ceremonies, and were even out socializing with the team in Boys Town. They are open-minded, nice guys who don’t care if they’re playing with gay or straight players – good hockey is good hockey. That’s the spirit of the Gay Games, NOT sour grapes and gossip.

5) Your article smacks of sour grapes. Would anyone be complaining if the Blades didn’t win? Doubtful, especially since our Rec level team had straight players on it as well. The Leftwings team had straight players on it – including some of their best, too. Did anyone complain about them? Did Outsports.com target them? No, they were lionized for epitomizing family participation in the Games. It certainly seems like you have something against the Blades organization.

6) Your article is shockingly hypocritical. You have complained about ringers, but proudly trumpet the fact that you had an ex-NFL player on your own team. Straight or gay – a ringer is a ringer. Yet it is ok for Outsports.com to do it because the player is gay? Once again, discriminatory and hypocritical.

Jeff Archibald, #38 Hollywood Blades
ex-Los Angeles Blades board member

Editor’s note: The information about the two players not living in Los Angeles was supplied by the players themselves to an Outsports correspondent.

Name game: My favorite team name is the Madison (Wisc.) Thunder Kittens, who won the competitive division in women’s soccer. Click on the picture for a larger view. –JB

Morgan wins four golds: Chris Morgan, the current reigning World Drug Free Powerlifting champion, has won four gold medals at Gay Games. The medals were for squat, bench press, deadlift and overall combined total, breaking seven Gay Games records in the process.

“’The Gay Games powerlifting competition is only held once every four years, so it was a very special feeling competing alongside other gay powerlifters once again. I’m pleased to have performed close to my own personal best, in what were testing conditions in Chicago this week. (more than 100 degrees indoors). I’m very proud to have earned a total of four gold medals and to have broken seven Gay Games records.” Morgan’s story has been well documented on Outsports.

His competition done, Morgan was a happy man Wednesday night at Crew bar, wolfing down six mini-burgers, something verboten during training. “Only in America does mini still mean big,” Morgan said waiting for his food.

London calling: The saying that sport is a universal language holds true for the two men’s and one women’s basketball teams from London. The birth places of the players on the team could form a mini-U.N.: two from Spain, two from the Netherlands, two from Australia, one from Hong Kong, one from Denmark, one from Portugal, one from the U.S., one from New Zealand, one from Canada, one from Switzerland and one from Malaysia. There are only four native-born Brits and three of them are women.

“None of us learned our basketball in Britain,” said Kaspar Palleson, a Dane (pictured left with teammate Hugo Caballbro) who plays for the London Cruisers. That goes for their player-coach Gustavo Crespo, a Spaniard. The Cruisers were happy with their 2-4 overall record in the tough men’s competitive division. –Jim Buzinski

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