(This story was published in 2002).
Tuesday morning I’ll be headed to Sydney to compete in my first Gay Games. I am beside myself with anticipation.
I’ve never been to anything like this before – an event of tens of thousands of people dedicated to gays and lesbians. And, the fact that it’s about sport and competition – it’s like a dream. I’ll be headed to Sydney not just as an athlete, but as a reporter for Outsports.com, and as a spectator. I’ll be an active participant in the biggest gay sports event in the world. And I just can’t wait.
What’s more is that I’ve only left North America one time – to Germany, 15 years ago. My mother sent me a picture book of Australia so I could see some of the sites before I got there – just beautiful. I never really had much of a desire to head Down Under as a vacation destination; after perusing that book, I do now.
I’ve heard so many great stories from people about the Gay Games – personal stories of achievement and friendship. My favorite is one my friend Jim Allen likes to call “good versus evil”: the 1994 gold medal flag football match between Los Angeles and West Hollywood. Jim, the co-founder of this site, was the quarterback of the game-winning “good guys,” and he relates it as one of his favorite sports moments.
I’m hoping to come back from Sydney with a few of those favorite moments myself. Not necessarily from the competition, though I’ll certainly be running for gold; I’m hoping to meet some really great people, see some sites I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and take in what happens when 13,000 gay athletes descend on a city.
Like many athletes headed to Sydney, I’ll be stepping back into a sport I haven’t touched for many years. The last time I wore a pair of track spikes was over 11 years ago in the Massachusetts State Track Meet. I was good in high school – undefeated in the 300m hurdles until that final state meet my senior year, setting school records in the 100m and 300m hurdles that still stand. Sydney will be a chance to venture back onto the track with a chance to compete again.
Also like many athletes in Sydney, I preferred individual sports in high school, adding autumn cross-country to my spring track & field. Somehow, though, since high school, I’ve come to enjoy team sports much more. There is something wonderful about celebrating victory with teammates. In tennis or track or swimming, there really isn’t anyone there to truly share in your celebration – in your glory. In a team sport, like football or basketball, your victory is as meaningful as your teammates’.
When I was choosing what to run in Sydney, my choice quickly became obvious – the relays. I have no desire whatsoever to line up in a lane by myself and run to a finish line. But, to take a baton from a teammate, and hand off to another one, and share in victory or defeat with three other men – that is the thrill of competition for me now.
I’m hopeful that the two relay teams I’m a part of – running the 4X100m and 4X400m – will both take home gold (hell, a Gay Games record would be nice too, since I’m going all that way). And if they don’t, as my friend Chris Fife has told me innumerous times over the last six months, I’ll hopefully “bring home the bronze – ‘cause the bronze says you were good enough to win a medal; the silver says you weren’t good enough to win.”
More Than Just a Competition
More than a desire to bring home a medal is my excitement to meet other people like me. Outsports.com was born from the notions that 1) it’s hard to meet other gay guys into sports and 2) there are more of us out there than you think. The Gay Games represent, in a sense, everyone that Jim and I have been trying to reach with our Web site.
I’ll be competing for two days – Wednesday afternoon and all day Friday – at the track; but, I’ll be meeting new people, taking their photos, and writing their stories for nine days; and that’s what I’m most looking forward to doing.
And, just as with the team concept, I’m particularly looking forward to sharing this trip with Jim and Brent. They traveled to Amsterdam together in 1998 and still talk about some of the things that happened on that trip, despite the fact that they didn’t last very long in the tennis competition (read: out in the first round). Yet, they had a great time and, obviously, would do it again.
There is some trepidation in me about going to the games in Sydney. A few months ago I was walking down Santa Monica Blvd. and saw a poster advertising the Gay Games. The poster featured a photo of several men just leaving their starting blocks – one wearing ruby slippers.
Watching these Games in Sydney take shape, it’s been disheartening to see that the organizers, and the organizations and government in Sydney, just don’t get what the Gay Games are all about. To them, it seems, it’s a big dance party with DJs, tea dances, shirtless boiz, etc…. Certainly, those things will be there, and be fun. But, the focus of most of the athletes headed to Sydney is the competition; athletics; sport; and meeting their competitors in a fun, social atmosphere. No dance parties ‘til dawn needed; no drugs needed; leave your circuit queens and go-go boys at the door.
What I know, though, is that camaraderie and sport will win the day with the athletes. I see it in the guys I’ve been training with on the L.A. track & field team: who needs a circuit party when you’ve got a race to run? Meeting other people will come naturally through competition – not in a drug-induced state at 5am.
At some point this Thursday morning, just after 7 a.m, I’ll disembark from my plane and step onto a continent I’ve never explored; in a setting that seems to have been tailor-made for me.
I can’t wait.