Every tale of addiction is supposed to have the hit-bottom moment, so here’s mine: I’m lying in bed at home on a Sunday morning after an enjoyable Saturday night with a young man I’d been dating who had abs that would make True Blood’s Alcide envious. I am watching the men’s Wimbledon final at a low volume so as not to wake the object of my affection. Yet the guy rouses and makes a bid for my attention. Gently rebuffed, he reaches for the remote and flicks the Off button. I’ve never broken up with someone faster.
Unlike in the classic addiction narrative, my “moment” did not cause me to seek treatment—for the sports addict, I’m afraid, there is no cure. It did, though, force a revelation: I had to come out as a gay sports addict, just as, years ago, I came out as a gay human being. I know, I know: such a revelation may have been startling in the last millennium, but in our day and age, when gay sports bars are as common as Cher impersonators, it reeks of playing catch-up. As Nancy Pelosi would say, “Who cares?”
Yet I suspect that many gay sports addicts continue to wallow in modest shame, and maybe our coming out will help to dismantle the embarrassment. I feel that I must declare myself an addict on behalf of all gay men who secretly duck out of pool parties to catch a fourth quarter as furtively as people once ducked out of pool parties to search for sex on the beach. And, when I say “we,” I must admit that I am not talking about gay men who show up nightly at the sports bar and focus on the big screens only when the new Britney video appears. I am not declaring solidarity with people who watch the Super Bowl merely for the halftime show. You are already out and Prancercise-proud.
For we addicts, in fact, gay sports bars, however chummy, are part of the problem. They have about as much to do with the game as Vladimir Putin has to do with human rights. I knew that these establishments were not a place to bond with my fellow addicts the night I got dragged to a Ru Paul’s Drag Race finale at Boxers in New York and saw the place twice as packed as it had been for my only other visit there—for an NBA game 7. On NBA playoff night nobody was watching the big screen. They were staring at their iPhones as if they were at an 11:00 a.m. office meeting. The guys were scrolling around for scores, but not the kind covered on ESPN.
It’s true that part of the reason I want to come out as a gay sports addict is to distinguish myself from such gay sports-bar junkies. Not that I am trying to project top-itude. I know there are some gays who use sports as a way to inflate their butch quotient, but that’s not my issue: I know just as much about the ballerinas at ABT as I do about the receivers in the AFL.
If gay sports bars do not dissolve the shame the gay sports addict sometimes feels, I had hoped that websites devoted to gays and sports would have done the trick by now. It’s true that sites like the invaluable Outsports and the gay-friendly Deadspin have proved to me that I’m not the only queer in creation who thinks that Pierce and Garnett will not turn the Nets into instant contenders. But such sites also remind me that there is no getting away from the gay sports-bar types—the guys who look at the posts only long enough to gush, “Tom Brady is so dreamy!” Yes, I’m aware that Joe Mauer has fine, full lips, and that Santonio Holmes is packin’. But is there nowhere a gay sports addict can turn without having to confront others’ schoolgirl crushes?
So what to do? I wish I could say that an inevitable male-pro-team sports superstar’s coming out would ka-pow the cliché that gay men can’t be authentic sports addicts, let alone authentic sports celebrities. But I am quite sure that if, for the sake of discussion, Derek Jeter were to step into that spotlight, the Outsports chatter would not be about how he is the first Yankee to pound out 3,000 hits while wearing pinstripes. It will be more like, does this mean that he and Jason Collins will now start dating?