James Platt is doing the cross-country, overnight trip next week for his sporting passion.
He'll start in Phoenix, where he'll compete in the annual Gay Softball World Series, which runs Oct. 2-5, with the championship game at Rose Mofford Softball Park. Then he's off to New York City, where he'll compete in Gay Super Bowl 7, which runs Oct. 5-7 at East River Park.
The gay sporting world truly is in full swing with both the softball and flag football championships overlapping, and the longest-running gay hockey tournament, the 13th annual Friendship Tournament, held Oct. 6-8 in Toronto.
Pictured: A player at last year's Gay Softball World series. Photo by Ross Forman
'It's a very big [ period ] , that's for sure,' said Joe Cappelletti, the local softball commissioner who has participated in six past Gay World Series' though he's not playing this time.
The Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) is sending five male teams to Phoenix: Touche and Spin Cougar in the B-Division, Hunter's and Brighton Development Drillers in C, and Marty's Straight-Up in D.
Plus, four women's teams will be participating: Mood Swings, Nubians and Star Gaze Fusion in the B-Division, and Calo Bous in the C-Division.
'I think all of the men's teams have a good shot [ at winning ] , especially Spin which took second-place last year [ in the Series ] and Touche which won its [ CMSA ] division.
'I think we've got five good teams going.'
There will be 118 teams competing in the Gay World Series, with about 1,400 players from across the United States and Canada. Comedian Scott Thompson will appear at the opening ceremony for the Series.
'For so many players, just qualifying for the Gay World Series is one of their goals for the season,' Cappelletti said. 'It truly is the best of the best, a huge event.'
Jack Neilsen, 32, of Chicago, was a Gay World Series champion in 2006 and on a third-place team in 2005. He's playing for Marty's Straight-Up this year.
'The Gay World Series is the highest honor for gay softball in the country,' Neilsen said. 'Playing in the Gay World Series has been one of the best times I've had playing softball over the years.'
The Gay World Series is being held about six weeks later than normal, thus it conflicts with the Gay Super Bowl. Marcia Hill, president of CMSA, said there likely are 'lots of upset' athletes because the events are running simultaneously. 'Most players had to choose one or the other,' she said.
One such person is Glen Rexing, captain of the Touche team. He also has played for the Chicago Flames flag football team, but is opting to play strictly softball this time. Still, the Flames are a top contender for the Gay Super Bowl crown, seeded No. 2 among the 16 participants.
'Having lost to New York last year in the finals, we're very excited to be going to New York this year to play in the Gay Super Bowl,' said Chicagoan Brian Walker. 'We're very excited about our team and our chances. We think we have a good chance to get to the title round.'
The Flames lost to New York last year in the finals by a touchdown. Chicago was the 2005 Gay Super Bowl champion, and Will Ward was that year's MVP as quarterback.
Gil Minor is now the Flames' quarterback; Ward now sees action as a receiver and on defense.
'I think we have a good team, very well balanced … as balanced, or more, than last year,' said Minor, 37, playing in his second Gay Super Bowl. 'Our strength is our speed, and in flag football, speed is king. Plus, our defense is real good.'
The Flames feature several speed demons, including Ward, Ahkeem Waterford, Ty Law and team newcomer Brian Kane.
Plus, the Flames have tall offensive targets for Minor. Walker and team newcomer Dan Shaver are each 6ƌ'. 'Offensively, we're very balanced,' Minor said.
Defensively, Chris Cleary leads the Flames.
'It's a huge week,' for the gay sports community, Minor said. 'Anytime you can get as many athletes together for both [ softball and football ] , it's great for the community, gives us great exposure.'
The Flames' top competition comes from the defending champion New York Warriors, the Washington Monuments, Atlanta Storm and Los Angeles Motion.
The 15 members of the Flames are all from Chicago except one who lives in Lafayette, Ind.
'The Gay Super Bowl continues to grow and grow, and annually gets more and more professional,' Walker said. 'The event has really taken some great strides forward.'
The Toronto Gay Hockey Association is hosting the 13th annual Friendship Tournament over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend ( Columbus Day weekend in the United States ) . All games will be held at Varsity Arena, located on the University of Toronto campus. This is the largest gay hockey tournament in the world, with players of all skill levels.
The Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ) will not be sending its Blackwolves' team to Toronto, though the team has participated in the event in the past. Several members of the Blackwolves will be in Toronto this year, playing on various teams.