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The Year in Sports
by Ross Forman

This article shared 3159 times since Wed Dec 27, 2006
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Scenes from the Gay Games. Photos by Amy Wooten (left) and Mel Ferrand


We endured some of the most grueling heat and humidity of the year on July 15, opening night for Gay Games VII. Still, the world came, watched and celebrated the festivities at Soldier Field while the sporting event was held in Chicago for the first time ever.

We endured some bitter cold almost every Saturday this fall. So, the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) men's flag football season may be remembered for horrible weather more than the play of Brian Walker, Will Ward or Joe Marshall from the Vital Bridges team that was named the league's 2006 Sportsmanship Award winner. Or the play of the league's most improved player, Hydrate Hussies' Mike O'Sullivan, who was new to the sport this year and simply 'got better with each game playing center,' said league organizer Shawn Albritton.

We saw expansion in the CMSA's women's volleyball league as it grew to 28 teams and four divisions. Expansion also was prevalent on the women's football front as the CMSA league jumped to 28 teams and a third field.

We laughed, cried and rejoiced in the LGBT sporting year of 2006, one that certainly had major moments that echoed well beyond the walls of Lakeview and Andersonville. The LGBT sporting year of 2006 was an international event, certainly with major local roots.

The LGBT sporting year of 2006 certainly starts and ends, so to speak, with Gay Games VII, an eight-day sprint that featured players of every age, ethnicity and ability. They came to Chicago from around the world; there were 11,739 participants in addition to players' parents, partners, other relatives and friends.

We saw former NFL player Esera Tuaolo on the Games' football field as an out and proud player, not as a cheerleader or simply a supporter of the cause. However, we saw plenty of cheerleaders, too—especially at the Games' Closing Ceremony, held inside Wrigley Field. We saw Cyndi Lauper at Wrigley, too, dressed in all her rainbow glory, singing to the world.

We saw plenty of other pros associated with the Games as well, such as Billy Bean and David Kopay. There were also Olympians, namely volleyball player Leigh-Ann Naidoo. But ultimately, the Games was about Gay Joe; Lesbian Jane; some Joes who are now Janes; some who don't know for sure whether they are attracted to Joe, Jane or both; and Joes who prefer Janes but accept the LGBT community.

'The Gay Games is the pinnacle of the LGBT sporting year every year it is held, without question,' said Andy Rogers of Chicago, who played on the bronze medal-winning Blackwolves hockey team. 'Having participated in the Games four years ago in Sydney, I kind of knew what to expect out of the Games. And Gay Games VII did not disappoint. It was exciting, and as much fun to participate in as it was four years ago. And having the event right here in Chicago was quite a rush—very exciting.

'What was truly exciting about the hockey was the way we did it, with an overtime shootout. That was pretty damn exciting.'

The Gay Games was about perfectly-sculpted athletes, some who were well past their prime and others who never had a prime in the sporting world. It was about darts and dancesport. It was about gold-medal days and magical parties throughout Boystown at night. It was Black, white, Asian, Hispanic and everything in between joining forces in the sporting spirit of the Games' late founder, Dr. Tom Waddell. It was the support of Chicago mayor Richard Daley, the political controversy in suburban Crystal Lake and the verbal faux pas of Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the days leading up to the Games that, ultimately, gave the Games an additional dose of mainstream media coverage.

The Gay Games was an eight-day whirlwind that started in Chicago's LGBT community, and that expanded rapidly to international levels—even to Montreal, which was the original site for Gay Games VII. But when Montreal was stripped of the Games, Canadian organizers opened their own mega LGBT sporting event, Outgames, which started at the end of July.

The competition on the Montreal fields was, at times, 'more intense,' such as in ice hockey, said Rogers. But Chicago clearly rocked on the basketball court, flag football fields, soccer fields and many other venues.

And in the end, the organization that hosted the Montreal Outgames was forced to file for bankruptcy protection after Quebec officials reported a deficit for the event in excess of $5 million, about $2 million of which is owed to suppliers. Chicago, meanwhile, fell only about $200,000 short of breaking even—an amount that is shrinking daily and, quite possibly, could be settled before the clock strikes 2007.

However, other events certainly occurred in the LGBT sports world besides the Gay Games and Outgames:

-We had a new-look Chicago Flames at Gay Bowl VI in October in Dallas.

-We had members of a rugby team made up of New York City firefighters—including one featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated—refusing to play a game against the Gotham Knights after one of the firefighters asked the gay team if they could guarantee that none of their players were HIV-positive.

-We had the Bingham Cup once again. ( The gay rugby event is named after Mark Bingham, who died at age 31 on Sept. 11, 2001, on board United Airlines Flight 93. )

-We had Chris Morgan ( competing internationally ) and John Hudson ( competing locally ) , who lifted incredible amounts of weight.

-We had U.S. Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, in all his flamboyant glory. ( However, Weir never really came forward regarding his sexual orientation. )

-We had the outrageousness of Joey Porter's mouth.

-We had Sheryl Swoopes, Chris Kanyon and Mark Tewksbury.

-We had Amelie Mauresmo and her amazing tennis wins at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

-We had the USTA National Tennis Center renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of the legendary former star.

-We had a seemingly new energy within the LGBT sporting community for the 'hot male athlete,' such as Brady Quinn, David Beckham and Joey Harrington, among others.

-We had Marcia Hill replacing Peter Meyer at the helm of CMSA.

-We had the Jackhammer Heat once again claiming a softball championship, in the D-Division at the annual NAGAAA World Series in August in Fort Lauderdale.

'This was a very successful year for CMSA, with a lot of growth,' said Hill, who is the CMSA president. 'Men's softball went from 37 to 43 teams. Women's softball went from 38 to 44. We also started indoor and outdoor soccer, and badminton really took off.

'It was amazing season of seasons for CMSA, arguably the best ever in terms of participation, success and feedback, and this is now our 28th year.'

The local non-Gay Games moment of the year was, perhaps, the first triple-overtime game ever in the men's flag football league. Warsteiner Crew defeated the SoFo Sidesteppers in a game that lasted nearly two hours. SoFo, though, won the Competitive Championship later in the season.

The Hydrate Hussies ( men's flag football ) were, perhaps, the local team of the year. 'They embodied the fun social aspect on the field, whether it was building pyramids and coming up with snazzy cheers or raising $1,500 for Chicago House in a charity event. Whatever happened on the field, they're definitely a champion off the field,' said league organizer Albritton.

From the 'L' side of the LGBT local sporting scene, some of the top teams included Erich's Lehigh ( volleyball ) and the Rebels ( football ) . Closet Babes and Scots ( volleyball ) were two of the most improved teams in any sport.

Sam Hamilton, Mary Offerman and Sandy Urquiaga ( football ) could, arguably, have shared the Sportswomen of the Year award.

The Windy City Athletic Association also had a successful 2006, marked by growth as well. The women's basketball league, for instance, is its largest ever, with about 25 teams. Bowling also picked up several new teams and darts had a very successful run.

Darnell Sherrod, who took over as the dart's director in the spring, was given the WCAA Commissioner's Award, presented by WCAA commissioner Jacen Maleck. It is the league's top honor, presented for the most significant contribution to the league as a whole.

In addition, Claudia Traudt was the recipient of the Director's Award for women's basketball.

In LGBT sports, it was a phenomenal 2006. One could only hope for more of the same in 2007.

This article shared 3159 times since Wed Dec 27, 2006
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