I live in the Castro, have a girlfriend and work as an editor at a lesbian magazine, so it seemed obvious that when it came time to join a spring sport, I'd go for softball.
It's not necessarily because I'm great at softball, although I did play third base in high school... starting, thank you very much. It just seemed like the most fun. Also, I enjoy the irony of my oh-so-incredibly-gay San Francisco life, as I ride past the big flag on Castro Street, cleats slung over my shoulder. Did I mention that our first practice was held in Bernal Heights, the new lesbian mecca of San Francisco?
In truth, I'd probably be more of an asset to an adult track league. I raced in college and still enter my occasional 5K. But joining a running team in San Francisco is serious business. Running, by its very nature, is not a party sport. It's not a heckling sport. And it's unlikely that someone will pour cold beer on your injuries.
Softball's more up my alley. But even if you're not a softball dyke, there are still plenty of low-key teams for you to join-more playground than professional. More "we're just happy you showed up" than "you really let us down today." Here are a few of the city's best sport-ish pastimes that will still take your fit or not-so-fit self.
Softball requires very little running, minor training and a limited investment of equipment. For $80, you can get a new mitt and cleats at Sports Basement, which I had to do, as it seemed that those items didn't make the move to San Francisco and my mom laughed when I asked if they were still in the garage.
I should mention that our league – the San Francisco Gay Softball League – is technically a no drinking or heckling league, and you can get kicked out for such actions. But the pros (the girls with dirty cleats and supple mitts) tell me there are plenty of ways around that.
"You just have to hold your can outside of the dugout," says one of the returning players. "Slapping the other players' asses is way more fun than talking shit anyway." There are, apparently, no rules against smacking ass – I guess because it's such a mainstay of sports culture.
We have only one practice before the season (which began March 14th – some teams are still accepting players). Our coach/second baseman/pitcher tells us that each game is just practice for the next game, which are always held on Sundays. All in all, pretty low commitment – something else I look for in team sports.
My chain-smoking, purple velour sweatsuit wearing Florida Grandma, aka Mema, taught me to love the lanes. I spent many a smoky Sunday by her side, penciling in her strikes, drinking the foam off her beer and practicing my real world math. But until this week, I'd never bowled in San Francisco.
There are two options for rolling on this seven by seven – Yerba Buena Center and Presidio Bowl. They're both about the same size, but we opted for the parking-friendly Presidio Bowl.
My girlfriend and I psyched ourselves up for our big bowling date by watching The Big Lebowski and dressing in what we thought seemed most bowling appropriate – silky 70's embroidered jackets and ruffled dresses, naturally. I wore the jacket, because it was most Mema.
With all of the costume prep and movie watching, we left for the lanes later than expected. Luckily, Presidio Bowl caters to the late night roller. They're open until midnight Sunday-Thursday and 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays, making it one of the only late-night all-ages city pastimes.
Plus, there's beer and pizza ($20 on Sundays gets you all-you-can-eat pizza and bowling for three hours- 5-8pm or 8-11pm), although by the time we got there, fresh baked pizza hours were over so we opted for the crispy fries instead.
It may not be the cheap, smoky, small town bowling alley I enjoyed as a kid, but the lanes are nice, the beer selection is decent and the shoes are sanitized. Plus, being in the Presidio at night is incredible- we saw stars, raccoons and an uninhibited view of the moon, all from the parking lot.
Presidio Bowl hosts leagues Monday through Thursday, and a new one starts up this spring. The manager suggests calling them in late March about joining up.
For most of us, dodgeball brings up horrific memories of being trapped against the middle school gym wall, covering our heads from the incoming red missile. But adult dodgeball's not like that. Wait, actually it is. It's pretty much exactly like that, except there's no school bully gunning for you or sweaty, furry-legged gym teacher blowing his whistle. It's just a bunch of people like you (and me) – in sweatbands.
For starters, there's no real sign up required-just join their meetup group, RSVP to the games you want to play and bring $5 to the field. The next game is March 25th in Dolores Park so you don't have much time to practice holding your beer while throwing the ball.
The city has five kickball divisions, which is a clear indication of the city's growing rejuvenile movement. You have your choice of Wednesdays, Thursdays or Sundays. But hurry, because some divisions start as early as the third week of March. All of the leagues are part of the World Adult Kickball Association, a name that sounds like it's from a dystopian novel, but is really just a lofty title for a bunch of adults playing a kids game... worldwide.
I'm hesitant to mention ultimate frisbee among my list of casual sports teams. I've seen-and played-on some brutal teams. If you're not careful about choosing the right team, the competition can turn a friendly game of frisbee into a blood bath. That being said, there's a tiered system, so as long as you don't overestimate your skills, you'll find your athletic home through the Bay Area Disc Association. Plus, most of the teams are co-ed and there's a serious dearth of women players. So if you're a woman, pick away-the field is yours.
So dust off your cleats (or buy new ones) and head to the fields. There's no better way to cure a Sunday hangover than a little fresh air (or stale air in the case of bowling). Plus, keeping busy on a weekend will keep you out of trouble, which is probably the reason your parents signed you up for sports in the first place. And you can come and support me in my athletic endeavors. I have a softball double header this Sunday.
Want to join the rejuvenile movement yourself? We'd love to have you! For gay softball, check out the San Francisco Gay Softball League. The season started, but we're pretty relaxed, so sign up. You can roll to your heart's content at Presidio Bowl this spring, but remember to check in later this month for details. The World Adult Kickball Association wants you to join its order-there are several SF leagues to choose from. Up for the ultimate frisbee challenge? Look up the Bay Area Disc Association to hook up with its SF league.