Out In The Stands…
Having grown up in Wilmington, Delaware I have been a Philadelphia sports fan for all of my 51-years. My father was a baseball player (drafted by the White Sox) so being a baseball fan is a given. I then fell in love with hockey in the early 70s. As a gay sports fan I have never really felt comfortable wearing one of my rainbow embroidered shirts to a game…that is ‘til now. The world of major league sports is slowly changing and beginning to market themselves to the LGBT community.
Monday, August 23rd was a great night for a ball game. Well, except for the steady light rain and the final score—if you were rooting for Philadelphia. Anyway, it was a great night to wear your bright rainbow colors in the stands of Citizens Bank Park in south Philadelphia. August 23rd was the eigth Annual Gay Community Night for the Phillies—when the Phils met the Houston Astros.
Larry Felzer, organizer of the event since the beginning, said nearly all of the 800 tickets that were reserved for the LGBT and ally communities had been sold in advance. The event is sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
My partner and I have attended many GCNs. We were there for the very first one at the old Veteran’s Stadium as well as the first GCN at the new ball park. As we picked up our tickets that time we were greeted by “FAGS GO HOME” on posters and someone chanting for parents to keep their little boys out of the Men’s Rooms. Nice, really nice. Apparently the protesters were not concerned about the lesbians. Once inside the park, that all went away—so we thought. After the start of the game we looked to the right only to see spray painted banners with anti-gay slogans. This did not go over very well in our section. Oh, did I mention that Mr. Feltzer is an attorney and not a journalist? The Phillies have a “no banner” and “no protest/ campaign” policy. Feltzer‘s first trip was to an usher with no results; then he headed to the main office and broke out into his “legal eagle” mode. The banners were quickly removed and the banner holders left with them to the sound of cheers throughout the stadium—not just our section.
Since then, we have not seen any protestors. Thank you to the Phillies for making us feel even more welcome. The event has continued to grow. In the early years, 100 or so of us were way up near the top of the stadium. Now we are in the 200 level with a great view looking in from right field—that would put us right behind the Phillies Jayson Werth. Like I said, we had a great view.
The crowd was again a great mix of the LGBT community, I would imagine a 50/50 split between men and women. I love seeing “the community” come together as one. I saw a lot of familiar faces from games gone by as well as faces of Rehoboth regulars. There were all kinds of mini-groups who got together for the game. I think that calling it Gay Community Night is a good representation; it’s not just a Gay Night, it is a Community night.
On Monday night, the Phillies lost the game in the eigth inning on a questionable call by the first base umpire allowing the winning run on base for what should have been an out. Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, argued that the Astros Michael Bourn was out when he clearly ran outside the base path in an attempt to avoid being tagged out. Not only did Bourn have his two feet in the grass, his two feet were at least two feet into the grass… Charlie put up a good argument—good enough to get himself tossed from the game. But, Instant Replay is an entirely different article.
The Phillies and Major League baseball are not alone in hosting gay community nights. Other teams and sports that acknowledge and welcome the LGBT community are:
MLB: Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, NY Mets, Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins
NHL: Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks
NBA: Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors
Some teams such as the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles have hosted AIDS Awareness Days which raised money for local HIV/AIDS organizations. The Philadelphia Flyers‘ Wives Fight for Lives charity has raised millions of dollars for cancer and HIV/AIDS research.