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On a warm, breezy, blue-sky day in late May, 30 Regular Guys -- all clad in shorts and T-shirts -- are warming up for a game of softball on the grassy portion of the Kezar Triangle.
As they take batting practice and shag fly balls, it quickly becomes clear that few of these men -- most are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s -- were members of their high school's jock elite. In fact, when Chris Sorensen, the group's director of sports activities (and master barbecuer), asks the men how many played baseball in high school, not a single hand goes up.
Later, while tending to the barbecue during a Regular Guys' picnic, Sorensen explains the kinds of athletes you'll find in this group for self-identified masculine gay men: "A lot of them were picked on in high school, and now that they are older and successful and go to the gym to get all buff, they think they're athletes. But if you throw them a real fastball, they pee themselves. So, we play softball. It's less scary."
Sorensen is 27 and, arguably, the most regular of all the Regular Guys. He is overweight. He smokes. He drinks beer. He eats big slabs of beef -- and, while doing so, makes alarming numbers of beef/sausage jokes. When he is tired or bored or feeling silly, he rolls around in the grass like a dog and plays dead. When he barbecues, he holds the slab of beef in one hand and a bottle of tequila in the other. He calls people "pussies." He reads sports magazines and says things like, "Yeah, I read ESPNmagazine. Sports Illustrated's for fags."
Sorensen joined Regular Guys a year ago and has quickly improved the group's athletic activities. He organizes monthly football games, softball games, and trips to the batting cages. Today, he is firmly in charge of the softball game, barking out instructions and threatening to castrate those who goof off.
"Come on, ladies," he says. "Let's get with it!"
Eric Sweigard, a 34-year-old Catholic boy from Nebraska who is often mistaken for a New York City Jew ("It's my wonderful attitude," he suspects), steps up to the plate. Sweigard may be short (5-foot-5), but what he doesn't have in size is made up for in ego. In high school, when Sweigard wasn't shoplifting for school supplies or setting things on fire, he played on the wrestling and golf teams. He always knew he was different ("I was smarter and funnier than the other guys, so I guess that should have been a clue," he says), but it wasn't until much later that it dawned on him that he might be gay.
Sweigard waves the bat back and forth, waiting for Sorensen to lob a pitch. Just as Sorensen starts his motion, a Regular Guy in the outfield yells, "Hit it, munchkin!" to which Sweigard responds by waving the bat toward him and yelling "You fuck! You little bitch!"
Sorensen finds the exchange so funny that he stops midmotion. "Throw the ball, jerky," Sweigard yells. Laughing, Sorensen lobs a pitch. Sweigard takes a mighty rip, nailing the ball over the head of the smack-talker in the outfield. "Yeah, chase it you fuck! Run!"
Sorensen lobs another pitch, which Sweigard smacks about a foot away from Sorensen's head. "Yeah, you laughing now baby?" Sweigard says.
"You did not just call me baby," Sorensen says in mock exasperation.
"Yes I did, sweetie," Sweigard says. "You got a problem with that?"
Sorensen, grinning, dramatically throws his glove on the ground and begins a full-frontal assault on the much smaller Sweigard. Sweigard, the high school wrestler, stands his ground. Sorensen bowls into him. They fall over. They roll around. They curse. The bigger Sorensen pins Sweigard by the legs, causing Sweigard's butt to see the light of day.
Mark Terrell, a 34-year-old Regular Guy from Oakland, points excitedly toward Sweigard's butt: "Hold him there, and we'll all take turns!"
1) Which would you rather spend a Saturday afternoon doing?
a) Catching the White Sale at Macy's.
b) Catching the playoffs of any sport.
2) You meet a cute guy at a party. You start the conversation talking about...
a) Your favorite quiche recipe.
b) Why the 49ers sucked this year.
-- Two questions from the Regular Guys' Web site, www.RegularGuys.org
If you answered b) to both of the above questions, it is possible that you -- yes, you! -- could be Regular Guy material. This is exciting news.
For $35 a year, Regular Guys get to go on hikes, play football, go whitewater rafting, ski in Tahoe, cruise the delta on houseboats, attend rodeos, watch movies, sample local brewpubs, and even take in a play or museum. ("We aren't total barbarians," Schaefer insists.)
Regular Guys also attend a monthly social meeting, where they introduce new members and listen to guest speakers (former ones have included Gay Games athletes, a gay Air Force officer, a representative from the StopAIDS project, Supervisor Mark Leno, and a leader of the Log Cabin Republicans).
Schaefer says there are about 150 dues-paying members of Regular Guys in the Bay Area, although only about 40 are what he calls "regulars." Most are openly gay, although many didn't come out until their late 20s, or even later. Several are fathers. Some, like Sweigard and Sorensen, act straighter than most straight guys. Others are painfully shy and joined the group, jokes one Regular Guy, "because they had no friends." A few couldn't care less about sports and can queen-out on occasion, a fact the Regular Guys ironically point to as their collective "feminine side."