A Gay Old Time in Philly

As I sit down to write this, it’s 4:30 am. I can’t sleep. My mind refuses to shut down. I’m just overwhelmed.

On a muggy but thankfully rain-free evening over 750 members of the LGBT community and its supporters-including an Outsports contingent-gathered in the 500 level at Veterans Stadium to watch the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers in action. The first Gay Community Day with the Phillies was, simply put, a magnificent success.

Alas, the game itself was less than stellar. Brandon Duckworth’s first-inning struggles led to four Milwaukee runs and the Brewers went on to a 6-3 win, but the evening still included a number of highlights.

My evening started on an interesting note. As I headed along the walkway on the 500 level towards right field and the sections set aside for us, I passed a Phillies usher talking to a couple of people and heard him say, “I just wanna know where the gays are so I can stay away from them.”

So naturally I had to cause him some discomfort. I stopped, turned and asked, “Why would you need to stay away from us?” He immediately began verbally backpedaling, saying things like “I don’t have a problem with it, I don’t condone it but I don’t have a problem with it, that’s all.” When I asked him why, if he had no problem, he would need to stay away from us, he talked about how he didn’t want anyone to come on to him. (As if anyone would be interested in this scrawny, not-overly-handsome, not-intelligent-sounding guy.) I said that if anyone did come on to him, he should respectfully say “no thanks” and they’d walk away. He replied, “I know–they’re the nicest people in the world!” He then went on to say it’s just that he didn’t want any trouble and he was worried that someone would use “that bad word, the ‘f’ word” and then he’d have to get involved. I told him he had nothing to worry about.

A short while later, there it was on the smaller auxiliary message boards that are along the first- and third-base sides: Gay Community Night. Those three magic words then appeared on the main board in the upper deck in right-center field. It was an awesome sight.

As game time neared, the Phillie Phanatic took to the field and I knew it was time to head downstairs with my digital camera. It was the Phanatic who had the distinct honor of catching the ceremonial first pitch from Outsports ‘ own Larry “Scottie” Felzer, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia and one of the main organizers of the event. Except for one slight problem: the ball somehow went over the Phanatic’s head. It was unofficially scored-by me-as a passed ball on the Phanatic. He clearly should have made the play!

By the time I made it back upstairs to our sections, the crowd had pretty much filled in and there was a cheer as “Gay Community Night” was once again displayed on the message board. This was followed by a visit from the Phanatic. Despite being harassed by someone who apparently wanted to drape him with a rainbow flag, he did his usual fantastic job of keeping everyone entertained.

Later, the list of individual groups (both as part of Gay Community Night and otherwise) were displayed on the board, including Outsports.com. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of Outsports on the board as my camera was not cooperative-though it might not have been legible at any ratebecause the lights were so bright.

All in all, it was a night to remember. It was an easy night for security, as everyone in the crowd was well-behaved. The Phillies deserve a tremendous amount of credit for being supportive of the idea and making it plain that when it comes to their fans, they don’t discriminate. But the real thanks have to go to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (Philadelphia chapter), Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, co-sponsors of the event.

Above all, for his tireless efforts in organizing and promoting this wonderful night, very special thanks go to Larry Felzer. In fact, I’ve decided upon a very special tribute: on Friday, Larry and I are going to the Phillies-Cardinals game at the Vet, featuring the second return of Scott Rolen since his controversial stay in Philadelphia ended. To honor his number one fan, I will wear my old Scott Rolen T-shirt on Friday night and I will NOT boo him.