Playing by the Rules

A Houston softball team accuses Atlanta of being too straight

At the Gay Softball World Series in Washington, D.C., last month, a Houston team filed a protest with tournament officials alleging that another team wasn't gay enough. The Houston Force, of the Montrose Softball League, sought to disqualify the Atlanta Power for having two more straight players than the rules allowed. After a rigorous inquisition -- they brought players in one by one and asked which side of the plate they swing from -- the Atlanta club was exonerated and allowed to play.

Their coach, however, complained to a local paper: "The only reason that they brought the protest was that they had never seen the guys at a gay establishment and they don't talk gay…It was a bogus protest basically." He accused our local fellas of trying to slow the momentum of the Atlanta team, although the Houston Force finished third in the elite "A" division, ahead of the Atlanta Power. The series drew 157 teams from all over the United States, making it the largest gay and lesbian team tournament in the nation, a spokeswoman said -- and competitive enough to suspect straight ringers.

Perhaps the Atlanta crew can take a hint from Bravo's Fab Five next time they trot out to the diamond. As culled from the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Web site: 1. No five o'clock shadow; 2. No standard-issue softball guy beer gut; 3. No scratching, boys. It's a dead giveaway. -- Michael Serazio

Scorchers

So you went to Galveston, broiled in the sun all day and got a megaburn? Well, now it turns out you're not just a stupid idiot. According to a report published last month in the Archives of Dermatology and on the American Medical Association's Web site, you're also a slacker who's costing this country big money.

Richard Wagner, a dermatology professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch who led the study, assessed sunburn damage -- caused by Galveston beachfront alone -- at $40 million a year in lost wages. Sunburned people can't get dressed, drive a car or sit on their roasted rumps. So they skip work.

Wagner's group surveyed about 100 sun-fried people sitting on the shore, then made follow-up phone calls to see if they made it to work the next day. Researchers combined tourism statistics with average wage figures, did some complicated math and came up with the multimillion-dollar annual loss.

In a special subsection of the study, Wagner also observed that those who pounded beer on the beach got more severe sunburns than sober folks who spent the same amount of time in the sun.

"We don't really know why," Wagner says. "We're investigating that."

The theory is that because alcohol is an analgesic, the drunker people got, the less they were able to feel their bodies barbecuing. And the less they cared. -- Wendy Grossman

A Lotta Bull

September 5 was a solemn and significant day in our state's history. At least it was according to the Houston Texans.

On that day -- finally, "after almost two years of work" -- team owner Bob McNair unveiled the "Spirit of the Bull" monuments at Reliant Stadium.

Three bronze bulls, each 14 feet long and weighing 2,500 pounds, represent pride, courage, strength "and the ageless traditions of modern sport," according to the team. The "Spirit of the Bull" sculptures are located near Budweiser Plaza, whose corporate-sponsored name certainly evokes the "Spirit of Bob McNair's Cash- Cow Playpen."

McNair has long been given to rambling on about the allegedly mythical and powerful symbolism of the bull and how it relates to being a Texan. So it's a little surprising to find out the bulls were created in Maryland and molded and cast in Oregon. (Also, given their hackneyed appearance, it's equally surprising to learn that Peter Marzio, director of Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, helped pick the design.)

The real "spirit of the bull" was best exemplified not by the cheesy sculptures but by McNair himself, however. A team press release quoted him as saying Reliant Stadium "is certainly the most significant building in this part of Texas, and maybe the most significant building in Texas."

You betcha, Bob. After all, just how many tacky bulls does the Alamo have in front of it? -- Richard Connelly

Choosing Your Battles

Two weeks ago, Hair Balls identified Randall Kallinen, the attorney who's suing to remove an inconspicuous Bible display from in front of the Harris County Civil Courthouse, as "an ACLU lawyer."

Kallinen is indeed an ACLU lawyer, but the ACLU of Texas wants it known they have nothing to do with his suit. Annette Lamoreaux, East Texas regional director of the state chapter, won't say (like we did) that Kallinen's suit is a time-wasting publicity grab, but she notes that the state group formally rejected the Houston chapter's request that it get involved in the case. (As a result Kallinen is handling it on his own.)

"We have limited resources and we have to make decisions on how best to use them," Lamoreaux said. "This case did not meet the criteria."

What would be those criteria? "Well, if a judge decided to put a 35-ton marble thing of the Ten Commandments in the lobby of the courthouse, we wouldn't necessarily decline that case," she said. -- R.C.

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