Cheering in Drag

The world’s smallest sports demographic

Dick Vitale owes me a working eyeball.

Vitale, if you are not familiar, is the loudest basketball announcer in the world, according to a poll of ESPN viewers, audio specialists and the recently deceased. When he gets going, according to SB Nation, the guy can hit 180 decibels, louder than a gunshot, and equal to the explosion of Krakatoa.

This is not the type of person you should be listening to when you’re putting on your drag makeup.

But that’s what I was doing last spring: listening to ESPN hoops while getting ready for a party. I was in mid-eyeliner application when Vitale saw something — a slam dunk? A buzzer beater? Air? — and I stabbed myself. It hurt like hell and I spent the rest of night winking at everything. Somewhere in Salem there’s a very confused barista at Dutch Bros.

Not for the first time, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t listen to sports when I’m painting my face, and not because I’ll go blind. (Mainly a football fan — that sport moves so slow I can plan ahead.)

No, it’s because that just doesn’t seem like something a drag queen does. Indeed, every queen I’ve ever been around has music playing when they’re getting prepped — anything from Lady Gaga to Screamo, Madonna to Nirvana — but never Maradona, as in, Diego Maradona.

It’s no secret that LGBTQ people don’t like sports; the internet is full of explanations why this is so. And, on the rare occasions when LGBTQ people are viewing, they’re merely watching to check out all the sweaty bodies. Makes perfect sense, if you’re into stereotypes. If you’re not, well, it’s crap.

“Gay and lesbian adults are 51 percent more likely than the average adult to watch sports-related videos online and 28 percent more likely to boot up their computer to get their sports news,” a 2013 Nielsen survey states. Why anyone would find this surprising I don’t know.

For one thing, look how often major league football, basketball, baseball and soccer have penalized their players during the last few years for anti-LGBTQ remarks. Even the WWE chastised one of its wrestlers when he called a fan a “fag” and a “queer.” Duh. It’s bad business to insult those who support you (Donald Trump apparently notwithstanding).

More importantly, however, I consider this: I know lots of LGBTQ people, and most of them like sports. Even the ones that don’t live in Eugene, where being a Ducks fan seems almost a legal obligation.

Perhaps it’s because when LGBTQ people celebrate their team, they don’t “look” LGBTQ. We high-five each other with just as firm a wrist as anyone else. We drink cheap domestic beer by the vat just like everyone else.

Yes, when the Ducks football team does some weird freaky Nike thing with their uniforms, we do kind of flip out. Just like everyone else. (Seriously, gay or straight, who’s in charge of those things?)

I say all this with authority as a result of watching a Ducks game at The Wayward Lamb downtown. The bar’s backroom is equipped with a 100-inch projection TV — it’s a great place to watch Ducks football, even if you’re not wearing a bright green-and-yellow dress as I was.

Gay, lesbian, trans: Every letter on the LGBTQ spectrum was there. All the while cheering when the Ducks completed a pass, cursing when they didn’t and complaining about both during the commercials. (Note to Vernon Adams: No matter what you do, you’re not Marcus Mariota, and you’re screwed.)

For those few hours at least, The Wayward Lamb became part of the world’s smallest demographic: LGBTQ sports bar, second only in miniature stature to El Salvadorans named Sven Steenstein. A fact that would be depressing — if it wasn’t irrelevant.

There are sports bars all over Eugene that are LGBTQ-friendly, even if it doesn’t say so on their door. Two of my friends particularly like the Side Bar on Coburg Road. They like the beer, the food and the fact that the crowd calls out “Lesbians!” when they walk in the door, sort of a rainbow “Norm!” in a post-Cheers world.

Even brightly attired drag queens are welcome, she says. I might be able to get away with my orange-and-black dress, assuming the Beavs aren’t playing Oregon. “We never have to hide who we are or who we love,” my friend says.

Sounds perfect. Now if they could just do something about Dick Vitale. — Raina Bowe