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The (Slightly Fading) Allure of Beer League Sports


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Summer beer league softball and kickball are time-honored traditions. Almost sacred. They connect us to our national pastime, to the Yankee Clipper and Say Hey Willie Mays. They are our chance to show our dedication to this beautiful reflection of America’s Game, and to America herself, and to be real athletes.

Or something like that.

“Hey Séanalee!” the manager of a Boulder Kickball League team called Jurasskick Park yells into the dugout. An expectant tone in the manager’s voice clearly conveys the message that he expects the young woman to jump when she’s called.

There is no response.

“Hey Séanaleeeeeee!” bellows the manager again. This is on a recent evening at the East Mapleton ball fields.

“Séanalee” is Séanalee Flaherty, a delightfully loud spark plug of a woman. She is a fairly typical beer league player: she shows so much enthusiasm and dedication to the game that, running the bases, her left shoe falls off—but she doesn’t show so much enthusiasm and dedication to the game that she is willing to put down her beer long enough to tie her shoes. Séanalee is currently just outside the dugout, talking to her friend Caitlin about how much the ballfield bathrooms smell.

“SÉANALEEEEE!” the manager yells.

Finally she hears her name.

“What!?” she yells.

“Do you want to play!?” the manager asks.

“I don’t care!!” she yells back.

Yes, this ain’t the big leagues. These are the beer leagues.

There are dozens of casual meet-ups for volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and other sports built for summer and beer. Many can be found through Meetup.com. But the official beer leagues in this area occur chiefly in Boulder, where the city has a license to allow beer in the dugouts of the fields at East Mapleton and Stazio. (Most other cities in the area don’t.) In the Boulder beer leagues—kickball and softball—it takes 10 fields operating four nights a week to accommodate the roughly 4,000 people who come out every week to play in the beer leagues, which…

“It’s not a beer league,” interrupts Megan Lohman, who coordinates these programs for the City of Boulder.

“What?”

“Beer isn’t the point,” she says again. “The point is to go out with your friends and have fun. It’s not a beer league.”

“What is it, then?”

“It’s a league with beer,” she says.

Right. You can tell.

You can tell it’s a league with beer when more effort goes into the costumes than the game.

You can tell it’s a league with beer when the entire pre-game planning is not about strategic base running or “hitting the cutoff man,” but making sure that everyone remembers to show up wearing this week’s theme clothes—either dresses or jorts or capes or swimsuits.

You can tell it’s a league with beer when one of the biggest challenges is getting the right ratio of the two currently officially recognized genders (male and female, until further notice). Most leagues make you have something close to an even number.

You can tell it’s a league with beer when the teams spend more money on booze—per game—than they spent on their gloves, and possibly more money than they spent on their last home renovation.

You can tell it’s a league with beer when the players are careful to avoid a number of classic exercising “missteps,” such as burning more calories than you ingest, which can lead to dangerous thinness. No one trusts a skinny person, and winds can become treacherous.

Plus, beer makes you excel at the part of the game that is actually the point of any league with beer—having fun.

For Scott Potter of the Boulder kickball squad the Rocket Dogs, the point of the league is wearing a comically large manta ray hat on his head. Last week he wore a cheeseburger. The weeks before, an octopus and a jellyfish. The Yankees are considering similar attire.

Another point of the Boulder league with beer is thinking of clever beer-related nicknames, which include: Loaded on the Bases; I Got 99 Problems but this Pitch Ain’t One; Booze on First; and Pitch Please!

The other main points of beer league sports, according to years of diligent research performed by the author, include falling down in front of pretty girls, dropping balls when the game is on the line, and making sure that there is some other kind of beer besides PBR, which is made out of hops, yeast and frog urine. It is also extremely important to sing “We are the Champions,” even after losing, and to remember where you last set down your can of frog urine. A woman named Caitlin Murphy says her role on her kickball team is like the designated hitter, except she’s the “designated drinker.” “I’m the best player on the team at my position,” she says. She and the author mostly sit in the dugout and watch.

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