Local sports enthusiasts still recovering from Washington's losing bid to host the 2014 Gay Games may have cause to cheer this weekend. From Oct. 8 to 11, the DC Gay Flag Football League is hosting the Ninth Annual Gay Bowl, the National Gay Flag Football Tournament, welcoming 450 players from 20 teams, from 18 different cities.
''It's a great opportunity for people who might be a little disappointed to come out and enjoy themselves and meet people from all over the country,'' says John Williams, co-chair of the event.
He's also a player.
Williams plays defense with the Washington Monuments, one of two gay flag-football teams in D.C. The other is the DC Metros.
''This is the fifth year that I've participated,'' he says. ''It's my favorite weekend of the year.''
Like most gay sporting events, the Gay Bowl is not limited to GLBT people. Straight people can also play.
''The idea is that it's an inclusive tournament that has a GLBT focus,'' says Williams, who is gay. ''It's predominantly gay, yet straight people are allowed to participate and there's certain regulations as to how many straight people can be on a team, and how many can be on a field at once.''
Play is scheduled for Carter Barron Park, at 16th and Kennedy Streets NW, during the day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. A detailed schedule is available at www.gaybowl9.net.
The Washington Monuments won the Gay Bowl in 2003 in Boston, and 2004 in Atlanta, while the DC Metros just started participating in the Gay Bowl in 2007, in New York City.
According to Williams, out of the 20 teams playing this year, the Monuments rank fourth and the DC Metros rank 11th.
''In a sense, this is the national championship for gay flag football,'' Williams says.
But don't let the fact that it's flag football mislead you into thinking it's any less of a sport than regular football, Williams adds.
''Of course it does not have the rough and tumble of full-contact football, but it's a pretty physical game,'' he says. ''Everyone is very seriously competitive. I've played for about five years, and by the end of the weekend I'm pretty sore and bruised. I definitely end up on the ground several times. It's still pretty exciting.''
To give out-of-towners something to do at night, Williams and other members of the DC Gay Flag Football League have several parties and events planned out. The events officially start with a kickoff party and registration at Nellie's Sports Bar on Thursday, Oct. 8, followed by an after-party at Cobalt. Friday night includes a happy-hour event at Duplex Diner, followed by an evening gathering at EFN Lounge.
Sunday sees the Gay Bowl's private awards ceremony on the Roof Terrace of the Kennedy Center. The weekend ends with a closing party at Ziegfeld's/Secrets.
Williams says the Monuments, who play every Sunday at Francis Junior High School, will also use the weekend to recruit new members.
''We're looking for people who are interested, and we're looking at this Gay Bowl as an opportunity to let people know we're here, for all skill levels, and to get new people out.''