On a recent weekday evening in Chelsea, in a vast, sweltering room, hundreds of sweaty gay men in various states of undress checked out each other’s moves. But this wasn’t “Stud Search” at Splash, it was the spring tryouts for the gay Gotham Volleyball League at a school gym. And tensions were, to put it mildly, high: “I can’t believe I didn’t get picked!” fumed Greg Hughes, a boyishly cute 24-year-old from Inwood, after a league rep announced who’d made the A division. “I’ve played for three fucking years,” he told friends. “I’m the best setter in B!”
“Tryouts are like a cross between fifth-grade gym class and the Miss America pageant,” says state assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, the gay older brother of Rosie, who was an avid player until he got involved in politics.
But despite all the nerve-racking drama (some men relieved the tension by doing impromptu performances of “He Had It Coming,” from Chicago), Gotham keeps growing in popularity. With 700 members, it now bills itself as “the largest gay and lesbian volleyball league in the world” (somewhere in Bangkok, the Thai players from the hit gay-volleyball film The Iron Ladies must be seething). Even for New York, it’s extraordinarily diverse—and people are judged not on their killer looks but on their kill shots.
Well, sometimes. Aspiring theater director Bart St. Clair confessed that his meteoric rise from the Intermediate B to the Advanced 2 division wasn’t entirely due to his spiking abilities: “Two weeks after tryouts, my captain invited me over to his house. I confronted him, and he told me that it was down to a guy who wasn’t cute and me,” he says, adding, “It took me a year to get rid of my ‘crotch pick’ status.”
O’Donnell had a slightly different experience: “The first year I was chosen,” he says, “my captain assured me I was not a crotch pick.”
At the gay-volleyball-league tryouts, “fifth-grade gym class” meets “the Miss America pageant”: Who you calling a crotch pick?