Pictured: Sam Coady at the 2006 Gay Games Opening Ceremonies. Photo by Ross Forman
The cameras will be rolling, literally, at the 18th annual Coady Roundball Classic ( CRC ) —the largest and longest-running gay and lesbian basketball tournament in the world—set for Sat.-Sun., April 5-6 at the University of Illinois-Chicago gymnasium, 901 W. Roosevelt.
Logo, the gay-driven cable TV station, will descend upon Chicago to film the San Francisco Rock Dogs for an upcoming reality TV show about the team.
'This will be amazing exposure for our event, and certainly will make the basketball more interesting,' said James Simmons, 29, of Chicago, who serves as the tournament publicist. 'I'm sure all of the other teams will step up their play—because it is the Rock Dogs and there will be cameras there filming the games.
'It definitely will be an interesting tournament.'
The CRC is a National Gay Basketball Association ( NGBA ) -sanctioned event and serves as the National Gay Basketball Association Championship tournament. And the Rock Dogs are the defending champions, not to mention gold-medal winners at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.
'The Rock Dogs are pretty awesome, just fun to watch,' said Simmons, a three-time CRC player who will watch from the sidelines this year due to a knee injury. 'The Rock Dogs have some former college players and a few who even played professionally [ in Europe ] .
'To me, the Rock Dogs represent a new generation of LGBT athletes—they're gay, they're good and they're out. They are visual progress toward social acceptance.'
Are they beatable?
'Rarely, but yes. New York gives them a run for their money quite often. Long Beach does as well.'
The CRC attracts some of the best LGBT players from across the country, and also a few international athletes. ( The London-based team that has participated for the past three years is not playing this year. )
Still, the CRC has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. Prior year tournaments have featured 25 teams. This year, there are 28 teams, with the possibility of more being added before play begins, Simmons said. There are one female and three male divisions, with players representing cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Memphis.
'This tournament definitely shows that there are lots of LGBT basketball players,' Simmons said. 'We're playing at a top-notch facility and some of the [ event ] organizers have been around for all 18 years.
'This tournament definitely draws the best LGBT players from around the world; they want to come to this tournament to, hopefully, become the NGBA champion. If [ your team ] wins, you're the best team in the nation [ and, ] arguably, the world.
'The tournament has the highest level of play you can get in gay basketball.'
Sam Coady, the namesake founder of the annual event, will be playing in the B Division, which has 16 teams, the most of any division. There are seven top-tiered A Division teams, such as the Rock Dogs. There are four Recreation Division teams and four female teams. About 280 players will participate, and the level of play is expected to be, 'equal to, or a little higher, than past tournaments,' Simmons said.
Some of the best Chicago-based participants are Matt Reuer, Ted Cappas, Mike McRaith and Kevin Blair.
'One of the best parts of this tournament—much more than any other LGBT sports tournament or league—is that the players are like a family,' said Simmons. 'And that family truly spans the rainbow—there are Blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, truly a little of everything. And there usually is a mix of cultures on the court at the same time, which is great to see, especially since no one even bats an eye at [ the diversity ] or even really thinks about it.
'Basketball for me is far more racially-integrated than other sports.'
Simmons said about 80 percent of the players are LGBT.
'This is one of the marquee gay sports, not just a marquee event in basketball,' he said.