(I did always get picked last for grade school teams. Men skipping rope? Definitely the sign of a Feminized Male in LOG.)
LOG was a haven for two types of men, namely jocks and alpha males, with the two often overlapping. Both tried to claw their way up the “pastoral” ladder so they might be considered for coordinator at some point. They weren’t hard to find; they were the louder, more assertive, and (obviously) more masculine types. Geeks and nerds were in short supply in LOG; salespeople and middle managers were much more common among the men.
They had to have a place to release their testosterone, so LOG obliged with sports. As with many other subjects I discuss in this blog, it wasn’t all bad. In one sense, it was nice just to get together and be Manly; that seems very much Frowned Upon these days.
The trouble was the hyper-competitiveness of it all, and I was just as much to blame for that as any other LOG member. I wanted to be accepted, and I had the mistaken idea that if I did well in competitive sports like softball, basketball, indoor soccer, or even an ill-advised game of tackle football, I would be accepted. For example, playing basketball with the other LOG men could be a grueling and argumentative experience, while playing with some of the inner-city kids from one of the members’ churches was much more enjoyable.
There was an annual summer softball league, and we took it quite seriously. One of my friends’ father broke his leg sliding into second; he had to be taken off in an ambulance. I was playing catcher one game and got so upset that a close play at the plate was called safe that a friend of mine took advantage of my tirade to try to stretch his single into a double. Fortunately, my anger fueled a perfect throw to second to get him. When I came up to bat, I was such an opposite-field hitter that my roommate had everyone on his team go into right field.
I was once playing catcher and made a sprawling catch of a foul ball. Another time when I was a high schooler, I was catching while Dave Nodar was pitching. One of his pitches bounced up and got me in the groin, and no, I was not wearing a protective cup. I turned to my friend Ed Kurek and asked him to take over. A couple of the high school girls were watching and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t tell them.
Here, though, is an illustration of how weird things could get. We would effectively umpire our own teams. I was calling balls and strikes for one of my teammates when the opposing pitcher threw a perfect letter-high pitch across the plate. I called strike three. Nobody ever called a strikeout on their own players, especially looking. I did. Another time, I called a line drive down the right field line a fair ball, but I was overruled by everyone else there. So why even have an umpire?
A few women were upset that they weren’t allowed to play softball. As I mentioned, I was glad it was guys only, but it isn’t like these women didn’t have the ability to play. We had a co-ed softball game for a weekend retreat, and I moved in from the outfield when my wife Sandy came to bat; this was before we were an item. She responded by getting a hit right over my head. She’ll only let me forget about it for short spurts.
After the way the women got treated in other sports where they did play, I could understand if they were no longer interested. The Decker family owned a construction business, and they built themselves an enormous house in Catonsville that had a swimming pool , an AstroTurf tennis court, and a racquetball court, all of which they shared with LOG. Ed Leonard called the house the “Deckerdome.” In the racquetball court we would play “wallyball” , like volleyball except that it used the walls. All the Decker men were tall and athletic. Mike Decker stood 6’7″ and would run all over the wallyball court, shoving anyone who got in his way, man or woman, myself included. These were just pickup games!
The one and only time I played a tackle football game in LOG, I nearly got in a fight with Andy Parrish, a huge guy who would have pounded me into submission with one finger. Fortunately, Andy and I made amends and have been friends since.
The antithesis to all this was a Thanksgiving Day 2002 kickball game held in Baker Park in Frederick, MD. I covered it for my radio station and even played a bit. All ages, both sexes, and various races participated, and everyone had fun; no one took it overly seriously. We need more of that.
 One of my favorite memories of the Decker swimming pool was a singles night during which Fr. Joe O’Meara decreed we could not go in the pool because it would create too much noise for the neighbors. Although I believe he had no business making that decision, he had a point; bordering the Decker property was a set of rowhomes which only served to prove how out of place the Deckerdome was in the neighborhood. So we sat around the pool pouting…except for Ginny McKibbin, who slipped into the pool in her top and shorts and swam underwater for several minutes. Way to go, Ginny!
 I got hit below the belt again during a wallyball game, so even with women on the court, I started singing “We Are Men Of Jesus Christ” in a falsetto.