Thursday, July 30, 2009

Over The Line pt. 1 (2003)

FROM THE ARCHIVES, JULY 30 - This originally appeared in Punk Planet 58. It's written a little clunkily, and there are lots of bad words and disgusting groupings of bad words, none my own. I'm just the messenger in this piece. But be forewarned anyway.


My pal Andy I arrived late for the opening day of the 50th annual Over The Line tournament on San Diego’s Fiesta Island this last July. Cars, pickups, SUVs and RVs had been piling into the outer lots of the 2 square mile island since dawn, and by noon the lanes were clogged. Heat addled rent-a-cops and belligerent, drunkening volunteers with names like “Choo Choo” stood guard over the various entry points into the fenced off parking zones. Here is where we scored the first of several Gentleman Points for the day. Instead of drawing attention to the discrete number 5 on the parking tag that dangled from Andy’s rear view mirror, we waved politely at each refusal and continued on. Almost a thousand parking passes had been issued for the event in sequential order, and a single digit number could only mean close personal connections to the event’s founding fathers. On a distant bank of the island we found a spot on the sandy scrub of the outer road.

Over The Line is held by the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) on two consecutive weekends every summer. Although the name refers to an OMBAC-invented sports mutation, Over The Line the event has blossomed, in the last half century, into an unruly “softball bacchanalia” somewhere on a family tree that includes Mardi Gras and the Philadelphia Mummers parade and St. Patrick’s Day as celebrated by certain ruffian New Yorkers. Later, I would alarm several San Diego friends when telling them where I’d just been. “Oh,” they would say quietly. “Really?…..” To the faithful, OTL is “one of the last pure Southern California traditions left untouched by commercialism”. To many average San Diegans the event is an annual Caucasian nightmare alcohol meltdown.

I’ve never been on an island with thousands of drunk people before, and I hadn’t expected it to be so peaceful. Andy knew the most direct overland shortcut from the road to the games. We crested a small hill and descended into a barren depression of thistle and weeds several football fields long. Fiesta Island is bordered by Seaworld to the south, Mission Bay Park to the east, upscale La Jolla to the north, and the Pacific tranquility of Mission Beach to the west. If I hadn’t known that the entire island had been sculpted from garbage and silt in the 1950’s, I could’ve imagined that we’d gone back in time by a few centuries. It says something about the political muscle of OMBAC that such prime real estate has been left undeveloped. Although there is an alleged sewage-sludge drying facility elsewhere on the island, the place remains a largely wild enclave inside a major US city, a rare “recreational zone” that involves no concrete. We scrambled up another dune and found ourselves staring down at a distant mass of human unruliness. 50,000 people were expected this year.

Andy has been coming to Over The Line since childhood. At the grandstand – “the bracketboard” in this universe - we met up with Andy’s dad Don, a San Diego attorney who looks like a younger, more handsome Stan Lee. Don has been the announcer and chieftain of Over The Line for three decades. Overhead, the flags of the United States, California, Budweiser Racing, Bacardi Rum and POW-MIA fluttered side by side. A steel drum band played on the sand below and, on second glance, I understood that two bears were fucking on the California flag. A trio of wise men dressed as Saddam, Osama and Fidel loitered nearby. We walked around the bracketboard. Don emerged from the back entrance in his white nautical OMBAC blazer with gold epaulettes, looked off into the distance and said “I’m not sure most people get it”. He would be announcing roughly a thousand matches over the course of the twelve hour day.

We headed south as Don’s voice boomed across the throng from battered, 1960’s loudspeakers. Competition is at its loosest on the first day of OTL, and the team names reflect this. These fell into several categories. There were the adolescent (Boner Donors, Hand Starting The One Eyed Yogurt Thrower, I Need A Price Check On Some Extra Large Condoms), the profoundly adolescent (Let Us Jizz On Your Giant Juggs, Snapper Crapper Or Yapper We Stick Em All, We Might Have Small Dicks But Our Wives Have Big Tits), the wrong (J-Lo Is My Dyke Bitch, Is That Your Vagina Or A Roast Beef Sandwich) and the profoundly wrong (Thank God For SARS I’m Sick Of Chinese Food, Help Prevent Rape…Consent). I heard a few teams announced that would have worked as interesting band names (Wolf Noodle Soup, Aged Beef, Jewish Defense League). Is it a coincidence that there was a team called Circle Jerks? If OTL humor shares much of the gleeful offense of hardcore band names, there are strange social force-fields involved. I caught plenty of French bashing, and even a few lingering Monica Lewinsky jokes. But I heard no Reagan Alzheimer’s puns, no space shuttle Columbia humor. I asked Andy if any team names had ever been vetoed on grounds of decorum. He thought about this a moment. “After John Wayne died, I remember no one was allowed to have any teams making fun of him.”

More eccentricities; OTL's ageless "Three B’s Rule" (No bottles, babies or bowsers [dogs]) had been amended to include “No B’whining”. The Two Commandments - “we never have any fun” and “no dumbshit questions” - appeared on hundreds of signs, shirts and hats. If that sounds like a huge in-joke, that’s because it mostly is. Normally when something is this impenetrable to outsiders, I suspect an agenda…. like four hours in I’ll be taken to see a Scientology video. In this case, below the surface was… more surface. I have to admit that the lack of commercialization was startling. This was Halloween for the silent majority.

(PT. 2 posted tomorrow)