'AN EXTENSION OF SUMMER CAMP' The PKL crew.
Though they put two runs on the board in the first inning, Beyond Wrestling — an independent wrestling cooperative based in Providence — has struggled for most of the game, and they’ve found themselves trailing the Providence Kickball League All-Star team by three runs with only one inning to play. It’s week seven of the PKL season, on a sweaty afternoon in Dexter Park on Providence’s West End, and it’s been a pretty slow game, so far. But as Beyond Wrestling’s leadoff kicker — a bald, jittery man the game’s announcers have nicknamed Professor Xavier — comes to the plate, the contest starts to live up to its billing. Professor X. promptly pops out, and then rushes the outfielder who made the catch. Benches empty, both teams pour into right-center, and a brawl begins, to the considerable delight of the many heat-drunk fans and other PKL players in attendance.
This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for members of Beyond Wrestling. They take their craft seriously, and most matches are attended not by fans, but by other wrestlers who study and critique the performances. (“Wrestlers wrestling for wrestlers,” their website declares.) So it makes sense, then, that as the two teams collide on the field, a few people are hoisted in the air and there are several pilings-on. But no one is hurt; the anger is practiced, feigned. The mob soon softens into a gaggle of guffaws and celebratory hoots before members of the crowd get close enough to start snapping pictures.
When the next kicker steps to the plate, a team-on-team dance-off is declared, apropos, it seems, of little more than the desire for a dance-off. It’s a freeform affair: points seem to be awarded based on the élan of the performance, with a few extra marks added for the loss of articles of clothing. It results in an award of three runs to Beyond Wrestling, which ties the game.
So it goes in the Providence Kickball League, whose members and fans gather on summer Saturdays for roughly six hours of costumed kickball competition. This year’s teams include the Cereal Killers, the Bath Salt Heroes, the Glamazons, and the Trippin Marios, whose members dress the likeness of various characters from Nintendo’s Mario video games. Players are encouraged to come in costume, some drink on the field, and the opposing team regularly douses runners rounding third with what may or may not be water. “Get drunk, have fun,” is the advice given to me by more than one player.
Hang around for a game or two, though, and this frat-boy mantra actually turns out to be a more genuine entreaty for a few hours of good-natured, half-naked, barely-competitive fun — all of it among a bevy of Providence’s artists, designers, bartenders, lawyers, medical technicians, and at least one Brown professor.
“F-U-N,” says A. J. Paglia, the league’s graphic designer, occasional play-by-play announcer, and member of the Jedi Mind Kicks.
“A lot of the teams have different themes,” he explains. “My team is a bunch of people that are getting together to lose weight for the summer. The goal is to have fun, and just get outside and run around for a little bit.”