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    Couples Who Play Sports Together Stay Together: Home Run Love

    By John Chen–

    While sporting a skimpy wildcat print speedo, Brian Bussiere flirts and gives big hugs to anyone and everyone at LGBT mainstays such as Folsom Street Fair and the Pride Festival. Nearby, his wife Jessica Ely serves up bottles and bottles of adult libations in a super sexy Victoria Secret-esque corset.

    This fun-loving couple has a penchant for showing off and for showing their love in support of our LGBT community and causes. Recently, for the San Francisco Bay Times, I caught up with this happy-go-lucky softball playing couple and also spoke with them separately about the success of their relationship.

    Originally from Wisconsin, Ely moved to San Francisco in 2004 “just for the hellavit.” She wanted to experience life before settling down, having kids, and tackling all of the responsibilities that come with marriage. At work, her co-worker and gal pal Barbara Pershing strongly encouraged her to play softball on Pershing’s San Francisco Gay Softball League team, the Inferno.

    “My sister was the softball player in the family,” Ely explained. “I just didn’t think softball was right for me as a kid. But, Barb[ara] was relentless in asking me to play, and the only way I could get her to stop asking was to say yes.”

    She added, “In the beginning, I played catcher and had to throw the ball back to the pitcher, who happened to be Barb’s wife Sheryl [Phipps]. Having a track background where I competed in the shot put, I would ‘shot put’ the ball back to Sheryl. The unfortunate part was the ball could never reach Sheryl. After a while, one of the home plate umpires lost his patience and yelled at me to ‘figure it out!’”

    Around 2010, on a fateful girl’s night out, Ely and her friends shared a picnic-style table at a crowded San Francisco bar. She noticed a group of guys hovering over their table. Not long after, the hovering men sat down at their table and the two groups crossed paths. One of the women had her eyes on one of the guys and employed the help of her gal pal by designating her as “wingman,” and the match was successful!

    Bussiere echoed the tale, mentioning that he was on a guy’s night out. A friend designated a wingman and sparks flew—only not as planned.

    “Those two hooked-up that night but never spoke again,” Ely explained. “The wingmen, on the other hand, connected. And here we are nine years later, married and with a dog!”

    “Jess[ica] and I were the wingmen that night,” Bussiere chimed in with a grin. “Our friends hooked up but never talked again and we are married!”

    Bussiere is a native Californian who went to college at Washington State, but he came home to attend the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. Growing up, he played many sports, including baseball, so the transition to softball was relatively easy. Ely never recruited Bussiere to play softball with her, however. Instead, it was Pershing’s wife, Phipps, who relentlessly pursued him to play, and wore him down until he said yes. Apparently, the Pershing and Phipps softball recruiting tandem is formidable and a force to be reckoned with!

    “Playing in an LGBT league is a non-issue for me,” he said. “It was never gay versus straight. I am more interested in playing with quality people and have fun doing so. I love giving and receiving hugs and I get lots and lots of love from everyone, so what’s not to like?”

    He continued, “Playing softball with Jess is like an extension of our nurturing relationship and helps us to be successful. When she feels frustrated, I know what not to say. We take ownership of our mistakes and respectfully help one another through difficulties. We also give lots of high fives and butt slaps, and stay positive. That positivity really helps us at home during critical conversations regarding our relationship. For us, it’s that understanding, nurturing, and fun bantering, that keeps us going both on and off the field.”

    Ely concluded, “Softball gives us structure. We go to practices, games, socials, and fundraisers together. We try to encourage one another all the time, and knowing that we got each other’s back really strengthens our relationship.”

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.