Kickball King
Joe Paternoster, 34, Alexandria

By Akeya Dickson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 20, 2006

Joe Paternoster wants you to play NAKID.

Oh, keep your pants on: NAKID is just an acronym for No, Adult Kickball Isn't Stupid, the District's newest kickball league. The 34-year-old Alexandria resident created the local league earlier this year with fellow renegades from the World Adult Kickball Association after a falling out with the mammoth local kickball league.

If you haven't kept up with the saga that is Washington kickball (and, frankly, why would you?), here's the short version: WAKA is suing DCKickball, a more than 1,000-member league founded last year by Carter Rabasa, another former WAKA member and volunteer official. Citing copyright infringement of co-ed kickball rules (we're not making this up) and other complaints against DC Kickball, the suits seeks $356,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

WAKA also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Paternoster, but he and his pals have no plans to abandon their 400-player league. As he prepares for the season, which starts today, Paternoster gives his take on kickball in DC.

What's this explosion in the popularity of kickball about?

I think what's happening is that each league is falling into its own niche. I think WAKA has become the competitive league and DC Kickball is sort of like a scaled-down version of WAKA. We are more of the "party, don't take it so seriously" people that just want to get together and have an excuse to drink and not look like alcoholics.

How many teams are there in your league?

This is only the second season, so we're hoping for 36. Right now we're at 26. . . . I play on three teams: the Cram Stamps, Snakes on a Ball and the Punky Brewsters.

Why does your league play with blue balls?

(Laughs) We thought it was really funny. You can do a whole ad campaign behind the fact that we play with blue balls. Plus, everyone else plays with red balls, so we thought it would make us different.

Did you guys just not get picked for your kickball team in school?

There's a good percentage of people that are pretty good athletes, but yes, I think most of the people who play didn't get picked for teams when they were in school.

Hmmm, so there aren't a bunch of stellar athletes. How would you describe the ideal NAKID player?

Because I'm a guy, it would start with being female (laughs). Seriously, the ideal would be somebody who's just looking to meet a lot of people, who isn't shy about introducing themselves to people and who would want to do a lot of social events. . . . Oh, they would have to be willing to look like an ass while playing and a person who doesn't take life too seriously. A lot of people think that people who play kickball want to be kids again, and I don't think that's it. I think it's just people who want to have fun as an adult, who have a tough job and want to meet other people.

What kind of players don't you want for your league?

I wouldn't say there's anyone we don't want. I would say people who would be uncomfortable with us would be people who are ultra-competitive in kickball. This is a sport you play for an hour and drink for three.

Time for a really serious question: Who's your favorite kickball player of all time?

(Laughs.) It was this girl named Brooke when I was in fourth grade. She had pigtails. I have a thing for pigtails.

Are you going to test for steroids?

(Laughs) Funny that you ask that. If we were gonna test for anything, it would be for flip cup and not for kickball. That's actually the real game, where the pride is. That trophy's bigger.

Did you ever think that playing kickball would lead to a lawsuit?

No. It's hard to meet people in this area and most people just want to have a way to meet people. I don't think most people here think about the business side of kickball.

What do you think about the different leagues settling these disputes with one mega kickball tournament?

I think that would be great! (Laughs.) We consider ourselves Switzerland, so if these guys want to fight it out, they can come to our neutral ground and we'd be happy to host it.

NAKID plays today at 3 p.m. on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. Membership fee $52-$146. 202-251-3711.

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