The day of the first game of American football ever played in Chongqing, China, Fat Baby held court in the locker room at the stadium of Chongqing Southern Translators College. "Stadium" would be generous, actually—it was a soccer field with stone bleachers. So would "locker room," in reality a pile of clothes and equipment strewn across the benches. Even "football team" was arguable, come to think of it, but that's what the Chongqing Dockers were there to prove.
Fat Baby and his teammate Bobo had just returned from a trip to Japan, where they'd bought matching Under Armour skullcaps. "You can't find these in Chongqing," he said proudly. One of the team's founding members, Fat Baby (his real name is Zeng Xi, but like most of the teammates he goes by his online nickname) juggled the roles of wise elder (he was 29) and class clown. He first got into football after watching movies like The Longest Yard—the 2005 Adam Sandler remake, not the 1974 original.
As game time approached, Fat Baby slipped on his favorite pink cleats. It didn't look easy—he called himself Fat Baby for a reason. Later, I asked if the pink cleats were meant to scare his opponents. "Yes," his wife, Yangyang, interjected, "they're scared he'll fall in love with them." Yangyang, tall and matter-of-fact, wasn't a football fan. "I hate sports," she told me. But as a nurse, she supported Fat Baby's passion to the extent that it would help him lose weight.
[Photo Credit: Matthew Niederhause]