NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Fat Boy League of about 70, primarily Black, fathers and sons compete in a basketball league where the goal is to be the biggest loser and get kicked off the team.
"[You have to weigh] 270 because you want people to look fat. I want to emphasize, you got to look fat," explained Fat Boy League Commissioner Marcus Anderson. "You can't be 270 and cut up...we want you fat, man, that way you know we can we can work towards something...we want to be able to lose weight and have some fun."
The league started in 2020 after its founder, KeAnthony Patterson, saw an encounter in a Nashville park.
"I watched honestly, a group of bigger kids. They were standing on the sidelines and the guys were running up and down the court. So I was asking them why they're not playing. And they said, ‘We didn't get picked,’" recounted Patterson.
The founder said that moment struck him and he knew he needed to do something.
"I had gotten way bigger than I ever thought I would. And it was just, I was tired of not being the athlete that I was," Patterson said of himself and also realized it was relatable to his friends as well. "I just decided I'm not going to sit around and let some of my closest friends just die from literally just sitting around."
He took to Facebook and soon had about 100 men show up for the league in 2020.
When the pandemic hit, the league paused. It took until May 2022 to pick back up again.
"You know how many fat people out there in the world is trying to do some sports and can't get nothing to do? Of course, people look at him different or they don't, you know, they're not as athletic and all that. It's a lot. And they will die from diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension sitting on the couch," said Anderson. "There was a guy who told me that, ‘Before this league all I did was sit on the couch.’ He's lost 20 pounds since the league started [in May]. 20 pounds. So yeah, it makes a difference."
"Some people have been incarcerated. Some people have just been out of the loop of the world, depressed—We got them from all over and they just came together. And say, ‘Hey, I want to play basketball. And and yeah, I'm fat. And yeah, my to say but but I want to be a part of something,'" explained Anderson.
Once a player drops below 270 pounds, they are no longer eligible for the next season but are always a part of the Fat Boy League which also participates in service projects and outings in the community.
"Being overweight, it's hard to lose weight. It really is," stated Anderson. "And then, you know, I knew that if I can get all the guys together, it could be more than just losing weight. We can fellowship we can talk and we can do a lot of outreach stuff."
While the focus of the league is on losing weight and getting kicked off the team for being the "biggest weight looser", they said there is a secondary goal in the Black community.
"It basically is bringing black men together and you know is showing that we can come together and still have fun and not be having no violence and stuff... because we need to change and this is something that’s helping us out a lot," explained league player Edward Thomas.
He said the bigger picture is that the league is doing something positive for the community.
"It starts with us so the younger generation see we try to do something positive so we’re trying to motivate them to do something positive," said Thomas. "Because at the end of the day, if we lead by example, they will follow us and realize that what we doing will benefit them in the long run so that they’re seeing something positive instead of always seeing something negative."
Anderson agreed saying the healthier he is, the more energy he has to pour into positive efforts in the community.
"We're not all bad. We're trying to make a difference. We really are," said Anderson.
The Sunday afternoon family-friendly league has outgrown the gym at the Hadley Park Community Center and is looking for a larger gym to play at for their next season starting in October.
"A lot of these guys are husbands and sons, family guys, and that support really, really means a lot. I know for me personally I love when I see my family in the crowd," said Patterson with a smile. "And that, honestly, that's really all this here is a family atmosphere. I know a lot of people may think big guys yelling, but it's really, we really are a family."
Those interested in joining the league should request to join their Facebook Page.
To donate to the Fat Boy League as they look to expand to a larger gym, donations are accepted at Marcus 22M or KeAnthony Patterson on Cashapp.