In the beginning there were singles bars, where the only games were of the pickup variety. Then there was computer dating, wherein a swinging WM Scorpio, into yoga and tofu, could seek the WF of his dreams via videocassette. And now, out of the West, comes Sports Partners, whose aim is to alleviate the loneliness of long-distance runners and the pain of Ping-Pong players without partners.
Sports Partners is the brainchild of Nancy Rumrey of Greenbrae, Calif. About a year ago Rumrey enrolled in a small-business workshop in which an instructor asked, "What do you do all day that you can charge money for?" Rumrey had the answer. She'd spent a lot of time hanging around tennis courts looking for games, collecting business cards of prospective tennis partners and calling friends to arrange doubles games.
"It occurred to me," she says, "that this might be something I could make a business out of." She started last May, matching only tennis opponents until she realized there was a great untapped mother lode out there of people nuts about other sports. By October she was matching folks in everything from archery to weight training.
Since Rumrey expanded to all sports, she has been averaging about 15 applicants a week—they provide such data as sex, occupation, marital status and sports proficiency. The catch is, Sports Partners serves only what she calls the Greater Bay Area, from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. A trial subscription allows unlimited matching for one month for $20. Three-month subscriptions cost $50, and a year's subscription provides matching, free admission to Sports Partners social events and a quarterly newsletter for $150. Out-of-towners planning to visit the San Francisco Bay Area need only call 415-383-7270 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. P.D.T. 24 hours in advance, and Rumrey will find a match if she can.
There's one thing Rumrey won't do. There was this guy, see, and he called and asked for a 35-year-old blonde.... He didn't have to mention what sport he had in mind.