Tag Archive | sports

Rough, manly sport, part 6

Spray painted words on the walls of a house: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

I first wrote about the Assistant Penn State Coach Sandusky child rape charges in Rough, manly sport almost exactly four years ago. I talked about my own school experiences with football culture, hypermasculinity, the closing of ranks, and so forth, and how that continues to put me in an ambivalent position about football. Being a gay kid who was beat up by jocks, harassed and called f*ggot a lot by some school coaches (let alone my classmates), and so forth, well, it’s a bit weird how much I still love to watch football.

Anyway, when the story first broke, we knew that several people who should have been in a position to protect the young boys who came to the university’s football camps had known about Sandusky’s child raping for a while, but there were still those that claimed they only knew of an isolated case or two that they somehow rationalized away as aberrations. Well, that was a load of bull: [trigger warning: sexual assault, child abuse] Unsealed Court Documents: Sandusky Abuse Allegation Was Reported To Joe Paterno In 1976.

There is a special place in hell reserved for child rapists, and Sandusky is going there. But there is a similar place, perhaps a worse place, in hell reserved for people who know about this sort of abuse, do nothing and even enable it. And Coach Joe Paterno is certainly and deservedly rotting in that exact part of hell right now.

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Superbowl superstitions

A thought from Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian (BettyBowers.Com)

A thought from Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Click to embiggen. (BettyBowers.Com)

Betty Bowers is sharing this meme along with a link to an article that says 1 in 4 Americans Believe God Will Decide Who Wins The Super Bowl. Right, because that’s more important than saving starving children. Or something.

Of course, it’s not as if I have much room to make fun of anyone for their superstitions about things like football. Last year on the eve of the big game, I was posting pictures of myself in my old Seahawks sweatshirt that I have been wearing sometimes while watching games for years, and had worn for every game that season, along with pictures of me in my three newer shirts/jerseys, and asking which I should wear for the game. Several friends pointed out that if I’d been wearing “Old Faithful” all season long, that I needed to wear it to the Superbowl, or I’d jinx the team. So I wore Old Faithful, and we won.

But Old Faithful was old, and getting frayed, and was a bit stained, so this year I’ve been wearing the newer 12th Man Jersey I got last year on game days. I rotated through my other shirts (one with the shiny silver ‘Hawks logo, the NFC Championship shirt, Old Faithful, an older grey t-shirt with the older logo) on Fridays before the game, but I wore the white jersey for each regular season game.

Then my husband gave me the #24 Marshawn Lynch t-shirt for Christmas. The next Sunday, I started the game wearing the new shirt. We had one of our worst first halves of a game the whole season. I realized my mistake, and retrieve the white jersey at halftime. We kicked butt and won in the second half.

So, even though my white 12th Man Jersey has two stains that have refused all efforts to remove, today I will be wearing it while watching the game.

I don’t want to jinx us!

They’re beautiful to watch

The 12th Man Logo. Many years ago the Seahawks retired Jersey #12 in honor of the teams fans, since a team is allowed 11 players on the field at a time, while the cheering and support of the fans help as much as an extra player.

The 12th Man Logo. Many years ago the Seahawks retired Jersey #12 in honor of the teams fans, since a team is allowed 11 players on the field at a time, while the cheering and support of the fans help as much as an extra player.

While I’ve written a few times before about my own ambivalent relationship with the game of football, this is not one of those times. Because my team played an incredible game on Saturday, and I’m still bouncing around with joy over the many amazing feats of skill and athleticism that I got to watch (sometimes multiple times–and not always because of replay!).

I grew up in the Central Rocky Mountain region, where most people were fans of the Denver Broncos, Denver being the closest city with an NFL team to most of those places. There were always some people who were fans of other teams for various reasons. After my parents divorced, Mom, my oldest sister, and I moved from the Central Rockies to southwest Washington state. We moved in August of 1976. The same month that a brand new NFL expansion team called the Seahawks started playing their first pre-season games. I came to Washington the same time that the Seahawks came into existence as the state’s NFL team, so I’ve been here from the beginning.

Although I had rooted for the Broncos in the past, I hadn’t been a real fan, because I didn’t understand the game. My dad got extremely angry when I, as a kid, asked what was going on on the field. So I stopped asking. And at school, the correlation between whether a guy was a football player and whether he was someone who bullied me was very high. So it was new friends I met after moving to Washington who explained the game to me as they watched Seahawks games on Sunday afternoons.

I became a Seahawks fan during the team’s first season. And for most of the subsequent 38 seasons, our guys kept finding new and excruciating ways to give us hope, and then snatch it away from us. Which is why up until almost the end of last year’s Superbowl, even when we were so far ahead of the Broncos it was almost embarrassing, I couldn’t let myself believe we were actually going to win it.

So it’s still more than a little bit unbelievable, as we prepare to play the Conference Championship game next week, that we’ve not only managed to put together a really good team and win the whole thing last year, but that we have a reasonable chance of repeating it this year. And some of our guys are unbelievable. Such as Kam Chancellor, who plays Strong Safety on the Seahawks, who usually delivers an astounding performance was especially unbelievable this last weekend.

I mean, just watch this perfectly timed leap:

https://vine.co/v/OpLrwtXqdhg/embed/simple

Anyone who has watched much track and field or a good Parkour athlete knows that the leap itself isn’t unbelievable. What is amazing is the circumstance. In order to do that, you have to correctly guess the moment that the Center on the other team is going to snap the ball. Which they are actively trying to surprise you about the timing of it. If he starts running too soon, he crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped and gets a penalty. If if starts too late, the ball gets snapped a fraction of a second before he gets there, and the lineman will surge up to their feet.

He has to hit his leap in that fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and when the other players react to the snap. He pulled it off, but because of a penalty elsewhere on the play, the referees stopped the game. The ball was moved five yards, everyone got in position again… and even though they were expected it, he did it again!

And that wasn’t even his most amazing play. That was when he intercepted one of their passes at the ten-yard line and ran the ball 90-yards to score a touchdown.

Kam was not the only Seahawk doing incredible things on the field that day. And to be fair, a number of the Panthers did some amazing things. Just not enough.

One of the things I enjoy about the playoffs is that, because it’s only the teams that did best during the year that are playing, and everyone is trying their hardest, you see a lot of good hard playing on every team in every game. So I watched Sunday’s playoff games. Since I used to be a Bronco’s fan, I try to catch their games when I can. I wanted to root for them, not because I want a re-match in the Superbowl, but just for old times’ sake. But the Colts were playing really well. The Packers/Cowboys game turned out how I hoped, since I’ve never liked the Cowboys (for reasons that are no less silly than rooting for the team that just happens to play in your city), but it was also fun to watch.

Humans are able to do some amazing things. Particularly working together. And playing a good game of football requires skills, strength, and endurance, but also quick thinking, strategy, and the willingness to work as a team. So part of the enjoyment is watching people do some amazing, and sometimes breath-taking things. And it can be just as inspiring to watch someone try and almost succeed, only failing because on that play, at that moment, one or more of the players on the other team was just a little bit faster, or a little bit luckier.

Then there are moments, like one time I was watching one of my favorite players, Marshawn Lynch, run one of his impossible carries, where four or five or more of the other guys had tackled him, but they hadn’t managed to knock him down, and he just kept moving, dragging them along. The camera had caught the grim and frightening determined expression on his face earlier in the play. And then at the end, once it was over, Marshawn climbed to his feet, grinning and laughing. He reached down, offering a hand up to one of the guys who had just tackled him. And they gave each other congratulatory slaps on the back before heading to their opposite sidelines.

The fact that we humans can do that, is pretty awesome, too.

Still pinching myself

This is how we riot in Seattle:

We wait for the light to change, even when there are no cars. That’s not just my city, by the way, that’s my neighborhood. That intersection is a short walk from our house.

“Law-abiding street parties are the best ones.” — Deadspin

A couple years ago a coach or player from some out-of-town sports team was issued a jaywalking ticket right outside a Seattle stadium, which made the media everywhere else run stories about how backward and quaint Seattle was for actually considering jaywalking an infraction… Read More…

Rough, manly sport, part 4

We’re in the middle of football season, so I am watching games each week. I’ve written before about the complicated relationship I have with football. This week it was impossible to watch the games without having those issues front and center.

Two Miami Dolphins players have been in the news. Jonathan Martin has left the team, is getting treatment for stress-related illness, and is entering counseling. After which Richie Incognito has been suspended for allegedly harassing and bullying Martin to a level that goes beyond what is expected. Each of them has ended up with a lawyer and who knows where this will end. The voice mail messages and texts that Incognito left for Martin which have been seen and leaked do not paint a pretty picture…

Read More…

Tossing the old pigskin

Sometimes we fail to defy stereotypes. I’m a gay man who enjoys live theatre, particularly musical theatre. I own a lot of purple clothes. I grow flowers. I cry at weddings (and some commercials, certain songs, et cetera). I love to dance.

And I’m a football fan.

I’m a football fan whose spouse really dislikes the sport.

My being a football fan surprises people, particularly after reading about the horrible “why don’t you play football” incident in eighth grade, and other things I’ve written about football culture. Well, my relationship with football is complicated.

Most of my childhood memories of football involve trying not to annoy my dad while he was watching his games. I remember once or twice asking him questions while he was watching a game, because I didn’t understand what was going on on the field, but he told me to stop interrupting him. In years since people have expressed surprise that a football-loving father wouldn’t teach his son the game. It’s entirely possible that he tried when I was younger, and I hadn’t been interested. Our relationship was rocky since before I can remember, so who knows?

The upshot was that I didn’t really understand the game. Being in band I had to attend games and we would march at halftime, but it wasn’t until my junior or possibly senior year that some friends sat me down and explained the game. Then I started enjoying it.

While I was attending community college and living with my maternal grandparents, I started watching college football with my grandpa on Saturdays. Then on most Sundays I would watch the Seahawks with friends.

I continued watching the Seahawks fairly regularly until Ray and I moved in together. Ray couldn’t stand football, so I only watched it occasionally while he was alive. Not long after I started dating Michael, he admitted he didn’t much care for the game, either (for instance, last week when I mentioned that kick-off was in 25 minutes, he sighed, rolled his eyes, and asked, “Is that some sports thing?”).

For many years it was easy to fall out of the habit of watching football. I would still occasionally talk about games with a few people. I would skim the news for information.

A few years ago, I wound up watching a play-off game, and I quite enjoyed it. I’m still not a hardcore fan, and we often have plans for Sundays. Fortunately, between TiVo and the ‘net, I can catch games I miss.

I’m still not a hardcore fan, but my TiVo is programmed to record games by my favorite team, just like last year.

See you at kickoff!

Just us guys

How upset some guys get about sharing locker rooms and showers with gay guys would be funny if it didnt lead so often to harassment and assault.

I just want to ask them a simple pair of related questions: are mobs of women you don’t know throwing themselves at you, trying to jump your bones? If not, why do you assume that every gay man is going to be trying to force themselves on you?

There’s an answer, but it isn’t a very pretty one. The truth is that the kinds of straight guys who are weirded out/uncomfortable/angry1 at the thought of having to share a locker room, shower, or even a gym with gay guys know how they treat women they are attracted to. They assume that all straight men think that way about women, so they also assume that all gay men will think that way about them.

And they don’t like it2.

That’s not the only source of their discomfort. There’s also the loss of the “just us guys” environment—a space where guys are safe to be guys. A place where they can scratch where it itches, can make inappropriate jokes, and generally be uncivilized. It would be easy to point out how a little less uncivilized behavior, along with less affirmation of a lot of sexist attitudes, would be a good thing in the long run. And I think it will be a good thing over time.

But there is also some value to that safe place. Just as it is valuable for women to have safe places to talk about their issues without guys like me saying, “Hey! We’re not all like that” or other guys “man-splaining3.” And it’s valuable for gay people to have safe places to talk about our issues without other people insisting they’re “not all like that” or trying to “str8-splain.”

Guys need places where they can be guys.

Now, I’m the first to say that a lot of what currently is presumed to be “guys just being guys” is awful and needs to change. Even when I was participating in several sports back in middle school, there was a certain amount of dread that fell on me whenever it was time to go to the locker room, or go out on the field. Any time you screwed up or failed to be as good at something as another guy, you were called a faggot, or queer, or pussy.

And that was only the nicer coaches5.

The mean coaches and the other kids called you c*cksucker, bitch, and c*nt—in various combinations. One of my middle school tormenters was fond of “c*cksucking, sh*teating fag.”

Guys of all sexual orientations and abilities are harmed by those notions that equate masculinity with athleticism, sexuality, and competitiveness. This notion enforces the hierarchy that equates the amount of respect one is entitled to is determined by the degree to which one possesses those masculine traits (which means that women will automatically never be able to expect as much respect as a man). Even the guys who have found success by embracing this notion have done so by contorting their personality in various ways, cutting themselves out of a lot of what’s great about being a person along the way.

So shaking up that definition is a good thing.

But it doesn’t have to mean that all distinctions between masculine and feminine are going to go away. It doesn’t mean that those of us in the LGBT community think they should6. It just means that there are a lot of different kinds of guys—lots of different ways to be a man. And all those different kinds of guy can hang out and be one of the guys, and all of the guys can be okay with it.

At least I hope so. Because my husband hates it when I start talkin’ about football, and I just need somewhere that I can…


1. Angry in this case is just code for afraid. Guys aren’t allowed to be afraid, so our subconscious transforms the fear into anger.

2. One would hope that this discomfort would help some of them to see that maybe they should start thinking of women a little differently, no?

3. mansplaining: condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with a rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation4.

4. Some people define mansplaining exclusively as that sort of condescending explanation by a man to a woman, especially about topics related to women’s rights, and so on. But a lot of mansplaining is guy-on-guy. And none of us are immune. Guys are socialized to be confident and assertive, no matter what.

5. The coach who taught Sunday school and who made you put a quarter in the swearing jar on his desk if he heard you say “hell” or “damn” used “fag” so much, you began to wonder if he thought it was a punctuation mark. And don’t get me started on the teacher who was also a pastor.

6. I suspect some trans people have more to say about that than I possibly could.

Rough, manly sport, part 3

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay.”

Jason Collins isn’t the first professional athlete to come out of the closet. But he is the first male member of one of the “major league” sports to come out while he is still playing in that league. For many reasons it shouldn’t matter. But as Martina Navratilova (who came out as lesbian while still competing in professional tennis years ago) asked, “How many LGBT kids, once closeted, are now more likely to pursue a team sport and won’t be scared away by a straight culture?”

The Atlantic has a great article about why sports journalist haven’t reacted much to any of the WNBA players who have come out over the years, while Jason’s coming out has prompted reactions ranging from publications congratulating him to a reporter insisting that God doesn’t approve.

The thing I found most interesting and troubling in the Atlantic’s article is a quote from a spokesperson for the gay student sports advocacy group, You Can Play. He talks about how incredibly hard it is for them to find straight female professional athletes who will join any of their campaigns. Straight women athletes spend so much energy battling the assumption that they are lesbian, that they don’t want to do anything that might imply they are.

And the reason people assume that woman playing basketball, softball, soccer and the like “must be” lesbian is because basketball, baseball, football, and hockey are considered the epitome of masculinity and machismo. Which is why so many people are threatened by the notion of a gay man playing those sports. And it is threatening. You wouldn’t have players issuing statements that “they wouldn’t be welcome” if they weren’t threatened.

Even the mild, “don’t they realize sex is private?” reaction is a sign of feeling threatened. If sex is private, why do straight athletes introduce people to their wife and kids? And before you say that marriage isn’t about sex, I want to point out that the group fighting most viciously to keep gays and lesbians from getting the right to marry argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court just last month that the primary reason marriage needs to remain a heterosexual right is because only heterosexuals can unintentionally procreate. The argument doesn’t make any logical sense, but all of their arguments insist that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, in other words, sex. And if you’re okay with straight male athletes being seen in clubs with women, dating women, living with women, getting married to women and have children with them, then you don’t sincerely believe that sexuality is private.

And then there’s the football player who was tweeting about how immoral and against god’s law gays are, which is why he doesn’t want any on his team. Because that player has been living with a woman to whom he is not married for a few years—a woman who he has been arrested for battering, and who has kicked him out of the house more than once for fooling around with another women. And why is he worrying about other people’s morality, again?

Those bad reactions should really be the only answer anyone needs to the question of why such announcements are needed. People shouldn’t have to lie about who they are. People shouldn’t feel afraid to be who they are with their own teammates. Everyone should be equally free to talk about their girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, et cetera.

Since we aren’t there yet, you do have to consider who’s really the more courageous: the one gay guy on the team who finally is tired of living the lie, or straight guy surrounded by other straight guys who is threatened to the point of anger at the notion of having a gay teammate?

Rough, manly sport, part 2

So there I was, hanging upside down, flailing ineffectively as the bigger kid shook me, called me names, and most of the other kids laughed.

Read More…

Rough, manly sport

On the first day of school my eighth grade year, instead of having each of us go to our final period class at the end of the day, they had all the girls go to the library for an “assembly,” while all the football players went to the gym for a pre-practice meeting. And they told the boys not going out for football to report to the math teacher’s room.

It was a small town middle school: sixth, seventh, and eighth grade totaling a bit less than 200 kids, about half of them boys. There were only eight boys out of that 100 who were not going out for football. So the eight of us sat in the room, not sure exactly why we were there, or what we were supposed to do.

And then the principal walked in.

Read More…

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