“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 4, 2014
Friday night is soccer night in Detroit. Detroit City FC is hosting the Erie Admirals, which promises to be an exciting night. Erie is the team that eliminated DCFC from the playoffs last season, sparking an instant hatred of that team by supporters.
Sports are interesting, aren’t they? The pitting of two teams, and their supporters, against one another in competition creates a dynamic whereby rivalries and grudges are created. University of Michigan fans and Michigan State University fans hope for in-state bragging rights against the other. The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry is one of the top of all time rivalries in any sport. The professional sports world experiences them, too, such as the Yankees/Red Sox in baseball, Redskins/Cowboys in football, Leafs/Canadiens in hockey, and Celtics/Lakers in basketball. We have soccer rivalries here in the US – Portland Timbers/Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes/LA Galaxy are a couple that come to mind. But over the pond, where soccer is even more prominent and proximate, there are some heated rivalries, called derbys (pronounced “darbys”). Manchester United and Manchester City. Liverpool and Everton. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Arsenal and Tottenham’s stadiums are only five miles apart. Someone once said that you could change your home, change your job, even change your spouse, but you never change your soccer team.
Last Friday I drove to Cincinnati where my sister and her family live. DCFC battled the Cincinnati Saints, and my sister and two of my nieces attended the game. I sat with the traveling Detroit supporters, while my sister and her kids stayed true to their hometown team. The banter prior and subsequent to the match was fun.
This Friday will be interesting also because the Detroit City FC players will be wearing special jerseys promoting the “You Can Play” project which creates a welcoming and inclusive environment in sports for athletes to be judged on their talent, heart, desire and work ethic and not discriminated against because of sexual orientation. The jerseys will be auctioned following the game with a portion of the proceeds to go to the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, Michigan, which provides short and long term residential support for runaway, homeless, and at-risk gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth.
Parents rejecting sons and daughters for prejudicial reasons is not a new phenomenon. People have a hard time understanding and accepting someone from a different culture or different religion or different race or different sexual preference than their own. Parents believe they instill their values in their children. So when one’s offspring brings home a date who is not of the same religion or nationality, or skin color, or if their date is of the same sex, the parents feel rejection and failure. If anything, these parents should be proud, for they have taught their child that love and acceptance isn’t limited to people who look like, think like, and/or believe like them. Love transcends those artificial barriers.
There’s a lot I don’t understand. I don’t understand how people proclaiming to be Christian would deny a couple the right to marry. Sure, if you believe it is against the narrow tenants of your religion, then deny them a ceremony. But don’t deny them the right. I don’t understand how one’s sexual orientation affects his or her potential to be a great family member, employee, athlete, or all around human being. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr. from his legendary speech, we should judge people by the content of their character. I liked the way the Northern Guard Supporters phrased it on their Facebook cover photo, “If they wear our crest, they are family. Regardless of who they love.”
Former Columbus Crew/current Los Angeles Galaxy player Robbie Rogers publicly came out in February, 2013. The NFL’s St. Louis Rams drafted openly gay, Michael Sam, this summer. Brave men and excellent examples of organizations accepting players for their talents on the field. Add to that DCFC who, on the eve of Motor City Pride weekend in Detroit, embrace the “You Can Play” philosophy and help raise funds to help those shunned by their families.
Sports rivalries encourage hatred for those on the other team. But this is just sports. We can go into the night hating and verbally abusing the Erie Admirals. But in the end, we’re not going to disown our family and friends simply because they root for the opponent. My sister still let me spend the night at their house after DCFC beat their Saints. Similarly we should not disown our family and friends merely because they are of a different sexual orientation than ourselves.
I hope we trounce those bastards from Erie. And I hope I win a silent auction, too.