02 December 2005

Made for the Super Club

See, the news is a little slow around here, but I imagine you don't just read this for the links to reputable sources, but also for my poorly thought out blather and opinions. So here we go...
The spouse was watching Made on MTV last night, and I caught about the last half-hour of it. Capsule summary? Fat, gay kid wants to play for high-school soccer team. MTV gets MetroStars coaching team to help the kid out with training, practice with the team, and generally get fit. Mo Johnston makes a great cameo on helping the kid receive service from a few corners. Kid makes the high-school varsity team (there are no cuts), but is not a starter. This bums him out, until amid raucous cheers he enters as a sub around the 85th minute. He gets burned, but does later make a pass which may (or may not, could have been editing) leads to a goal for his side.
Okay, now, the "comic" possibilities from a DC United perspective are huge here, and yet I'm going to pass on them all. Let's face it, there was a time in the United States when the worst thing you could be in school was weird, or an ethnic minority. Those times have largely passed, but life ain't easy in high school especially if you are fat. Or gay. And especially both. In the mid 90s, at my high school in suburban Washington, DC, there was a movement to put together a gay/straight alliance. This is a fairly liberal area of town, but there were reports of the occasional student throwing things (empty cups, the occasional stone) at the lesbian that was starting the club. Not an encouraging sign. Life may be easier for high schoolers of non heterosexual orientations, but easier does not mean easy. It's tough. Having parents that aren't okay with your sexuality makes it even more difficult. Add that to the entire body image thing, and you have a recipe for huge amounts of pain.
This kid was not entirely sympathetic even once you put aside the body-type and sexuality issues. He whined... he whined a lot. Even in 20 minutes of TV. He suffered from a huge self-esteem problem. The Metros, to their credit, helped him with that. And one of the biggest lessons that they taught the kid was that whining, while cathartic, doesn't get you anywhere. By the end of the episode, the kid was much less whiny (but still somewhat). He was really, honest-to-god, trying. He doesn't become a starter on the team, and he shouldn't. He probably doesn't even deserve to come in as a late sub, but that sort of thing is needed from a "happy-ending" perspective. But his emotional growth was huge. If he's going to handle the difficulties that his life in high school, and even to a lesser degree in college, is going to throw at him, than the Metros helped him with that. Soccer does that more than any other sport. It relies on you playing a team sport, and when you get burned you let down 10 other players on the field. You've got to be tough to deal with that. Now, he's a stronger personality. Let's face it, the issue of gays in sports is one that's still viewed as a titillating side-note (just read any given Deadspin poll on the issue.) It's a freak-show to some. The Metros know that they are opening themselves to be mocked by others who want to take cheap shots ("Ha-ha! Fat gay kid on the Metros... he'll fit right in!"), and they went ahead with the episode anyway. Good for them. They have helped that kid probably more than anyone has probably helped that kid in his life. I can only hope that DC United would do the same if the kid had lived in Anne-Arundel County. And I hope the kid stays with things, and develops a mental toughness that will serve him well in life, and in places far away from the pitch.


At 02 December, 2005 18:22, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I think attitudes are changing about gays in the general society but sports is an area that could probably change a little quicker. High school is hard even if you're not "different" Sports involves an equality all its own. They do keep score. Sexuality really doesn't matter. On the other hand physical fitness really does. Its something that this kid can change/improve to be successful on his school team.

At 02 December, 2005 19:27, Anonymous Matt said...

Wish I'd seen the MTV show. Oddly enough it seems that most of my soccer teams (HS, College and competitive men's) have had at least one gay player...no one really cared.

Attitudes are changing...thankfully
...because in reality who cares as long as they can play and are good teammates.

One of the coolest things about coaching teenagers is seeing them grow as a person. Especially women with self esteem issues. I've coached a few that have really gone on to cool stuff. Without soccer there's no way they could have succeeded as much.

Soccer is a great sport..love your blogs also.

PS: Sucks that Catolica lost..man I hate Boca...they have no class


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