03 January 2008


JOSH GROS, AU REVOIR: We start with the news of a qualified good-bye to Josh Gros, who is taking a year off and will then re-evaluate his health. We're going to put Josh in the good-bye column on the right, and note that we may say "hello" to him next year. I honestly have no basis to speculate, but we're all agreed that Josh's health must come first, and I would rather he retire permanently than come back in 2009 and put himself at risk for a more permanent injury. I can well imagine that he'll feel the pull of the game over the next season, but he's doing the right thing, and I know most of you feel the same. I also applaud him for the decision he's made in this respect - It would be cheap to retire and then unretire, so this strikes me as an honest decision. It could be permanent, it could be temporary, he simply doesn't know right now. So he has done the honorable thing and made his intentions clear. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Josh Gros.

CHANGE OF VENUES: Dan Loney has some new digs, and they're pretty nice. It's like when you go to your college friend's first apartment house-warming party when he gets his own place - it isn't quite a polished bachelor pad yet, but the potential is there. A few coats of paint, and perhaps the gift of a new toaster-oven, and that place will be swinging. Also, you may recall our discussions of gay athletes and sports, and Dan belatedly has filed his thoughts on the matter. It's a fairly restrained piece, but I find this argument rather simultaneously compelling and wrong (and I'm about to go political here, so feel free to skip it):

There’s no way in hell there’s only one professional gay athlete playing today. There shouldn’t be a gay Jackie Robinson - there should be five or ten, ideally twenty or thirty, crossing every pro sport in America.

Since we’re talking about prejudice, there’s a reason you, closeted gay soccer player, want players from other sports to come out with you. They still think soccer is a gay sport. And not gay in the cool way, where you’re all buffed out and have sex all the time. Gay in the insulting way**.

Now, that may not be a good reason. Taken to its logical conclusion, that turns into “Stay closeted for the good of the sport, and continue to give in to homophobia.” Thus defeating the whole purpose of coming out. I feel like a cretin for bringing this up, as if “the good of the sport” is any kind of valid stance. The game will survive. And the sport has no moral claim on you living your life how you see fit.

While it would be ideal for several gay players to simultaneously admit what we all know to be true, I can't help but be reminded of Eddie Izzard's discussion of the European Union, with a bunch of countries looking at each other unwilling to commit to anything until the other countries do something. And I understand Loney's reluctance for the first player to come out in MLS, but for a different reason. Not that it will reinforce some "only homosexuals play soccer" stereotype, but rather that it wouldn't be major enough to allow players in other sports to feel comfortable coming out. If an active baseball, or basketball, or NFL player came out of the closet, I think pretty much everyone would admit it was a mainstream sports player, and make it easier for everyone else to come out with them. But if tennis star, or NHL player, or MLS player came out, I think people would just note it as something that reinforces the fringe nature of those sports. "Sure, gay hockey players, why not? But that's not a major sport anyway."

So my concern isn't with the health of the sport, per se, but rather that MLS, at this time, isn't really a big enough platform. If, as Loney were to dream it, a bunch of players in all sports were to come out simultaneously, I would hope MLS would be represented. I also hope that no MLS player feels compelled to stay in the closet for the reasons Loney describes, or for that matter, the concerns I have. There's a word my wife likes to use: "heteronormality" which is a close cousin of the word "heteronormativity". It's probably the reason why I feel the way I do, the sort of uncritical acceptance that asking about a player's girlfriend of googling for pictures of their wife is a completely normal and natural thing to do, and that the default position for us to take is that a player is heterosexual. In truth, the default position is that we should have no default position, because until a player tells us otherwise we simply don't know. The TV cameras find Jessica Simpson, or Eva Longoria Parker in the stands, simply because it is expected that male athletes will naturally have female companionship (we'll ignore the issue of women commodified into arm candy for the moment, since that's an entirely different issue). And I simply am tired of it. It's the baseless assumption that annoys me. Pah. I sense that this rant has gone on long enough, so I shall move to something else...

IVES CAMPS OUT ANEW: I briefly met Ives Galarcep during the viewing party for USA-South Africa. He seems like a decent chap, a bit brusque perhaps, but nicer than I expected. Anyways, he's going independent, and writes that he thinks his new venture:

"...may sound like a risky one to some, but the growth of the original SBI, and the support of its readers, gave me the confidence and desire to give this a chance. There is a strong and growing army of soccer fans in this country who are hungry for information and analysis about the sport they love, but who struggle to find that in the mainstream American media. My goal is to have SBI help fill that void."

I wish him all the best, and would offer only this small counter: The need for information is, I think, if not met overwhelmingly at least met stronger and stronger every day by the traditional media. The need for quality analysis, however, remains a relative wasteland. I hope that freed from the constraints of phantom objectivity, Ives can truly provide an independent, in-depth analytical perspective on the game. I always got the sense (such as in his articles about the NYRB front office) that he had to reign himself in a bit as a caveat to the conventions of the newspaper medium. So I look with interest to see what he'll be writing in the future.

YES, IT DOES SUCK: On the United side, the kids at United Mania have an article that accurately sums up where we are to date:

I have no idea what's going on at RFK and can't seem to get anything out of the team right about now. With that being said, there still are about two months until any of us can officially hit any kind of panic buttons in regards to the holes in United's roster at the moment.

It's true, it's damn true. United's roster for 2007 hadn't come together until March (or, perhaps, until the trade of Facundo Erpen and the promotion of Marc Burch). So while I think it is worthwhile to catalog what we need (and we do need to do that here at some point) I think that I'm not worried about us filling those needs... yet. But here's the thing, by the time I would worry, it would probably be when the season has already started, and that could be a fascinating situation.

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At 03 January, 2008 11:29, OpenID j01usna said...

Disagree with your comment regarding that there should be a "no default" assumption. I see the assumption, based on knowing nothing else, as entirely reasonable. The concept of stereotyping has picked up negative connotations because of the assumption that prejudice goes necessarily along with it. However, stereotyping in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, in that it helps process information more quickly. The issue is what we do when confronted with counter-examples to those stereotypes. I'm not proposing that homosexuals are any less people...but when 95%+ of the population is heterosexual (leaving out the morality question, which is a whole 'nother discussion), heterosexuality is a reasonable assumption to make at first glance. If you find out otherwise, you re-adjust from there.

At 03 January, 2008 12:02, Blogger D said...

jo1usna: I understand where you're coming from regarding frequency, but an assumption of sexuality more often than not comes as a conflation of normalcy rather than frequency. To put it another way, the most common first name (I believe) in the United States is James, yet we don't assume when we're confronted with a "Mr. Smith" that it must be a James Smith. Or, similarly, when confronted with a Nurse in a hospital named Smith, while women are more likely to be nurses, we shouldn't take the default assumption that our nurse is a woman. While I understand the argument from frequency, and do not dispute the fact that the heterosexual to homosexual ratio is somewhere in the 10:1 or 20:1 area, I would argue personally that it is irrelevant. The assumption isn't made because of frequency, but rather a concept of what is perceived as normal. At least, in many cases. It is entirely legitimate that if one must make an assumption to make it on statistical numbers, but that raises the question of why must one make the assumption in the first place.

At 03 January, 2008 15:34, Anonymous charlton heston said...

j01usna awesome post.

You are not alone in your perceptions.

At 03 January, 2008 16:06, Blogger Good Governor said...

Josh Gros was a great player to watch and will be missed sorely.

At 03 January, 2008 23:28, Anonymous human said...

Well said, D! Very well said.

jo1usna, one thing that a lot of folks who have not been on the receiving end of this kind of thinking do not understand is how damaging it can be. This goes to the assumption of normalcy thing that D is talking about. If you have a society that take as a base assumption that the default human is white, male, straight, etc. and that to be black or brown, female, gay or bi, etc. is an abberation... then anyone who is any of those things in the second group and has to live in that society is going to be perceived as Less Than. And that is a serious injustice.

At 04 January, 2008 01:43, Blogger tucksider said...

i'm with j01usna on this.

if 90% of people are a certain way, then it's perfectly fair to say that way is the normal way to be. what's not fair is to say that normal is in any way better than abnormal.

there's no way we can drop your "assumption of normalcy" for things that, for the overwhelming majority of people we encounter in our lives, hold true. what we need to drop is the assumption that normalcy is equal to superiority.

i unconsciously assume all people are right-handed until i notice that they're left handed. i don't think this is unfair, and no one has ever gotten upset with me for doing this, because -- these days anyway -- no one considers left-handedness immoral or dirty or whatever.

in my ideal world, someday we'll all feel the same way about homosexuality.

At 04 January, 2008 11:56, OpenID j01usna said...

d: I wouldn't make those assumptions about Mr. Smith or Nurse Smith simply because there is a significantly higher chance of being wrong. I'd put this assumption in the same class as assuming someone from southern Wisconsin is a Packer fan...you subliminally know there's a chance they'd be a Bear fan (or something else entirely), but you're likely to find that they're a Packer fan if they like football. Simply a matter of analyzing typical social patterns.

human: I would disagree with your characterization that our society assumes white and male is "Greater Than." I don't think it works that way for most people, but instead that this is a popular liberal-elitist self-flagellating sentiment. I also think grouping the sexuality question with matters of male/female or race is incorrect because of the moral issues associated with sexuality choices. Male/female and race don't have an inherent morality question, while heterosexual/homosexual/etc. does for many people.

I personally believe that alternative sexualities are morally wrong, but I also believe that this doesn't make any difference as to how I should treat a person. I'm not going to treat anyone as "Less Than" or "Greater Than" based on an initial assumption. After I know someone for a while, I'm going to probably subconsciously make distinctions about who I LIKE better, but again, it doesn't make one greater or less than.
I figure that if I follow this path, then I've really done what I can. If perceptions exist outside of that, there's really very little I can do about it. Characterization as a "serious injustice" is at a minimum overstating the case.

And I'm sorry to see Gros leave...loved his work ethic. :)

At 04 January, 2008 13:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... another DCenters sexuality debate...

"I personally believe that alternative sexualities are morally wrong, but I also believe that this doesn't make any difference as to how I should treat a person."

The sad truth is that it does though. We base our opinions of others on an assessment of their characters based on our own moral outlook (which can change which is why we have these debates) Think about how hard it is to look at someone the same way once you know that they have stolen or cheated on a spouse. We treat people differently when we see them engaged in morally wrong behavior.

So then the fundamental question becomes whether something is actually morally wrong. I happen to believe that homosexuality is as morally right as heterosexuality. I'm pretty much fine with any other expressions of sexuality as long as no one gets hurt.

Sport is a microcosm of society. It is distressing that gay players cannot be themselves and have to fear being outcast and literally harmed because of who they are. I for one would love to see an out MLS player. (and NFL and NBA etc.) Why? Because that would make a whole lot of people have to reassess what they think of as "morally wrong" Would people suddenly not cheer for a player they have cheered for every game because of who their partner is? It will take tremendous guts for the first active player to come out... but it will be a good day and I will cheer heartily at RFK if that player is wearing the Black and Red.

I'd also like to address the whole question of "choices" I've had a friend in tears because he's so upset about being gay and his family would disown him if they found out. The idea that he just woke up one day and said "wow, I really dig that alternative gay lifestyle, let me get some of that even though it could ruin my relationship with my entire family" with all due respect just beggars belief.

To end on a soccer note, here's hoping Gros comes back in 2009 with an new space age head protector and some aerodynamic wrist guards.


At 04 January, 2008 21:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll quickly pile on with Anon K here... to say that being gay is a "moral" issue necessitates that there is a choice involved.

Simply not the case -- scientifically, anecdotally... whatever. Sure, you can "choose to act" according to your nature, but it's your nature nonetheless.

The sports world is the same as any other slice of society. We should accept as "normal" the fact that humans are about 10% gay.

Quick, how 'bout a new post? I here there's a new defender worth talking about...

- rke

At 05 January, 2008 05:30, Blogger tucksider said...

i get what you guys are saying, and i think we have the same ends in mind.

but i would strongly prefer that, instead of incrementally expanding our definition of "normal" until everyone fits inside -- a laborious process which has been ongoing for hundreds of years and is still a long way from completion -- we simply realize that "normal" has absolutely no bearing on an individual's value as a person.

i for one plan to continue assuming any random player is heterosexual -- if i bother to wonder about his or her personal life at all -- and i intend to be pleasantly, supportively, amusedly surprised when i found out which players in particular are not. i don't see what's wrong with making a convenient assumption that will prove true 90% of the time, especially if my overall opinion of the person in question won't be altered at all in those cases where my assumption proves false.

here's an illustration. evaluate which statement about sexual orientation is more surprising:

1) Roughly 1 out of every 10 MLS players is gay.
2) Ben Olsen is gay.

statement 1 shouldn't be surprising at all, because there's almost a 100% chance that it's simply true. statement 2 is more surprising, because there is only a 10% chance the sentence will end with the word "gay."

so of course we'll be surprised when any particular player comes out, and there's no logical reason we shouldn't be.


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