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.