Crossing the Finish: STU-S-A, USA, AO, and Other Assorted Letters

“When you can’t run, you walk.  When you can’t walk, you crawl.  When you can’t crawl, you find someone who will carry you to the finish.”

I’ve seen two unprecedented and incredible months of United States Men’s Soccer.  Dramatic stoppage time wins, beautiful flow, shut outs, and the personality of so many players literally spilling out onto the pitch.  I’ve also been a part getting the soon-to-be Bouncing, Badass, Baby Brother Iowa City chapter of the American Outlaws off the ground.  All of that – in retrospect to my life – has led to this feeling like I’m finally running once more and this time, faster than ever.

I make no real attempt to conceal the fact that I was in a pretty low place for a pretty long time and that Soccer has really been a way for me to start clawing and climbing out.  The players, the personalities, the beauty I find in the game, and the family I have found within the community of supporters and players (which feels more and more like a family every single moment of ever single day) really helped me find a light in that dark, dark tunnel.  In a great many ways, it was THEM who pulled ME out, picked me  up, and carried me until I could walk again on my own.  Celtic’s return to the final 16 in the Champions’ League, Seattle’s historic win over Tigres to advance to the CONCACAF Champions’ League, and the USMNT coming into its own under Klinsmann – these were milestones in bringing me back to a place where I could open up and run again.  But the sport is about so much more than hardware and winning.  The Hoops, the Rave, and the Crest all mean so much more than goals and wins/losses/ties… at least in terms of the impact it has had on my life.

Sometimes, I pretend I play.

Sometimes, I pretend I play.

A little over a year ago, I was watching Stu Holden’s videoblog of his recovery from injury as a way of keeping my mind off things.  That led to intrigue, which led me to read a bit more (aka “every article I could find”) about him and his life – which, in turn, led me to start putting things in my own life back together and shifting my outlook from negativity or fear to positivity and hope.  Not exactly the easiest transition to make alone and so night after night, I was watching youtube videos where Stu would tell us how he did his hair or what he made for breakfast all intercut with clips from his rehab… and it made me feel better about life and myself.  Metaphorically, you could say that was him carrying me a bit.

And I got back out there a bit.  As I got to poke my nose around the soccer community, it began to feel like there was a person or event that could directly relate to pretty much everything I felt.  The whole “identity crisis within the gay community” thing I went through was easily silenced in my own head the night Robbie Rogers took the field with LA for the first time (I still maintain that that game only existed for the 84th minute… no other time).

ROBBIE!!!!!

My friends moving and life moving on was easily answered by NEW FRIENDS (imagine that!).  And wanting a community to be a part of and live through and with… well… as if supporting three amazing teams wasn’t enough of that, now there’s this Outlaws chapter in Iowa City that (save for needing a few more people to register [yes, I know, I’m one………. taking care of it tomorrow]) I’ve been blessed to be a part of.

Hats off to AO Portland for the amazing TIFO display.

Hats off to AO Portland for the amazing TIFO display.

And the funny thing is that a year ago, I never thought of any of this happening.  Even then, I was still in a shell and there was such a chasm between me and the sport I used as a way to take my mind off things.  So today, it was full circle.  The story of a man’s triumphs over injury and loss once carried me to the beginnings of a better place.  When Stu hit the turf and began to grab for his knee, I teared up.  FOX cut to him on the bench and I lost it… sitting in the middle of a bar (I hid it well… mostly).  Here’s this guy who’s become my hero who’s hurt.  Here’s this team that has been a beacon of hope for me and you could tell all of their hearts plummeted.  And I felt with them and for them.  I shot Stu a tweet as soon as it happened and the minute it sent, the tears stopped.  Stu’s a fighter and there was a job to finish… and there’s so much more to life than just soccer.

Stu Holden chopsticks

Mix Diskerud subbed in and played his best game in a US Shirt (and though I haven’t seen ALL of his games with Rosenborg, I have never quite seen him play like he did today).  Momentum picked up and even around Donnelly’s, the spirit had returned.  We were laughing about things we saw, getting into the game, and pushing on with all our willpower – not focusing on our fears for “STU-S-A.”  Brek Shea slotted home the game winner and the team did what they had to do to secure the Gold Cup and take the winning streak to 11 games.  The celebration began and was filled with relief, joy, and even more laughter (from coaches, supporters, and players).  Hell, even Stu gave us a little to laugh about (or enjoy as you see fit) when he tweeted out a picture of himself drinking out of the cup and looking all coy in the lockerroom after the game… with Mix in his boxerbriefs in the background.  We all picked one another up for the time we needed to and then we started running once more.  My love with this team and this sport is summed up in a single picture that represents what it’s done for me, what we all do for each other, and what I know at least one bar in Iowa City wanted to do for our “Golden Boy.”

tumblr_mqo5j3M2Gz1s99uaho1_1280

To my family and friends who have come into my life (even if I don’t know you personally), I love you.

Stu buddy, you’ve got heart and fight in you and I know that there’s literally NOTHING that can beat you and you should PROBABLY be offered a role playing yourself in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  I love you, AOIC loves you, no matter what, find away across that finish line.

Landon, EJ, Gooch, Beasley, Brek, Matt, Jose, Joe, Edgar, Kyle, Sean, Bill, Nick, Corey, Jack Mac, Herc, Tony, Clarence, Michael, Michael (there were two), Ale, Mix, Will, Wondo, Alan, and Josh… Love you guys too.  Thank you for bringing me along for the ride AND for letting me bring a bunch of friends too.

AO… well… y’all already know how I feel about you.  Thanks for bringing me in, keeping me humble, hugging me when I need it, laughing with me (or at me), taking covert pictures of dudes on airplanes and sending them to me with a “hot or not?” attached, and coming to visit and watch a game.  Love you guys too!

I’ll give you a song to go out on because I’m in a music mood.

Thank you all for carrying me when I needed to be carried, for carrying those I love, and for running with me and letting me run with you.

No matter what, when you fall, I’ll be there to help you up and I’ll run with you when you’re ready because you’ll be ready… you always are.

Thank God for good food, good Family, fast cars, and Futbol.

Amen.

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