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.

I’m Home and the Party’s Already Going!

Cue up the AC/DC, boys and girls!  I’m back!

So it’s been a few months.  First off, I’m glad to see you’re all doing well but let’s be real, I’m just glad you’re all back to shower me with views and accolades about letters in patterns that I put on the interwebz because it makes me feel good and I love attention (and SLIGHT sarcasm… but I mean… attention’s kinda my thing too).

So I’m back.  And it’s good to be home.  So that’s where I’m gonna make a segue…

It's a pun... and I've been watching a LOT of Arrested Development recently.

It’s a pun… and I’ve been watching a LOT of Arrested Development recently.

(GET IT? GET IT?!?!  I’ve been watching a LOT of Arrested Development… sorry for the pun)

The past few months have been pretty awesome as I’ve started to explore a ton of things about life, writing, nerding, soccer, and myself and a through-line that began to emerge is this idea of “Home.”  Now this is not to say that Home is not where my family is (because it is) but I’ve come to realize (or I’ve maybe just DISCOVERED) that my Home encompasses a whole lot more than where Mom and Dave live.

The concept has begun to feel like a living, breathing entity more than a simple building.  It’s taken on the form of a worn in spot on the left hand cushion of my best friend’s sofa, the chat window on Facebook belonging to my other best friend that is filled nearly daily with some of the best conversations I’ve ever had, any place my brother is, and any place there is soccer.  It doesn’t stop there as all things living will eventually grow and expand and change.

Probably one of the coolest gifs on the web

Probably one of the coolest gifs on the web

I make no secret some of the stuff I’ve wrestled with over the past few months, specifically a feeling of “displacement” as well as a struggle with defining myself to a set term or word to explain something.  So, like all writers and creators who come up against a brick wall, I started to find ways around it and explore “the scenic route.”  For the first time in a loooooooong time, the long way around felt like it was the RIGHT way.

I’ve developed some of the best friendships I have had in my life (even though sometimes, there can be patches of turbulence) and even learned to be a bit more patient – instead of worrying, finding things that matter me to put my attention and effort into.  And, of course, I’ve found the one community that has truly felt like a community or a home for strange, weird, slightly-off-kilter, me.

I'm an odd one, I know... I still find this HILARIOUS.

I’m an odd one, I know… I still find this HILARIOUS.

The most recent thing I’ve been involved in has been the formation of a brand new chapter of the American Outlaws (USA Men’s National Team [Soccer] Supporters) – this time, in Iowa City.  In the space of two games (and a span of barely more than a week), I’ve been blessed to meet scores of new people and be in two different bars in Iowa City where the world basically stopped when the US scored.  Everybody is different and everybody comes to the community from different histories, pasts, and backgrounds and the most amazing thing about it is that our uniqueness feeds our camaraderie and our camaraderie makes us Family.  Just like how I have discovered that my idea of Home is more than just a building, Soccer in America is more than just the game (and more than “just soccer”).  It’s a common bond, a Crest to wear over your heart, a flag to fly high, a bar stool to stand on and sing, and the people you meet who love it as much as you.

… This is where I’m supposed to put the Chapter Picture of all of us, right?  So about that… we all forgot (for the second game in a row) to take one so NEXT Tuesday, I’ll be either putting up a new post or just editing this one with the picture we’ll get there… sorry about that one.

Through the turbulence, the fun, the not so fun, and the everything in between of the past few months, I’ve found myself in a place where the things I once had concrete ideas of are being entirely redefined and I think that’s something to take away from the whole of Life for everyone.  Nothing is ever as simple as we try and make it and the moment we open ourselves and our minds up to that fact, we begin to find the truly special things that we will carry on for years to come.

To the soon-to-be Founding Members of the American Outlaws: Iowa City Chapter, I am Proud to be counted among you.  To all Outlaws, Emerald City Supporters, Green Brigade members, and soccer fans/players/coaches in general, I thank you.  I wrote in a post for a friend’s blog about how I feel I’ve finally come Home.  Thank you all for letting me walk into my Home to find a party already going!

Need a Kick?

To be quite honest, the quote that inspired this post came out of a conversation about Jungian Personality Theory and how Jung differed from Freud.  (Yes, I have INSANELY SMART FRIENDS).

“Freud just needed some good dick and a few spankings.” – One of my closest friends.

On top of the joy that quote brought me, it also got me thinking about what exactly has happened in my life over the past few months to get me where I am today.  Yeah, you could say that, upon retrospectively viewing the past 9 months (or so) of my life, there’s been a pretty seismic shift in my outlook on the world, general mood, and even my writing (all of which have been trending steadily upwards).  Obviously, there are about a million and three different things in my life now when compared to back then.  A great majority are good things and I’m incredibly happy where I am and where I’m going.  But sometimes it’s what our Souls need that really stands out among all the changes.  And unlike Freud, I’m quite alright without the spankings…

The other “inspiration” for this post is that I am supposed to write a piece about my experience at a Soccer game I went to recently (as I missed class for it).  It was fun.  The USA won.  I had a great time.  <—– There.  See, I also had this epiphany during the trip that is actually more interesting than just writing about my time at the game.  There I was, sitting on the porch of the Dubliner Bar in the Power and Lights district of Kansas City.  The air was just a tad crisp and I was nice and buzzed, sitting among new found friends and thinking about where all my life has gone these past few months.  I couldn’t help but smile at the simple realization that in everything that changed, my Soul needed Soccer.

Me at the American Outlaws’ tailgate.

To say that it was just “Soccer” that I needed would be a falsehood.  I needed what Soccer means to me.  Something to enjoy, be passionate about, connect with people through, support, and feel pride in… all existing in an external and interactive environment (whereas writing and creating is often an internal world).  I wore my Celtic jersey downtown one night and was greeted by a resounding “Hail! Hail!” from a handful of people.  I’ve gotten thumbs up from Sounders fans when I wear my ECS scarf on game days.  Hell, sitting at the Dubliner, I was chilling with a Cyclone/Timbers fan and having a grand old time (despite the rivalries).  Celebrating the 3-1 Victory for the USMNT (and subsequent advancement to the final stretch of qualification for the 2014 World Cup), it sort of congealed for me that this was the whole community I’d been missing.

I could have found all of those qualities in other environments and through other means but, for whatever reason, it was Soccer or nothing for me.  I had latched onto stories of healing and redemption and even developed a new role model through following his history of injury and his brilliance on the field (Stuart Holden).  Soccer had become the new “home” for a slightly displaced and drifting part of my psyche.  It literally feels like I have a “room” to watch games in, a “room” to interact in, and even a yard to play in (I make it a point to get out on the field at least every other day).

As fun as being a spectator is, I LOVE playing.

The best part about all of this – the “kicker” if you MUST (that one pained me to write) – is that I’m to the point where I can’t imagine life without soccer.  I can’t imagine not looking forward to a game.  I can’t really seem to remember what it was like before I met “She Who is Legend and Hangs Out With Lalas,” or “Hey, We’re Both Named Justin.  Eternal Blue! Forever Green!”  I really can’t remember not being excited about a game, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, breaking down formations, or waking up at 6am to watch Celtic play.  It’s become a pivotal part of my life and I’m ever thankful for the experience.

So THAT is what the USMNT game was like for me.  It wasn’t just a win.  It was one hell of a metaphoric house-warming party and I couldn’t be happier.

Also, I got to hang out with Hercules Gomez (one of the starting strikers for the National Team).  He’s an awesome dude who, in another life, I feel as if I’d be best friends with on account of his eloquent sarcasm and charm.  Here’s your proof.

“You guys know the dude in the white shirt is Hercules Gomez, right?”
“psh… yeah… we know… we saw him earlier…” (then mini freakouts and decision to get a picture with him)

So soccer.  Pretty freaking sweet.

‘Til next time…

At the Dubliner.

See ya, Space Cowboys.

(For rooting interests, I support the USMNT/WNT, Celtic FC, the Bolton Wanderers, and the Seattle Sounders).