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Soup of This Day #135: I’m Me, Me Be, Goddamn, I Am

February 10, 2012

River Mersey in Stockport
The River Mersey, near to it’s birthplace in Stockport and just south of Heaton Moor. The Mersey forms out of the confluence of the Goyt and the Tame and then flows approximately 110 kilometres to Liverpool Bay and the Irish Sea – Photo:G-Man, 2006. G-Man has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When I was younger I was an angry football player. I was the guy who’d you see seething away, muttering expletives and glowering at everyone, opponents and team-mates alike. And when I was at my most explosive, openly raging, I’d resort to the ultimate in footballer’s insults: ‘You’re @#$%ing gay.’

Yep, that last bit is pretty abhorrent and I’m more than a little ashamed about it.

To be clear, I (and a lot of other players for that matter) used the label ‘gay’ like some kind of acid that you spat out when there were no other words base enough to mark your opponent. The implication was that to be gay was to be limp-wristed, weak and just plain wrong – A real loser.

Ironically, some of the players I attributed those characteristics to were not actually homosexual, while some of those that I admired for being none of the above were in fact gay. The thing is, I can’t tell for sure – Homosexual people it turns out are generally indistinguishable from straight types in most things and especially when on a football field. Mostly because the tell-tale signs, like expressions of love for someone of the same sex, are pretty much the last things you have time for in the middle of a game.

And this applies to straight people too – I don’t recall ever taking the time to show affection for a girlfriend such that anybody else in the game could work out that I was into the other sex.

1 time I was dating a girl who thought that it would be hot if she played in a pick-up game with me and a bunch of guys who took football pretty seriously. By game’s end she was miffed that a. Nobody went easy on her and that b. Nobody, including me, had taken the time to flirt with her, even though she was pretty sexy. Frustrated by the lack of attention she tartly asked the collected players what they’d do if she stripped off and dribbled the ball towards goal. There was silence as the guys pondered this for a moment, before the senior member of the group finally proffered:

‘Yeah, well, you’d be offside so we’d probably have to give a kick against.’

I laughed and got a look which promised that I would not be seeing her naked any time soon, on the pitch or in the bedroom. This for some reason just made it all the funnier.

Recently I read an article that reviewed a documentary that questioned whether there is a culture of homophobia in football. The reviewers posited the following:

‘What is not considered here is that maybe there are almost no gay footballers. Maybe they’re put off early or don’t fancy it. The old canard about “one in ten people being gay” is trotted out, but is there really any reason to suppose that any profession should have a representative proportion of gay participants?’

Yeah. Maybe that’s it – Maybe there’s something in their inherent ‘gay-ness’ that just means homosexual folk just aren’t in to football.

According to a letter put together by some retired generals and admirals in 2007 there were at the time 65,000 Americans serving in the US military that identified as gay or lesbian. That’s the same US military that was fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while also combating piracy and just terror (and terriers) in general. That US military.

Those 65,000 folk surely did not join up to get stuck in. Homosexual characters surely don’t fancy that. Yep, those 65,000 folk must have all been keen on joining the USO – They’ll do anything to meet Elton John. He’s gay right?

Actually it’s probably safe to say that those 65,000 didn’t join up because they were gay or lesbian – It’s probably truer to say that they signed up for the same reasons that straight folk sign up for – Mostly it would be about serving their country. So if their sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in them joining or not joining the military, why would it be a factor in them playing or not playing football?

Here’s the truly disturbing thing though – Saying that gay people aren’t prominent in football because they’re not really into that kind of thing is a short step from saying that black people will not be a positive in organised sport.

Like baseball for instance.

Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey implicitly opposed integration for longer than any other owner in the Majors. He and his playing staff ensured that it would be 1959 before the Sox got their 1st black player, Pumpsie Green – That’s 14 years after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier by signing with the Dodgers only after he was rejected by the Red Sox in an earlier 1945 try-out. Yawkey didn’t need Jackie to demonstrate that he was off base though – A quick look through the Negro Leagues would have shown that black baseball players were just as good as the white guys. Just as human even. Josh Gibson and Satchell Paige anyone?

Meanwhile at Liverpool FC it took until 1980 before a black player made an appearance in the 1st team. Howard Gayle played in just 5 appearances across 1 season before being dumped. He endured a fair amount of prejudice across that time and after he left it took until 1987 before John Barnes signed for the Reds. Barnes was the 1st black man to be signed for Liverpool from another club.

In 1987.

By then a number of trailblazers had put Liverpool’s lack of integration offside and proved that black players can score goals just as well as the white folk.

Tom Yawkey & Co. at the Red Sox and the management at Liverpool FC were wrong.

And yeah, I picked on them because they represent 2 clubs that I love and respect. They were still wrong though and I highlighted them because if I’d had a crack at the Yankees or Manchester United it could be written off as just me bashing the usual suspects. To be honest I could have had a go at almost any team – Those attitudes were not unique. They were ignorant and they were wrong though and most of us know better now.

Most of us.

England Manager Fabio Capello resigned overnight. Not because he was racist or homophobic. He resigned because John Terry was stripped of the captaincy by the English Football Association (FA) without Capello’s input being taken into account. Fabio’s input was that Terry is innocent until proven guilty. The FA’s input was that John Terry is staring down the barrel of a criminal case because he is alleged to have racially vilified an opponent, Anton Ferdinand, during a Premier League match. It is just alleged but given that Anton’s brother Rio is a senior member of the England team and a former England captain himself it was looking a little uncomfortable in the dressing room.

So Terry was demoted and Fabio walked. Now he will need to be replaced and already there have been many calls for the replacement to be English.

1 of the most successful English Managers of recent times was Glenn Hoddle. He was sacked from the job after he suggested that disabled people had got like that because of sins in past lives.

Yeah, that’s not a good advertisement for the local product.

The top 7 Managers in the English Premier League are, in order of their respective clubs in the current table: Italian (Roberto Mancini, Man City), Scottish (Sir Alec Ferguson, Man U), English (Harry Redknapp, Spurs), Portuguese (André Villas-Boas, Chelsea), English (Alan Pardew, Newcastle), French (Arsene Wenger, Arsenal) and Scottish (Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool). Of these Harry Redknapp is the favourite, particularly as he is English and was acquitted of tax evasion charges on the day that Capello walked. Never mind that he might not be the best.

I’m gonna wind this up with John Amaechi.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, home of the Red Sox, to a Nigerian dad Amaechi played in the NBA for Cleveland, Orlando, Utah, Houston and the Knicks. He also represented his country at the senior international level in the Commonwealth Games in 2008.

He got into the latter gig because he’s English, having been raised by his mother in Heaton Moor, Stockport, a short stroll from the River Mersey. If you follow the Mersey 80 or so kilometres, coming ashore just before it reaches the Irish Sea and after yet another brief walk, you’ll find Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC.

John Amaechi is also gay. He came out in 2007.

The real clincher for all of this though is that Amaechi is a nice guy. He was made a Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for his work in sport and in charitable causes, such as with the National Literacy Trust.

If that’s what it can mean to be gay, black, a foreigner and a sportsperson then I guess the loser back when I got angry on the pitch was really me and for that I am very sorry.

I’m Me, Me Be, Goddamn, I Am

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