I’ve been away from this blog for some time, but today I’m forced to write by my utter disgust at the way many people are characterizing Abby Wambach’s questioning of “foreign” players on the USMNT as xenophobic.

If you’re reading this you’re probably aware of her statements concerning dual national players chosen by Klinsmann to play for the USA. Up until recently most players chosen to put on the US jersey have been homegrown, meaning born and raised in the US and within the US development system. Klinsmann has chosen to go outside that system looking for players and as a result has called in many dual national players. In varying degrees these players were born/raised/played for a portion of their lives outside the United States and for other development systems.

Wambach has questioned their motivation and commitment to play for the US. If you look at this from the perspective of someone born and raised in the US, advanced through the US system, and who has worn the US jersey for almost all of her adult life, I think it’s easy to see where her questions come from. But does it qualify as xenophobic? Does Wambach have a fear of these players? I would unequivocally say no. There is absolutely no basis for her to be fearful, nor has she expressed any such fear. Does Wambach hold them in contempt? Again an unequivocal no. She may harbor dislike for Klinsmann and his coaching choices, but she has never expressed dislike for the players involved.

Xenophobia is a serous charge to throw at someone and whether you agree with her word choices in asking the question or not, simply asking someone to discuss their motivation and commitment to play for and represent the USA  does not make them xenophobic.

And today I read something that really is my main motivation to blog. As part of an article on Wambach’s supposed xenophobia it was said that while the writer had no indication that any of Wambach’s comments were racial in nature it couldn’t be dismissed that several of the players in question were of color. And of course it was all contextualized with references to the current election. To conflate Wambach’s comments about dual nationals with this election and the pure hatred that is being put forth by a candidate is irresponsible and just plain inflammatory.

You don’t have to be a fan of Wambach to see that this is just wrong.

If you have a different perspective, let me know in the comments. Respectful discussion is always welcome.

Will I Sit or Will I Stand?

I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject. In fact I’ve been thinking about it since Megan Rapinoe first took a knee during the national anthem on September 4th. And let me tell you, the intersectionality of this is almost endless.

I tried to limit it though because lets face it, I’m one person and to delve into it all would take far more time than I have before events will force me to choose.

I started by deciding if I thought the cause was worthy and that was the easy part. I think the way our country (and that includes me) treats people of color is disgraceful. It’s institutional racism on steroids in many parts of the country and ingrained in almost everyone’s everyday life. In order for the U.S. to continue to be the kind of country I want it to be, this has to be addressed and the hard conversations have to be had. It’s my experience that people don’t like the hard conversations and usually wait until they absolutely have to have them to do it. Rapinoe and Kaepernick are basically not allowing people to ignore the issue by protesting in such a public way. So I’m in as far as that goes.

The next thing I had to decide was if I supported their mode of protest. And I have to say that was also easy for me. Their protest is peaceful and goes to the very heart of what I think the flag represents. I was raised in the era of saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day to start school. I come from a family with a proud military tradition, my grandfather, my father, and I all served in the Army. In the Army there are strict rules as to what your behavior is supposed to be when you’re in proximity of the flag or when you hear the national anthem. But even before I enlisted I was taught that you stand and put your hand over your heart when you say the pledge or hear the anthem. So those traditions* were easy to adjust to the military requirements. And after I left service I continue to stand for the anthem. When I was younger I stood because I was told to and that’s just what you did. As I got older I made a conscious decision to stand for the anthem, to show my respect for a country I served and has served me well. The flag and the anthem represent to me all the people who have served and toiled to make America the country I choose to live in. A country that above all values its freedom and the freedom of its citizens. My grandfather went to battle to preserve those freedoms, my father did too. I served in peacetime, but was prepared to serve in whatever capacity was required. My grandfather often talked of what it was like when the embattled, persecuted and interned were given their freedom. He said it was one of the things he was most proud of. He isn’t with us any longer, but I know he would approve of someone protesting in a peaceful manner to change the lives of our citizens for the better. He always revered the flag, not as a symbol to be bowed to, but as a promise to the people of what could be. He instilled that reverence in me and if someone doesn’t feel that the flag represents them I want to know why and how I can make them feel like it does.

As a gay American I can fully appreciate when Rapinoe said –

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,”

That’s a fact and I do what I can in my life to change that, including protesting against institutions that stand in the way of all my liberties being protected.

A few thoughts I had to process:

  • What’s the difference between kids that walk players out and kneel in front of them during playing of the anthem and a player taking a knee in the sideline. If they were told to stand and one of them didn’t want to, would the outrage be the same?
  • Do these people go around at sporting events and police people who don’t stand or remove their hats or cover their heart?
  • What actual  harm is this protest doing? Are people’s feelings so fragile that they can’t tolerate someone kneeling during a song.
  • Does the freedom of expression extend to stopping someone else from expressing themselves?
  • Who gets to decide which peaceful protests are OK?
  • How many of the people who think Rapinoe and Kaepernick are disrespectful to the flag own an article of clothing made to look like it’s made from a flag? Do they know that’s against the guidelines for how a flag is to be treated?
  • Do these people think the flag represents people of color in America the same way it represents white people? Do they think it means the same thing to them?
  • Do veterans or people who have lost someone in combat think they have more right to define what the flag means?

Like I said, I put a lot of thought into this and I’ve come to a conclusion. I support kneeling during the anthem. My support extends to Rapinoe when she’s wearing the red, white & blue. I’ve come to see exercising freedom of expression in a peaceful manner as a tribute to all those who have given their lives to preserve our freedoms and all those who continue to work hard every day to keep those values alive. I also see her protest while representing the U.S.A. as the ultimate expression to the rest of the world of just how much our freedom means to us. I want people to feel uncomfortable so that they are forced to engage in hard conversations to make our country even better.

As for me, I will stand. I will stand having been influenced by the protest to start, and stop avoiding, the hard conversations.

I encourage everyone to observe the tradition however they are moved to, be it sitting, standing, or kneeling along with Rapinoe and Kaepernick. I also encourage everyone to take note of the protest’s purpose. It would be a disservice to all our fellow citizens if we only exercise outrage at the treatment of a song or a piece of fabric and not actual people who are being mistreated.

What will you do? I welcome your views when presented in a civil manner.

*Playing the anthem at sporting events was started as a fluke and caught on because the country was at war, it wasn’t even the anthem when the tradition started. And it is a tradition,  like getting a hot dog at a ball game. There is no law that the anthem has to be played, in fact a few years after the tradition was started, one baseball team stopped because people had lost interest and didn’t feel as patriotic since the country wasn’t at war any longer and only restarted because the city wanted to promote a local military tourist attraction. I find many people who get exercised by the actions of Rapinoe and Kaepernick don’t even know that.

A Few Words About A Little Field

Yes, this is about WNY v SEA and the little field.

I initially stated that I thought playing on a smaller than NWSL standard field wasn’t a problem, and I still think that. I think asking for and having granted an exception under the initial condition of a field similar to one the Rhinos or WNT played on, in itself, wasn’t disrespectful of the game or the player/fans. But what it devolved to and how decisions were made that chipped away at the standards of the league are the problem.

At some point a person or people decided it was OK not to sod a portion of the infield and NWSL rightly said no deal. At that point is when this all went wrong. How it was handled after that is what should come into question. Every person involved with the playing of that game bears some responsibility for it happening, from NWSL staff to a team GM, to both coaches, the refs and yes, even the players. If any of them had voiced serious concern or exerted any push back the game may not have happened.

It brings to light an all to often thought, one not made necessarily consciously, but one that is still there under the surface – it’s OK, it’s just the women. For so long the women’s game has accepted less than in order to survive that it’s become OK to look the other way when something even so obviously wrong, like the final size of the field for this game, happens. Everyone says “it’s not my place to stop the game” well, yes it is. It’s the place of everyone involved to speak up and stop something wrong. If any of the involved individuals had said “I will not play on this field” the game could have been stopped. The ensuing embarrassment and bad publicity could have been avoided. It would have gotten messy after that, but the game wouldn’t have happened and the respect the players need to feel would have been preserved. From all accounts no one did and THAT is the problem, not the size of the field.

It’s easy to say that Jeff Plush is responsible as the commissioner of NWSL, or the GM of the Flash, or Coach Riley of the Flash, or the referees are responsible, but the real truth is that everyone is responsible and everyone needs to do better. The players themselves are not absolved of responsibility and neither is Coach Harvey. Everyone knew in their gut this wasn’t right and yet everyone went along. The game was not played under protest as is often the case when someone feels egregiously wronged. The game was played and no prior public mention was made in protest. You might say that the players were just doing their jobs, but standing up for what’s right is part of every human’s job regardless of your vocation. If players want respect it’s been demonstrated again and again in the women’s game that you have to demand it, not sit on the sideline and wait for it to come to you.

New information may come to light, an apology has already been made and promises to not do it again, and if that changes my perspective I’ll update.

Just my thoughts on the little field in Rochester.

The Long and the Short of It

WNY v SEA was contested on a very small field tonight  – although within FIFA regulations, if not NWSL . I was gonna let this go, but decided I needed to at least set the record straight about where I was coming from. Whether you agree or not isn’t an issue to me, just that you know how I got here.

In my timeline on twitter, and I want to stress MY timeline,  Jeff Kassouf tweeted that playing on WNY’s field was “crazy”.

He has a following and of course word spread. More than a few people commented asking why the game was being played on this particular field and other questions about the venue. This prompted me to tweet this:

Typo aside, my tweet was a simple observation that many people tweeting in reply to Kassouf were critical without being informed about the venue. My feeling was – and is – when being critical of anything/or anyone, know something about what/who you’re being critical of. The venue change was announced two weeks ago giving anyone who cared ample time to ask questions about configuration, size, surface quality, etc.

My observation was not well received. That’s how it goes sometimes.

If I thought that was bad, the reaction after I tweeted this –


-was worse.

At the time of my tweet, and really still, I didn’t see the harm in one game played on a smaller than NWSL standard field. At the time there were no details about emails to coaches or meetings with referees or questions of safety from staff or players. It was a venue change for a team that couldn’t use their home field for one game due to scheduling conflicts. In the grand scheme of things, to me, this is small potatoes. I don’t think anyone from owners to refs to NWSL reps intended to disrespect players by asking them to do this one time for the good of the schedule.

The reaction of the players is a whole other thing. I think their reaction to this field is indicative of their frustration with so many other things that need to be rectified in relation to them. And although I support the USWNT players in their pursuit of equal pay for equal play, I find it a little self-serving that they chose now to chime in for their NWSL counterparts. This just gives them more to fight USSF with in their CBA negotiations, not necessarily a bad thing, but still self-serving.

Do I think the players deserve better? Yes, absolutely. I also think that even though this is the 3rd iteration of a league it doesn’t mean they’ll get everything right the first time. They did the wrong thing for the right reason, something I know I’ve done in my life more than once. So maybe that’s why I don’t think this is the big issue it’s blown up into, I think it’s more of a bellwether for the ills within the league in regard to player relations.

Many parties to this game had a chance to stop it, and none did, this says more to me than the fact that the venue was set up the way it was in the first place.

So the long of it is written above, the short of it is – life is complicated..and so is WoSo.

Professionalism Off The Pitch

“Let the product on the pitch speak for the league.”

You hear that often from supporters of women’s pro WoSo. And it’s true, the product on the pitch speaks volumes about the league. It says that the league is full of professional players who display the finer points of skill and technical ability in an increasingly more tactical style of play. But for the league to prosper and take it’s rightful place among all sports leagues it has to be professional off the pitch as well.

This weekend saw the beginning of the fourth season of NWSL. A landmark among women’s professional WoSo leagues in the USA. No previous league made it to opening day of season 4. It was an opportunity for the league to really step up and blow its own horn across the country in every member city, whether that team was playing at home or not. But it did not. For various reasons given there was no TV game, just streams that really weren’t any better than last year, and in one case worse. There were no sell outs, not one of the 5 venues managed that feat. Some came closer than others, but no cookie for any team. One team* had their home season opener at a venue that isn’t even their home field. Washington Spirit gave a nod to leagues past and the history being made of a season 4 by having pro WoSo vet and former NT player Briana Scurry do their first kick. Other teams did nothing..and I mean literally nothing to recognize the accomplishment. There was some MSM buzz, but not much, and some blog buzz, maybe a little more, but for the most part even some new fans didn’t know the significance of the start to the 2016 season.

On top of that, the few nods to this being anything special fell embarrassingly flat. The 2-time NWSL champions FC Kansas City were given their rings in a pre-game ceremony and in all pride tweeted a photo of the new rings only to have fans bring the glaring typo of NWSL as NSWL on the rings to their attention. The league in what I’m sure was meant to be a clever play on words debuted a new slogan of sorts that really fell flat before bouncing around the internet as a sort of Malaprop. STRONG HER – FAST HER – FURT HER debuted the new NWSL buzzword “furt”. And in what I’m sure was meant to be a grand gesture, NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush flew to Houston to announce that this year’s championship final would be in the worst kept secret location of Houston on October 9th. On top of the league’s less than stellar presentations some of the teams had their own faux pas, such as wrong team names in graphics, OTT homer commentators with wrong facts, and glitchy streams.

These are just a few of the things that stuck out for me this past weekend and are indicative of less professionalism off the pitch than the teams, the fans and the sport deserve. It doesn’t take money to do what Washington did with Scurry. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to read the proof in the case of the rings. Someone with a good eye (and literally all that was needed was one good eye) could have caught the typos in graphics and whoever came up with the Strong – Fast – Furt slogan should go back to school or let a friend read your copy. It all smacks of laziness, or a careless attitude, neither marks of a professional.

I know the league and teams tend to focus on the big picture when resources are stretched and to a degree that’s understandable. What needs to be realized is that the small things that go wrong off the pitch can derail all the hard work done to make the players and the product on the pitch be as professional as possible. One glaring example is the post FOX Soccer did about the rings typo. That single post undid a lot of hard work by everyone involved with the NWSL to be taken seriously as a league. It will be the introduction to the league for many people and one that won’t make them want to know more. I don’t think FOX Soccer demonstrated their stated “commitment” to the league with that post, but the damage is done.

If this all seems a bit nit-picky to you, think about the saying “the devil’s in the details”. In the case of trying to attract and keep serious supporters of women’s soccer all it might take is a culmination of overlooked details for current supporters to say enough and new supporters to say not enough.

I’ll continue to try to hold the league and its teams to a high standard on and off the pitch. If you have anything to furt her the conversation, let me hear it in the comments.

*Disclaimer: I was at the FCKC v WNYF game in Children’s Mercy Park.

2016 – Season 4

April 16, 2016 – A day that will forever be a part of WoSo history in the USA. The start of the fourth season of a women’s professional soccer league has come and gone..and it was good.

The very first game was between the Washington Spirit and the Boston Breakers at the Maryland SoccerPlex. While there were some stream glitches and it wasn’t sold out, it did feature a first-kick by women’s pro WoSo and NT veteran Briana Scurry, a Joanna Lohman bicycle kick game-winning goal, the debut of Boston’s new manager, Matt Beard, from across the pond, and Jim Gabarra’s return to Maryland. The Spirit defeated the Breakers 1-0.

The second game of NWSL opening day saw the 3rd year Houston Dash dispatch the veteran Chicago Red Stars in what might be called surprising fashion as many have pegged Chicago to figure prominently in the playoffs. Houston’s draft picks showed up to play with both Rachel Daly and Janine Beckie scoring along with vet Carli Lloyd. Chicago never really got their attack in gear only able to generate one goal from Christen Press. The Dash defeated the Red Stars 3-1.

The other second game, sharing starting time with Houston v Chicago, was league champions FC Kansas City hosting Western New York Flash. The game was played at Children’s Mercy Park, home to Sporting KC of MLS fame. The now infamously misspelled “NSWL” championship rings were given to players prior to kickoff. The game also featured two uncharacteristically less than stellar games from KC’s  NTers, Sauerbrunn and O’Reilly. While Broon’s handball led to the game-winning PK taken by WNY’s Sam Mewis, she also failed to win anything in the air and was struggling to keep up when often stranded by her teammates in the 3-5-2 formation employed, O’Reilly was hellbent on making an impact often to the detriment of her decision making, not to mention being owned by WNY’s Jaelene Hinkle most of the game. HAO had the opportunity to make it all right when a stoppage time PK was earned by FCKC, but she hit it off the post and that was the game. Western NY looked solid and pressured KC in an unfamiliar tactical formation. The Flash certainly earned their 1-0 win over the Blues.

On Sunday the opening weekend’s first game was Seattle Reign FC welcoming Sky Blue FC to their fortress, having not lost a game at home, ever. The game was a bit of back and forth with Tasha Kai celebrating her return to pro WoSo with the SBFC opening goal. Seattle doesn’t often have to come from behind but they did with a Merritt Mathias goal to even the score. Sky Blue wasn’t having it though when preseason invitee Kelly Conheeney used a little backheel to put a Taylor Lytle chip into the net. That sealed the Reign’s fate and Sky Blue handed them their very first defeat at Memorial Stadium with a final 0-1 score.

In many fan’s mind the final game of the opening weekend, Portland Thorns FC hosting Orlando Pride, was the one to watch. There’s not much the talk leading up to this game left out; two MLS-owned teams, one veteran one expansion upstart, former star player returning to face her old team and fans, NT players on display, much touted atmosphere, new coach for the Thorns, wily Scot at the helm for the Pride. It delivered on all fronts. The stream was exceptional as always, even if the commentators skew heavily in favor of the home team, and the crowd was big and loud giving PTFC the boost they expect. The Pride struck first with the opening goal coming from former Thorn and current Matilda, Steph Catley on a right side free kick. The Thorns quickly realized the Pride were there to play and picked up their game scoring two goals that would see them take home the win. The first was from Dagny Brynjarsdottir on a Tobin Heath assist and the second was from Lindsey Horan again on a Tobin Heath assist. Heath played as we would all like to see her perform for the USWNT, maybe it was the captain’s armband that spurred her performance. As it turned out former Thorn Alex Morgan didn’t figure much in this game with only a few chances that went unfinished. The Thorns took this one with a final score of 2-1.

All-in-all a very good start to the league’s historic 4th year. The product on the field is as good, and I might say better than it’s ever been. Despite some glaring miscues – the misspelled championship rings being one, the NWSL “furt“her graphic being another – the intent to be better is there, it’s the execution that suffers.

Oh, almost forgot that the site of this year’s NWSL final was announced as Houston on October 9th. It was such a non-announcement that it’s easy for anyone to forget. Once again, it’s in the execution, folks.

Hope everyone is able to get to a game this year or buy a ticket to your favorite team even if you can’t attend. It’s all about getting more money in the game at this point. The pieces are coming together they just need more dollars to get them to slide into place.

US Soccer, Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen


Change “fetch” to “One Nation. One Team.” and you have US Soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I support our national teams, both of them. But to be honest not at the same level. US Soccer and I share that.
US Soccer is trying so hard to make #1N1T a thing. It is not a thing, it is a lame way to make people think the support for both teams is somehow equal. And while I think support should be equal, I don’t think 1N1T means what US Soccer wants it to mean.
Saying “One Nation. One Team.” doesn’t make anything equal, and US Soccer unwittingly is just pointing out the disparity in treatment between the men’s national team and the women’s national team.

We are One Nation, that is not in dispute by anyone in this respect, but we are not One Team. Not One Team in funding, or CBA, or marketing, or sales, or a myriad of other areas. We are also not One Team in the things that each national team needs in the way of support.
So at some level I am OK with not being One Team, I am almost happy that we are not truly One Team. In so many ways the women’s national team (and by my own opinion, women’s soccer in general) needs to be their own team. This does not mean that I think the women’s national team shouldn’t be afforded resources equal to the men’s team from funding to field surfaces and everything between, it means that the women’s team needs to be allowed to be heralded and supported by fans and the nation as it’s own unique entity, the same as should be afforded to the men’s national team.

By allowing teams to be unique entities under a One Nation banner each would be able to get the support & resources needed from US Soccer without the manufactured fan engagement 1N1T tries to force and fan engagement would be organic and long lasting. “One Nation. One Team.” just feels so false and self-serving to US Soccer that many, many fans don’t buy in and are resentful when they are force-fed the concept that feels disingenuous at its very roots. IF US Soccer really felt the national teams were One Team, the teams would have all the same resources available. I don’t think equal means identical, I think equal means what works best for each team. Each team program should decide what is best for their team – from development to t-shirt sales – within the US Soccer framework. That’s not to say that each program can’t share resources, just that they should fit with the team’s identity and speak to their fan base as well as to their standing on soccer’s world stage. Standards are not something that should be up for debate, both teams should have the highest standards, but other things are certainly able to be different.

US Soccer and it’s marketers have to embrace the different wants and needs of the teams and the fans and speak to that. They also have to understand the difference between wanting equality and wanting to celebrate your team as a unique entity. It’s one thing to want the same playing surfaces and another to want to be able to purchase a jersey in the cut and style that let’s a fan represent their team in a way that is both comfortable and appropriate to them. It is one thing to want a commensurate slice of the funding pie and another to be recognized in advertising as distinctly different. Equal and unique are not mutually exclusive.

In some instances using One Nation, One Team as a slogan works well, like the Olympic Games where bringing together many different sports, competing together at the same time, under one umbrella unites the nation as they oppose other nations. US Soccer has been trying to force 1N1T on the US fan since World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a men’s tournament where they opposed the world. A single nation, supporting a single team. In that context it worked well. But US Soccer is not One Team, it is two distinct teams at very different places in the world of soccer. To lump them together, under a slogan that serves neither when used together, is a disservice to both.

In some circles it’s unpopular to say that men and women are different in any way, but they are. Whether by nature or nurture, we see the world differently, we interact with the world differently and those differences aren’t a bad thing, just a different thing.