When the Boot is on the Other Foot

For the record I am not a Hinkle fan, her play is good, but hasn’t ignited any passion in me. I am also not a fan of the religious arguments against homosexuality. I am ALSO not a fan of people who are gay or are gay allies using Hinkle’s bowing out of the upcoming friendlies as fodder for their hate.

-First off, we know nothing of her personal reasons for not participating and all speculation is just that. If no one will go on record, credible sources nor Hinkle herself, then it’s all just speculation.

-Secondly, the hate coming from gays and allies is just plain ugly and wrong and would be vilified by same if directed at them. It is not OK to do it to us and it’s not OK to do it to them.

-Third and last, actions and beliefs do come with consequences, IF Hinkle is acting on her beliefs then not playing for the NT during these friendlies is the consequence. I don’t think anyone would agree it’s a minor consequence given what players endure to get a call-up. The consequence should not be, should never be, the hate I have seen directed at her. It makes me very sad and a bit angry that the very people who preach “Love is Love” stoop to such disgusting lows to attack someone who doesn’t preach hate, she does after all play with gay players, but who is sticking to her beliefs and not promoting something she doesn’t believe in. However much I might disagree with her beliefs, and trust me I do, I also have to respect her for following them to this extent.

If you have been one of the people on social media making memes, saying she doesn’t deserve another call-up, or just generally being ugly about this, please reconsider your actions. If directed at the gay community much of them would be considered bullying and rightly so. Don’t be THAT person.

You can @ me if you like, but as always, please be civil.

A Lđź’™VE LETTER

Featured

My Dearest FC Kansas City,

We met over five years ago. Me, a long time enthusiast looking for a team to love and you, a new team full of heart and enticing promise. It wasn’t love at first sight, not for me anyway. You were young, inexperienced and distant. All qualities that should have sent up red cards, but there was something about your willingness to reach out that drew me in. I played along willing to see where this could go, encouraged by your commitment to grow and keep trying to be better than yesterday. Our relationship became one of comfort and stability, mutual respect and fondness. Not the stuff of steamy romance novels but more like nights spent on the couch watching rom-coms.

I was happy, but something was missing. Even though you brought me the stars it just wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I wanted you to recognize our relationship for what it was. To be open and honest about who I was to you. For four years I waited..and waited..and waited..and waited. I dropped hints, then I dropped some more. I went public with my disappointment all the while hoping that my choice to stay committed to you was the right one. Then it happened.

You had a major change in attitude, you decided I was as important to you as you were to me. You finally saw me for who I truly am.  I would like to think you’ve loved me all along, but I can’t go that far. But you love me now. Openly. Freely. And that is the most important. Sometimes the journey is a long one, but the destination is all worth it.

So my dear FCKC – owners, staff, coaches, players, volunteers – I love you. Without reservation. Without equivocation. Entirely. To be recognized as who I am is all I’ve hoped for over this long courtship. You have my heart.

 

Openly yours,

Diane

 

 

And The Winner Is…

Another day, another WoSo award. Today’s reveal was the CONCACAF Awards 2016. Of course some (most) of the awards were just a popularity vote. That’s not the fault of the voters, that’s the fault of the people running the vote. This is not just confined to CONCACAF, the biggest award in women’s football is given by FIFA, and it’s no mistake it’s also the biggest popularity award.

This isn’t a ‘sour grapes’ article because my choices didn’t win, this is an ‘I’m pissed’ article because the women’s game, the players, and the fans deserve better.

I won’t go into all the minute details about how players are chosen to be in a particular list for each award, they are all basically the same – a technical committee ( I use the term very loosely) chooses a long list of who they think (OK, a long list of names they pull out of a hat) had an OK year in whatever category the list is for – then it’s narrowed down in a few different ways to a shortlist of 3 or 5 or 27 (maybe not 27, but why not, the outcome will be the same) – then the “real” voting gets underway. In some permutation that adds up to 100%, the vote is given to team coaches and/or captains, the media, and the fans. Doesn’t sound too bad so far, right? Wrong. This is where it really goes off the track. In the case of CONCACAF while the media and coaches/captains get one vote apiece, the fans get unlimited (may be limited by the amount of hours in a day and the stamina of your fingers) votes. Instant recipe for a popularity vote.  In the case of FIFA the process goes off the rails almost immediately, never mind the voting process. FIFA’s “technical committee” seldom gets the right players on the long list and therefor the right players seldom make it onto the shortlist. From there you go to the voting where many (if not most) of the voters only really know about a few of the more prominent names on the list . This is not confined to fans, this also includes the media and the coaches/captains. This brings us to the real reasons WoSo awards don’t reflect and reward the outstanding players in the game – the lack of exposure for much of the WoSo world game and the lack of respect.

It doesn’t matter if it’s one small confederation or all the confederations – if voters aren’t exposed to the players nominated how can they ever choose the ones truly deserving to be singled out with an award? You might argue that it’s hard to get WoSo on TV and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s not hard to get highlight reels on individual players. In today’s game most teams compile some type of video. Some leagues require it, some just do it for their own purposes, some players keep their own. We are in a digital age where anyone with a computer/phone to cast a vote could conceivably view a video. I don’t even entertain the production quality argument, how many of us have sat through a grainy phone video to see a favorite player or play? And if you’re shaking your head from side-to-side, get down – you could fall and hurt yourself from that high up. By exposing the technical committee, the media, the coaches/captain, and yes, the fans to all the players nominated at their level of voting would go a long way to solving the exposure problem. Until all WoSo is accessible, like 99% of BroSo is now, the award givers will have to work just a little bit harder here. Which brings us to lack of respect.

You might say that confederations and FIFA are working on the respect aspect, but are they working as hard as they could? Let me answer that for you, No. It would take very little work to treat the award process with the respect it deserves. In the case of CONCACAF all it would have taken was one vote per fan, at least FIFA got that part right. CONCACAF presented video clips of each nominee, which is what I would like to see, but then they opened the voting to allow fans to vote as many times as they possibly could for a favorite player. Even though the total fan vote only carried a third of the total voting, fans could still have swayed the results by voting non-stop for a fave over a possibly more deserving player based on merit not popularity. FIFA, by contrast, did only allow for one vote per fan, but was very lacking in the education of their electorate. You only need to look at who voted for whom to see that in many instances (as it has been since inception) name recognition was how most coaches/captains voted. It’s hard for all the member nations to keep tabs on all the other member nation teams and stand-out players. This is where FIFA needs to step up its game and show the nominees (and the voting nations) the respect they deserve. Awards at the confederation level and certainly at the FIFA level should truly reflect the quality and talent WoSo has to offer. They do not and it lies squarely at the feet of those organizations to do better.

I’m seldom at a loss on how to “fix” things, so here goes.

  1. Vet the “technical committees” to make sure they are the most knowledgeable about the women’s game within the given framework.
  2. Provide all electors with ample footage of the selected shortlist players so that they can cast an informed vote.
  3. Establish well-articulated, merit-based criteria for each award.
  4. Promote the vote all year, giving it gravitas as a true award and not a popularity or name recognition contest.
  5. Emphasize the importance of recognizing the most qualified to meet the award criteria.
  6. Limit voting to one vote per fan.

BroSo seldom has these issues with awards and in part it’s due to the wide exposure players get. WoSo isn’t there yet so we have to make sure that confederations and FIFA do what’s needed to make these awards meaningful and respected. The last thing we want to do is undermine the women’s game and the accomplishments of its greatest players by giving out awards that even the recipients know are often misguided.

If what fans want is a popularity contest give them one, just don’t disrespect the players by representing it as reflecting on their ability on the pitch in a given year.

If you have any ideas on how to make awards better, let me hear them in the comments.

 

 

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.