TAG | MLS
What an amazing topic to write about for my first blog post for the 3rd year of this blog: Dave Testo, a former MLS player of the Columbus Crew, comes out! I first saw the news in Outsports, which linked to two news sources: a Canadian news article (unfortunately in French, so you’ll have to run it through a translator to read) and an interview.
Outsports quoted a portion of Testo’s remarks as translated:
“I really regret not having said publicly earlier. I fought with it all my life, my whole career. Living the life of a professional athlete and being gay is incredibly difficult. It is like wearing a secret in his bags but never yourself. It saps all your energy to you, in addition to having to perform, having to play.”
From the interview segment, Testo added:
“It’s made me realize that life is so much greater than just soccer and winning and losing. It’s about the relationships you build with the people around you. In the end, when you’re laying down on your death bed, it’s not about how much money you’ve made, how many wins you have, any of that. You want to know those connections you had to people and the difference you made in people’s lives.”
Testo becomes the first American professional soccer player to come out, and in doing so, MLS joins MLB (Billy Bean), NBA (John Amaechi), and NFL (Dave Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Roy Simmons) as having a former player come out. Come on NHL!
Unlike the other athletes who have come out after retiring Testo is still active in his professional pursuits. While he is not currently on an MLS roster, he most recently played with the Montreal Impact—a team joining the MLS next season.
It’s a shame he is no longer on the Impact roster, as his coming out would be even more groundbreaking if he was openly gay and on an active, professional, male-team-sport roster. Regardless, at only age 30, he still has a chance to make it back to the MLS ranks, and I hope he is able to do so!
Testo’s coming out contributes to the incremental tearing down of the gay-barrier in sports. The incremental progress lends to the question: what could be next?
A retired NHL player
An obvious progression would be for a retired NHL player to come out. In many respects the NHL has shown to be the most accepting environments of the main professional sports leagues. Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers (and the subject of my previous blog post), cited to a 2006 Sports Illustrated study that nearly 80% of NHL players would support an openly gay teammate. He attributes this significant percentage to how the NHL is different from the other major professional sports leagues in America: many of the players are foreign, coming from more liberal countries.
As the culture of hockey is more progressive (contrary to the rough-and-tough image of the sport/players), I think this could happen easily within the next year.
A “big-name” retired player
While everyone is waiting for the first active player to come out, I think a step that needs to (and will have to) happen first is a “big-name” retired player coming out. “Big-name” being a name those who follow the sport only superficially would know. A player that is a regular starter, that makes the all-star tournament, that might go to a hall of fame.
To date, the names of those who have come out are really only known because they came out. Bean, Amaechi, Kopay, Tuaolo, Simmons, and now Testo, were not household names during their playing careers. They weren’t All-Stars, Pro Bowlers, or Hall of Famers. These are the types of players that would have legitimate worries about coming out while still playing. They were expendable.
In order for a player of comparable caliber to feel safe coming out while playing, a big-name player needs to come out, even if while retired, to send the message, “Yeah, I’m gay, and guess what, I was an all-star, am in the hall of fame, and helped my team win championships.”
In some respects, it’s sad that we value winning and success so much that this matters. We—the fans, media, society, teammates, etc.—should support a guy on the verge of being cut as much as we’d support the player we’ve known and cheered for years. But the reality is that the amount of impact a coming out has is proportionate to the caliber of the player.
So, with that, we need that “big-name” player to come out. And believe me, they’re out there.
Like a retired NHL player coming out, I think this could happen in the next year.
An active player
Many consider an active male player on a professional American team coming out to be THE story. It could be the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and maybe even MLS (or, for soccer, an EPL player coming out would have even more impact, especially globally).
That is going to be, supposedly, the quintessential moment that officially marks “the gay barrier” being torn down. At that point, all of those questions that people have only theorized about are faced: What does the team/league do? How do teammates react? What about the locker room and the showers? How do fans react (both supporting the team and rivals)? How do opponents on the field/ice/court react? How does the player play? How does the media cover the player?
So far, all of these questions have been answered with speculation.
And that speculation continues in trying to answer when this will happen and what sport it will be in.
My opinion: it will happen within 5 years, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if I read about it tomorrow.
In response to the string of nationally reported suicides of GLBT youth, Mike Chababla, defenseman on the Houston Dynamo, recently added his name and celebrity to the NOH8 photo campaign, as Fox26 reports.
In the interview, posted below, Chababla had this to say:
“It was actually quite an honor when I got offered to do this. But most importantly, it’s not a republican issue or a democratic issue; I mean, simply enough, it’s just a human right issue. And I think it’s something that this country is based off, and equality is everything. So just being involved in that sense – obviously being here in Houston and obviously Texas a very conservative state, if you will – just to be involved with these guys and to spread the cause on such a great campaign and issue, it’s pretty important for me. So, I’m happy to be here.”
I love the reporters enthusiasm on the topic as well. And I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the photos posting on the NOH8 website.
The day after the MLB All-Star game is notorious in the sports world for being the one day that none of the four major sports have games. The NFL, NBA, and NHL are all in the off-season, and the MLB sets the day aside for players to travel back after the all-star festivities.
But for those clamoring for some sports action tonight or if you’re riding the soccer fever from the recently concluded World Cup, in Major League Soccer action, the Kansas City Wizards play the Columbus Crew at 7:30 PM (EST).
After this World Cup captured America’s collective attention for the sport, the question is once again, is now the time that soccer catches on in the U.S.?
Bill Simmons of ESPN sure thinks so. And knowing his writing and commentary style, he writes what he thinks without some puppet-master feeding him lines. Scroll down on his article to questions 19 and 20 to read his thoughts on the specific subject of soccer in the U.S., post WC2010.
But even with his opinion, soccer will not magically catch fire in the U.S.
You, as an individual, will not magically become an MLS fan.
This may sound silly, but becoming a fan of a sport requires a little bit of effort and commitment. You have to know when the games are. You need to know the players. You need to know when the playoffs are and what your team needs to do to make it beyond the regular season.
I watched one of the most incredible tennis matches – the 2006 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal. Did I suddenly become a tennis fan? Nope. I never committed to having a favorite player, to making sure I knew when the next tournaments were, to watching with rooting interests, etc.
Honestly, I’m an entry-level MLS fan myself; so with that in mind, I’d like to provide you (and me) a quick…
Guide to starting out as a Major League Soccer fan!
Contents: (1) Pick a team, (2) Know the schedule, (3) Watch the games, (4) Learn to live with ties
(1) Pick a team.
First things first: you MUST have a team to root for. So, pick one. The best methods to do so: geographical proximity or simply picking a good team (we all like winners).
Here is a map of the current 16 teams in the league. (Click for larger version.)
What if no team is close to you? Root for a winning team. This is slightly pathetic and in many sports you’ll get called a bandwagon fan, but thankfully, soccer fanaticism is still low in the U.S. so you’d still be considered an early adopter.
Here are the current MLS standings.
The Los Angeles Galaxy (11-2-3, 36 points), Landon Donavan’s team, have been the best since day one of the season followed by another team in the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake (9-3-3, 30 points). Columbus Crew (8-2-4, 28 points) and the New York Red Bulls (8-5-2, 26 points) lead the Eastern Conference and are third and fourth in point totals. Also, if you want some added intrigue, the Red Bulls recently added Thierry Henry, one of the most famous and well-known soccer players in the world.
(2) Know the schedule.
From the broad view, the regular season runs from the end of March to the end of October, followed by the playoffs. It’s basically on the baseball schedule except each team only plays 30 regular season games instead of 162.
You can find your individual team’s schedule by going to the list of clubs, following the link to your team, and then clicking on schedule. Catching as many of your team’s games is the key to feeling invested in their season and becoming a fan.
From a weekly standpoint, most games are played on Saturdays (so keep your schedule free), with a game or two a week thrown in on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday. The Thursday games are featured as the MLS Game of the Week and air on ESPN2 for your viewing convenience.
(3) Watch the games.
Watching the games is how you fill in the substance of being a fan. It’s how you learn the players, the coaches, the rivalries, the good calls and bad calls, the strategies, the playoff scenarios, etc. That is the part you have to do on your own.
The MLS schedule linked above also includes what station is airing the game. Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN2 will carry some games, but the majority of games are only available on MLS Direct Kick which you have to purchase from your cable/satellite provider.
The other option is to find some other source online that streams various games. I’m guessing sites like that have some sort of legality issue, but I’ve always figured the site would get taken down as responsible before I’d be liable. (Don’t take my word for it, and I hope I can still sit for the bar after linking to that site.) The quality of the feeds will often be pretty poor and your game may not even be available. But at least it is something.
(4) Learn to live with ties.
I had to add this one in there. In the regular season, just like in the group stage of the World Cup, the goal of the team is to make the playoffs.
As a general rule, you make the playoffs by winning at home and playing to tie on the road. If you can get the 1 point for a tie on the road, it is a half-victory for your squad. On the flip-side, conceding a tie at home is a bit of a loss.
If you really must live in a win-loss dichotomy, just use this formula in your head:
tie at home = mental L;
tie on road = mental W.