Soccer….Family Style


My Timbers Army Antifascist Soccer Family
August 23, 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture | Tags: , , , ,

I am a Jewish member of Timbers Army. I know I’m not alone, because I had fellow tribe members help me try to light Hanukkah candles in the wind and rain at our MLS Cup Final game in Atlanta. But the rise of antisemitism and antisemitic violence does weigh on me. As we prepare for our son’s bar mitzvah, I am more frequently confronted with the fact that my synagogue is always locked due to security concerns. It keeps me up at night…what will this world look like through the lens of synagogue life in a year?

When #AUnitedFront started earlier in August with the Timbers Army taking a stand against an MLS ban on the antifascist iron front symbol that was all too easily supported by the Timbers Front Office, I waited. As a Jew, I have so many friends that say, “don’t worry, we’ll protect you” when the “never again” topic comes up. But I don’t really believe them. When your life and the things you love are on the line, will you really stand up for my family against oppression?

What the Timbers Army and away Seattle Sounders supporters did tonight was shout a resounding “hell yes we will stand with you” in the quietest possible way. In one of the greatest rivalry games in soccer, our fans and their fans, who typically have no love lost between them, banded together and showed MLS Soccer that we will not back down when the rise of fascism is on the line.

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Image credit: @ambrown Original tweet: https://twitter.com/ambrown/status/1165077662856925184

For the first 33 minutes of the match, the stadium sounded more like a Des Moines Menace match than the biggest rivalry in MLS. No flags, no tifo, no signing. ESPN tried to create some sound by cranking up the field mics, but the result was an awkward uneasy quiet punctuated by players talking and the occasional halfhearted attempt to get a chant started from (I imagine) some white dudes beside themselves in the uncomfortable quiet. Possibly these two?

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The message was clear. Timbers Army is a huge part of what makes MLS great, and we have always been antifascist. We sing Bella Ciao because of its antifascist history. You can’t separate us from who we are.

To my TA family, I love you all. I know you risked getting banned from a game we all love to show support for the Iron Front, but for me, it was so much more than that. I will sleep better tonight knowing that I have an Army behind me, protecting my family from hate and oppression. Your magic is real and I’m so glad to be a part of it.

To Major League Soccer, Your profits are not more important than my family’s safety. You talk the big talk about wanting to be more family friendly…well here is your chance. Teach my children that you will stand up to the Faux News bullies that try to make Antifa any more than what we saw tonight. A group of glorious people bravely willing to stand up to hate and fascism.

In closing, here are a few tweets that captured the in stadium experience from awkward silence to the best Timbers Army has ever sounded.

All Quiet: https://twitter.com/jgrawrock/status/1165085528120684544

EBFG United: https://twitter.com/PaulAtkinsonPDX/status/1165084253312307201

The moment the protest ends: https://twitter.com/JBAustin9/status/1165099149236289536

Bella Ciao: https://twitter.com/jgrawrock/status/1165093759626797057

What Antifa actually looks like: https://twitter.com/PaulAtkinsonPDX/status/1165097139602509824

 

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#AUnitedFront against Fascism, the View From the Iowa Caucus
August 23, 2019, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture

In case you’re new to my blog: Yes, I am a member of the Timbers Army and I live in Des Moines, Iowa. How this came to be is explained here, but suffice it to say, I may be uniquely qualified to talk about the intersection of soccer and politics.

Here’s where the story starts for me: 20190823_194942.jpg

Truth be told, I got addicted to politics because of soccer. I was working to build a soccer specific stadium in Des Moines in 2002, and the project couldn’t move forward because we couldn’t get it approved by the Urbandale City Council. Yes I’m still mad and yes I have voted in every election since then no matter how small the office. Politics is your whole life, and we need to find a way to make it less toxic, but banning it isn’t the way.

Living in Iowa, I’ve seen it happen. We get together in a high school auditorium or gym every four years and have the Iowa Caucus. No hiding in a voting booth and secretly pulling a lever. You have to stand up in front of all your neighbors and publicly declare who you support. Then, there’s re-alignment…you need to convince your neighbors, through civil discourse if their candidate isn’t viable, they should come join your corner. So you better come prepared to state your case and be convincing in a way that doesn’t make the neighborhood awkward from that day forward.

But here’s the thing: we need to have a conversation about this banning political stuff. Because that’s a slippery slope. Is a rainbow flag political? Is a red hat political? What about a whole section wearing red hats? In the Timber’s front office double down statement they write “Major League Soccer believes the Iron Front symbol is inherently political because it has been co-opted by antifa.” Let’s pull that apart.

Antifa isn’t a thing. There’s nothing parked at Antifa.com. My husband wrote on Facebook “Antifa is a concept, a belief, a way of viewing the world and not an organization. Antifa is short for anti-fascist. There isn’t an antifa group, there are people who believe in the antifa way of viewing the world.” Since the 1930s the Iron Front has been a symbol of being antifascist, long before anyone coined the term “Antifa.”

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So to say that we can’t use this symbol because a group that doesn’t exist doesn’t hold water.

Plus, what is the equivalent symbol that you would ban on the other end of the political spectrum? The “Don’t Tread” snake? Nah….you know what symbol has been corrupted by that side? The American Flag. Are we going to ban the American flag for getting politicized? See how silly that sounds?

MLS: It’s time to get on the right side of history. re-write your policy to be human rights focused, not parroting some BS FoxNews soundbite.

We are the Timbers Army. We are relentlessly anti-fascist. You know how the song goes, you love it in your promos.

You can’t stop us, we are the Rose City.



Did You Feel It?
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This is my blurry photo of Rapinoe’s greatness. You won’t need crisp edges to feel that unbounded joy and accomplishment.

Could you feel it? At home, or in the bar? Could you feel it in the upper decks of the stadium? This USWNT was different, and I didn’t fully feel it until they were right there in front of me. The relentless force of a group of women who refused to stop, refused to listen, refused to behave. They would not stop celebrating and be less than they are because their critics were made uncomfortable by their unabashed awesomeness. They kept scoring goals, and they mocked those who said they celebrated too much and then went right on celebrating.

They were clinically well planned out, and well coached through the entire tournament. Every team they faced was met with their own special branded Kryptonite. It didn’t matter what the opponent’s style of play was, Jill’s got an attack for that, and a team that would steal soul after soul with devastatingly beautiful touch.

But what I loved most about this team was how intensely they played their game as themselves. That’s what we tell our kids, right? Be yourself, do your best, stand up for others. Go dye your hair purple and bring home an armload of trophies. Never make yourself smaller because someone else can’t dream as big as you can. Go wear your shorts a little goofy and who cares if you look nothing like a professional soccer player. You go teach THEM what a championship soccer player looks like and make them regret they ever told you no when you streak down the field and bury it in the back of the net.

I could run for weeks on the focus in Alex Morgan’s eyes every time she ran toward us with the ball on her foot. Her look was a thousand years of silencing “smile more” dudes. It was absolutely terrifying and ferocious, and I will remember it forever. There are lessons in this team that I will love forever, and I’m gratefully inspired to live my life more relentlessly, authentically, my bodacious self for the rest of my days, and I hope you felt it too.

 

PS EQUAL PAY NOW!



The Best Mistakes Are Made In France
July 6, 2019, 5:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
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Tanya and Mr. Tanya in Frankfurt, en route to Lyon, France for the Women’s World Cup Final.

I make my best mistakes in France. At the 98 World Cup, we accidentally bought a first class rail pass thanks to my complete lack of French language skills. I was broke and out of work, so it was money we didn’t have to spend, but it got us on trains with all the press, which led to my first soccer press gig of being the Midwest stringer photographer for San Francisco Bay Soccer. It got me field press access to the Chicago games of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and field access to a couple USMNT matches, and more than paid for itself.

This year, we purchased conditional semifinal and final tickets for the USWNT in France, not knowing if we’d be able to swing the trip for our family of five. When we looked this Spring, flights were over $1000 per person, and after my concussion related work setbacks for the past 14 months, we decided it was not in the cards. BUT NO ONE BOTHERED TO CANCEL OUR CONDITIONAL TICKETS.

You’d think that would be the first thing we’d do, right? Nope. We’ve been juggling our well established roles as my husband has been heroic in picking up the slack left by my post concussive syndrome unpredictability. Plus, he had purchased the tickets, but he had done it via my account, so the responsibilities for the tickets were a bit up in the air. By the time we realized what we had done, it was way past the deadline to turn the tickets back, and only hours away from the deadline to transfer the tickets to a friend.

Thank goodness for our Sammers Supporters Club family, who stepped up to help claim and sell our semifinal tickets. As we scrambled to deal with our mistake, I proposed an idea: what if instead of going through this again for the final, we planned to GO TO FRANCE and use/deal with the tickets ourselves?

By this time, we realized that 2/3 of our children had expired passports (peak parent fail), but at least that meant that we could only worry about two flights to Europe. This is why Mr. Tanya and I are so well matched as a couple: I come up with the crazy ideas like a last minute trip to France, he does the analysis and research for travel deals that make my wild dreams possible without bankruptcy. The Dude found round trip flight to Europe for under $700 a piece, which is a decent deal for Summer flights even if we had planned and a total bargain for a last minute trip.

48 hours later, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Frankfurt, getting ready for the trek to Lyon for my second Women’s World Cup Final!! (I was in the nosebleeds in 1999). Eternal gratitude for family that can watch our kiddos and kids that can drive themselves to camp (we can discuss the miracle that our 3 kids ages 4, 11, and 16 are all going to or working at the same camp later). Life is crazy as ever, but I’m enjoying the ride 100%.



BIG NEWS!! New Book Due Out for Holiday 2019! Soccer Bios for Young Adult Readers
July 6, 2019, 4:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was working my way through concussion recovery. I did a power lifting competition in April (took 2nd place!) and I’d been working on the houses I’m rehabbing, going to soccer games as I could tolerate them, when I got an email via my first book, Passionate Soccer Love’s, website: “[pleasantries] In reading that you possess incredible passion for US Soccer and have written extensively about the sport, I thought you could be a potential author for a new book…”

Wait. What?

I’m still at the stage where I’m pleasantly surprised when people find my work. Even better when they like what they read. But as I continued to read the email about how they were interested in an author for a book aimed at MY SON’S age group, I was pretty much over the moon by the time I got through the first of three delicious paragraphs in this opening email.

Several weeks of video interviews, writing submissions, torturous waiting, contract negotiations, and copious anxiety later, my contract is signed, my editor has been met and is another soccer parent who is equally excited about the project, and my Summer is officially devoted to writing!

I’d love to have your thoughts in the comments. Who are the soccer stars, mostly current, but also people who changed the game, who you want to share with kids 10-14? I’m focusing mostly on the Men’s side (with the hopes of a Women’s side edition later) and particularly interested in players with inspiring stories or learning experiences attached to them.

This book is going to move pretty fast, so watch this space for updates!



Concussion Recovery: Back to USWNT
November 14, 2018, 6:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My concussion happened at the start of PDL season, and right before the World Cup 2018. It broke my heart to break my World Cup streak, but we took a previously planned trip to see my parents in Boston, and that flight wrecked me for days. Airports are full of motion, sound, and bright flashy lights… basically a Concussive’s worst nightmare. The trip to Boston was my first sign that something was really wrong. I slept for half a day and still didn’t feel right. There was no way I could handle an international flight and weeks coping with a foreign language. It was only once I started concussion therapy that I began to take account of all the fabulous things brains do, filtering all the noise and allowing us to function and focus.

Even watching the World Cup on TV was too much for me most days. On days of triple games, I’d prioritize one game to watch with the sound off, and the other games I’d watch if I could, but often I was too exhausted for the third match. I spent a solid portion of the Summer in a dark, silent room. I would watch Des Moines Menace games from my car to block most of the sound and shield from the lights and scoreboard, and still left most games in pain, overstimulated.

Attending the USWNT game last night was a huge victory for my concussion recovery. I was able to enjoy the full 90, without ever having to retreat to first aid with a scarf over my head. I was able to meet and talk to other fans. It was all the things. Next step: attempting to sing for 90 with my Sammers family vs England.



Concussion
November 12, 2018, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Even as an informed soccer fan, I had no idea how devastating one concussion could be until I sustained one earlier this year. On May 17th, I was on my way to pick up my toddler from preschool on a bright sunny day when my car was rear ended at a stop light on a 30 mph road in suburban Des Moines. I know many of you read this blog for my travel adventures, so I will include that I was hit by an unlicensed 18 year old gang member who was high, and had a machete in the car and a gun that spilled out of his car onto the pavement as the police were questioning him. So peak me.

But I was barely processing that at the time, because moments earlier, I had entered my new, permanent home, the world of the post concussed. I didn’t hit my head, but the jolt of being hit at almost 30 mph at a full stop was enough to slosh my brain into my own skull. I remember the officer who happened to be standing 10 feet from the accident telling me to sit down because there was apparently a sizable difference between how stable I looked and how stable I felt.

I felt dazed. I was perplexed that I couldn’t seem to operate even basic functions of my phone to text my husband and call the preschool. I managed to tell Google to call them after repeated failures at texting. But I was speaking clearly in general, and I was able to drive myself home. Yet, I was confused enough to go to the ER to get checked. They diagnosed me with a mild concussion and sent me home with orders to take it easy for a couple weeks. As I write this, I’m chuckling at how much my definition of “taking it easy” has shifted since that day.

On the day, I thought concussion was something you didn’t want to do repeatedly, but generally, I expected a couple weeks of headache and not much else. My house was on the home tour that weekend, and I didn’t see any reason to cancel. My friends rallied to help with last minute cleaning and gardening, and I felt confident I could sit in a chair and talk about my house.

But I was wrong. I struggled with balance, because of damage to my vestibular system. I found myself getting stuck on words. I tried to use the words “stair tread” at least three times, and each time, two different words would come out of my mouth. I’d know they were the wrong words, but I could not get my brain to connect with the right ones. Word finding was a challenge for months.

My symptoms got worse over time. Around the four week mark, when I was starting to think I was losing my mind, a friend finally connected me to someone who said the magic words: Post Concussive Syndrome (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-concussion-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353352). She gave me a name for the dizziness, confusion, light and sound sensitivity, vision problems, and anxiety. Even better, she connected me to On With Life Brain Injury Rehab, where I spent the next five months trying to pull my life back together.

I hope to share parts of my recovery with you as I rebuild my stamina for writing and soccer travel. Hopefully, I can help others find help for their concussion recovery. I have come from needing a be in a dark room with no sound and sleeping almost around the clock to writing this from London, fighting a little jet lag, but certainly much closer to my old life than I thought possible for the past several months. With a little luck, some wifi, and hopefully a new power adapter later today (our old one self destructed a few hours ago) I’ll do my best to share this journey.

***Reading is still extremely difficult for me. Eye movement is exhausting, and oh the magical things your brain does to read! Sorry, these posts won’t be proofread for a while, if ever. ❤




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