Although this entry is called “why I write”, it might be more accurate to call it “why I care.” I know that some people wonder why Backseat Coach and I are passionate enough to fly around the country to Militia away games and do all the writing & tweeting & promotion that we do. One answer is that I have good friends on the team and we want to support them and the other Militia players we’ve become friends with over the past few years. But there’s more that’s not as easy to articulate; that’s what this post is about.
When I was a kid, my dad would play basketball at the Watertown YMCA once a week. He would bring me and my younger sister along, and we hung out there with the kids of the other guys playing. I learned two things from being at those games, one of which I was conscious of learning and one that I wasn’t. The former was that if there are enough of you and you are willing to look in really grimy corners, you can usually find enough change to get a communal bag of Skittles from the vending machine. The latter was that men play sports.
It’s not like anyone said this to me directly, it’s just something that I absorbed. I saw guys play sports on TV, I saw guys play sports in real life. Thus, guys played sports. Women competed in the Olympics, of course, but they were, like, superheroes or gladiators or something – not real life. Even our Mission Hill neighborhood softball league was all men. I imagine my parents would be upset to hear that that’s what I took away from watching my dad play sports, as it goes entirely against the “girls can do anything” mantra that was so popular among second-wave feminists & allies in the 80s. I certainly heard that enough.
But the truth is that you can tell your kids whatever you want – God exists, God doesn’t exist, girls can do anything, the Cubs are the best baseball team in the world – and that’s fine, but eventually those kids are going see to the world for themselves and they may find out that what you told them doesn’t match the reality of what they see…even if you really, really want it to be true. They will grow up to believe what they see happening, even if they don’t notice that they’re seeing it.
A few weeks ago, Backseat Coach and I brought our brand-new baby, Tiny Coach, to his first Boston Militia game. As I mentioned in this post, I am utterly freaked out by the idea of my kid playing football and as such I plan to try to raise him to believe that football is only played by women. However, since the chance of me pulling that off in a Patriots-crazy household is fairly slim, I will settle for raising him to know that women CAN play football. I won’t have to tell him this; I don’t intend to continually make a big deal out of it. I simply plan to bring him to Militia games the way my dad brought me to his basketball games.
It’s one thing to have people tell you that women are strong; it’s another thing to grow up seeing the power of an all-female OL, the speed of running backs who are girls, the precision of a QB who’s pretty much the same size as your not-particularly-big mom. When I think about what I want my son to grow up knowing, so much of it is visible on our game days at Dilboy Stadium: women can be seriously bad-ass. Have people’s backs even if they don’t look like you. If someone you don’t like gets hurt, you should still hope they’re ok. If someone you care about is doing something they care about, show up and cheer for them, even when it’s raining. (Especially when it’s raining.)
Diversity’s a great concept and a great buzzword. It’s also bullshit nine times out of ten. True diversity in any setting is incredibly difficult to achieve and even harder to sustain. To this day, I have never seen a more powerfully diverse group of people work together as strongly as the Militia players do. Race, class, age, sexuality & hairstyle differences get checked at the door, and the overwhelming support that the teammates offer each other is still breathtaking to me. That’s what I want my son to grow up seeing, because from where I sit in the stands, to me, it looks like a revolution.