Saturday, October 29, 2016

[D.C. Untied 26] (FINAL) D.C. United vs Montreal Impact, October 27, 2016

A note from me: If you enjoyed reading this series I’d love to hear from you. I had a lot of fun writing these pieces and would love to hear what people liked (or what they didn’t). I’m not sure what my project over the next few months will be. I’ve grown very impatient with film and the discussion around film and television. But on the other hand, I have a stack of 1970s Japanese cult films never released with subtitles and that have no reviews in English so that might be fun… anyways. Please enjoy this final installment of D.C. Untied!

Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,

testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,

and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn

of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!

There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;

and here are the shocked starlings pumping past

and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.

Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast

of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!

Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually

he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling

into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?

See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down

while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.

--Anne Sexton, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

[D.C. Untied 25] Orlando City SC vs D.C. United, October 23, 2016

A year ago I couldn’t have imagined that by the end of the 2016 regular MLS season I’d be in Orlando for a D.C. United game, enjoying a Duff beer by the shores of a tiny artificial lake under the warm October sun. But there I was. I’d woken up on Saturday at 4:45 am to get a 6:30 a.m. flight down to America’s favorite tourist destination. By 10 a.m. I was pulling into the Universal Studios parking lot and by 11 a.m. I’d fought my way through nerds in Harry Potter robes and bickering couples in matching t-shirts to hop on the first of many roller coasters I’d be riding that day. The anticipation of waiting in line, the twinge of fear deep in the pit of your stomach as you finally sit down and are strapped in… will the harness hold? Then the exhileration of being whipped around and upside down and leaving nothing but a trail of shouted profanity in your wake. I’ve enjoyed a lot of shouted profanity this year.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

[D.C. Untied 24] D.C. United vs New York City FC, October 16, 2016

October 2, 2015, just about a year ago, was a rainy Friday night at RFK. I know nothing of what’s happening in the season beyond the fact that I have a good time hanging out with my brother and cheering for the guys in black. I don’t know about Davy’s concussion and how the season has been in freefall since he’s been out, with United hemorrhaging points. I don’t know that this game will break a six game losing streak. I don’t know anything about “Bennyball” or Pontius’s hamstrings or, indeed, anything about soccer beyond the need to put the ball in the goal to win.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

[D.C. Untied 23.5] [Interlude] USMNT vs New Zealand, October 11, 2016

In 1799 Henry Lee, father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, wrote these words in a eulogy for George Washington: “To the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

In 1932 the great scholar and poet W.E.B. Du Bois staged a pointed historical pageant titled, “George Washington and Black Folk”, in deep contrast with the near universal hagiographical treatment of the nation’s first president, Du Bois highlights Washington’s ambivalence on ending slavery, his reluctance to act, and puts a spotlight on the many contributions of black Americans in the Revolutionary War. The hero of the pageant turns out to be former slave and leader of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint L’Ouverture, of whom abolitionist Wendall Phillips wrote, “I would call him Washington but the great Virginian owned slaves.”

Days before the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team was set to play New Zealand in a friendly, Saudi Arabia, with the tacit approval of and using weapons sold to them by the United States, bombed a mass funeral in Yemen, killing and wounding hundreds.

This is what ran through my head the evening of the October 11th at RFK Stadium when the American Outlaws unfurled their banner proclaiming us, “First in War, First in Peace, First in Soccer.”

It made my stomach turn in disgust. “First in War,” is not something to be proud of and I have yet to see evidence of either “First in Peace” or, indeed, “First in Soccer.”

I’d been expecting something different, something lighthearted. This wasn’t a competitive match, after all. Why not a banner making a reference to some of New Zealand’s cultural output--a joke about Flight of the Conchords or The Lord of the Rings, perhaps? But the fun, bantering atmosphere that I’ve come to love at D.C. United games is completely absent from U.S.M.N.T. games.

I attended my first Men’s National Team game earlier this year, during the Copa America tournament. My buddy Paul had an extra ticket to the game against Paraguay at Lincoln Field in the Stadium District of Philadelphia and, not knowing better, I accepted it.

There was a big, very friendly Paraguayan family seated to our left and a drunk American bros on every other side, including a real gem of a bro in Edgartown Red shorts kept standing up to flip the bird at the Paraguayan family. The chants of “USA USA USA” felt inappropriately belligerent and more than a little nativist. Chanting “USA USA USA” at the local immigrant population was not something I felt comfortable doing. I didn’t join in with that or any of the cheers.

Later that month, also during Copa America my friend L., who is Mexican-American, was going to attend an American Outlaws watch party with her husband, who is white. They ended up separated by the crowd. He was waved into the bar but she was turned away. “Members only,” the guy at the door said.

After those experiences I had decided never to attend another national team game or watch party again. That nativist atmosphere was just not something I felt comfortable with. But when this game against New Zealand was announced, I’d decided to give it another try, especially after local boy Bill Hamid was called up by Jurgen Klinsmann. My hope was that a friendly against a “white” country that didn’t also represent a local marginalized immigrant community would be free of uncomfortable jingoism. I was wrong. It still felt like a Trump rally when my section rose to its feet chanting “USA USA USA”.

I’d brought a cheeky handwritten sign with me expressing my disapproval of Jurgen not starting our homegrown hero in goal: “FREE HAMID.”

I’d intended it as a lighthearted joke but as the game wore on, and my discomfort grew, it felt more like a protest. FREE HAMID to join the Black Lives Matter protests or take a knee with Colin Kaepernick if he wants to. FREE HAMID from having to suck up to Europe-biased Jurgen or put up with these nativist chants of USA USA USA. FREE HAMID from this bullshit.

I’ll still cheer on and support the players on the national team but I cannot in good conscience participate in that supporter culture.

I’ll stick to D.C. United.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

[D.C. Untied 22-23] D.C. United vs Orlando City SC, September 24, 2016, and D.C. United vs Columbus Crew SC, September 28, 2016

When I last left you, gentle readers, D.C. United had valiantly fought back from a two goal hole, scoring twice in six minutes to tie the New York Red Bulls in stoppage time and for Viernes de Futbol the following week in Chicago they drew the same scoreline: 2-2. We made a party of it. After work, I took the Metro out to Maryland where I met my brother and sister-in-law and the new baby over at my parents house. Beers in hand (except for the baby) we tuned into the game on the big screen TV, laughing in gleeful disbelief as Rob Vincent took an indirect freekick from inside the penalty box, scoring the opening goal. And then we’d groaned in disappointment as it was answered minutes later by Chicago and then answered again. United seemed tired, slow of both foot and thought, as if the pitch had been spread with molasses. A second half stoppage time equalizer from captain Bobby Boswell salvaged a point but unlike the previous week’s effort, it didn’t feel quite like a win. Chicago is the worst team in the East and we just barely scraped out a draw? Was my optimism all for nothing?

Oh me of little faith.

Two weeks later and we’re sitting on our first winning streak of the season: 3 wins in a row, including a massive win on the road against Toronto FC. D.C. United has gone from clinging onto 6th place with our collective fingernails and a series of hard-fought draws to racing past Philadelphia and hot on Montreal’s heels in a fight 4th which would guarantee us a home game in the playoffs.

And I’m late writing about it for a few reasons.

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