Just 14 and a freshman in high school, our niece, a star defensive player on the school’s high school varsity soccer team, was playing in the District 10 playoff game Saturday night at Edinboro University.
We happily bundled up and joined the dozen other friends and family members who had come to cheer on the Bobcats. With just one loss the entire season, they deserved to be there. So did the other team.
My brother was an avid soccer player when I was growing up. Suffice to say, I’ve been to a lot of soccer games, and I’ve seen plenty of dirty players, a lot of red cards, a ton of thrown elbows and deliberate knee hits.
I did not see that on Sunday. From my vantage point, I saw two very talented teams full of strong, athletic young women who played aggressively and passionately, but with respect for one another.
However, behind us, were several rows of “fans” from the other team. Mostly young men. Mostly un-athletic looking young men. The kind of guys who can’t actually do, but feel free to judge and criticize those who do.
They were loud and obnoxious, and immediately irritated the family and friends of the Bobcats players around them.
They cheered when our girls missed. They insulted our players, commenting on their bodies. They wanted a red card, a foul, a corner throw on every single play that didn’t go their way. They questioned the size of the nets and the age of our girls. They loudly bragged about going home to shoot guns that Hillary didn’t want them to have (I’m not really sure what prompted that comment…because if they knew the first thing about Bobcat country, they’d know it’s rife with proud card-carrying members of the NRA).
We tried to ignore them. I repeated whispered to my girls: “When they go low, we go high. Ignore them.”
But, at one point, a particularly nasty comment forced me to turn around and look several of them directly the in the eye. I didn’t say a word. Of course, the cowards looked away; they always do.
At half time, they moved.
Later that night, I found myself thinking about those boys and where their parents went wrong. How do you raise sons who are that disrespectful? Would their mothers have put an end to that behavior? Would any of them have been that way alone, or was it pack mentality? Did they not realize that the young girls they were criticizing were our daughters, nieces, cousins, and granddaughters? That they were surrounded by people who love and cherish these women?
But, then, how we can we blame them for mirroring behavior that they are seeing demonstrated by a candidate for the highest political office in our country (and many men in positions of power)?
He belittles. He shouts. He loudly and brazenly spreads lies. He openly makes comments about women’s bodies. He cries that things are “rigged” if they are not going his way. He attracts followers who have no courage to do what they know is right.
Maybe they think this is normal. Maybe they think this is OK. Maybe they think this is how it is now.
But, on that field, those young women—on both sides—gave me hope. They played with heart, and strength, and talent, and power, and grace. And, when it was done, they shook hands and congratulated each other on a game well played.
They were leaders.
And today, my friends, for the sake of this country and for Democracy and for common decency, may we elect them because we are stronger together.