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The player's

The player's


At the games the regular fans knew that I was with Meghann. It did not much matter to them.

On the outskirts of Bristol, England, there is a small soccer stadium called Mangotsfield, a place so remote that most locals have not heard of it. During a four-month period earlier this year, this is where I spent my Sunday afternoons. Huddled in layers of fleece and wool, I was there to cheer on the Bristol Rovers, a top-ranked team in the English Women's Premier League. I was the only American in these crowds and, to my knowledge, the only player's girlfriend. My girlfriend, Meghann, was the Rovers' goalkeeper. She played in the WUSA before it folded and now, like many of her peers, bounces between leagues and around the globe: an American league in the summer and internationally the rest of the year, everywhere from Japan to Italy. This explains why Meghann moved to Bristol in the dead of winter. My presence was explained simply by the fact that I am in love with her. Most Sundays--game days--I looked like a die-hard Packers fan, so bundled in layers as to appear genderless. During the week I spent more time than usual doing laundry, stuffing our small washing machine full of workout clothes. The machine spun around the clock in the house we shared with four of Meghann's teammates, and our living room decor was dominated by a rotating display of soccer gear drying in front of the space heater. As a kid I dreamed of being a professional soccer player. I grew up playing soccer, football, and basketball. During college I rowed crew and, like my teammates, got chills when our coach explained that our training was designed to take us deeper and deeper into oxygen debt. But when I stopped rowing I lost my taste for lactic acid. These days I sate my appetite for competition in occasional road races and--although it has surprised me to discover this--by being a fan. Our time in Bristol could well have been the role of a lifetime for me, especially when one considers that our four housemates were evangelical Christians. The arrangement had all the makings of a reality show, except for the fact that the palpable judgments and desires circulating among us were not discussed. I was the only nonplayer in our house, a cross between a frat house and a convent with handwritten Bible quotes encouraging self-control taped to the walls. On Sunday mornings Jesus rock was blared through the house as everyone went about her particular pregame rituals. At the games the regular fans knew that I was with Meghann. It did not matter much; what mattered most to them was the final score of the game. But for me, there was also something deeply moving about watching the public heroics of a body that I know intimately, knowing the years of training that made a move like that possible, knowing the inevitable pains that will surface the next day. These are not secrets, exactly, but they're a part of the story of sports that we're not supposed to think about as a game unfolds--part spectacle, part performance. The keeper dives, and the shot gets saved, or it drops into the back of the net, the fans sigh or groan on cue, and the game goes on.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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