By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell
With this week’s release of the Minnesota Dark Clouds’ 2021 scarf design and motto, #HereForThis, I got to thinking about how we can all apply this attitude in our response to the events of 2020 and in consideration of the journeys ahead.
As a writer who feeds off of emotion and atmosphere, 2020 was a tough year to do what I love. On paper it was MNUFC’s best MLS season to date, culminating in a conference final appearance despite injuries and COVID-19 cases galore. But the excitement was tempered. A fan base following along from home, player-press interactions limited to a Zoom call, a general sense of unease dominating nearly every other aspect of our daily lives…The phrase “We’re just happy to be here” was finally, and quickly, replaced.
What are we doing here?
I felt it just as strongly as a reporter and editor as I did from my supporter’s perspective. It shows in my contributions to this site through 2020 and my participation in the soccer corner of Twitter.
Are 90 minutes of entertainment worth the risk posed by the required training, travel, setup and takedown, and bringing all the personnel this requires into close proximity? Should players risk an injury when basic medical supplies are short and rationed? Do we have any business going about business before we even know the risks?
On top of pandemic concerns, debate dominated social media. On every occasion that supporters were able to stray from the usual topics (Robin Lod on the left, a possible Thomas Chacon loan, does Adrian Heath know he has five subs?), the question of where sport and entertainment ends and politics begin came to the fore. Should we discuss a player’s rights as a human inside the 90-minute bubble or are they simply assets whose job it is to entertain us and distract us from the world outside the stadium walls?
Must we really focus our attention on the pitch while fires burn and people protest just outside our stadiums? Will anyone stop to read the match recap while they wait for developments from their local officials and Washington, DC?
Whether you stood for the anthem and/or against protest (the two are not mutually inclusive) or took a knee, 2020 should have revealed the players’ humanity and the validity of their concerns to all who watched.
Athletes – and their families – risked everything to give us a sense of normalcy in trying times. And they have volunteered to do it again in 2021. They will do so not only because it is the job they chose, but because they love it and think it’s important — Even if many fans see them only as tools of the industry.
We, the Supporters and the Press, owe them recognition, as human beings who face the same challenges as us. Pay cuts, work stoppages, loss of friends and loved ones, natural disasters, civil unrest and inequity, fear, frustration, and exhaustion when looking ahead to the future…
The game brings us all together to have these conversations. We owe it to the game, and those who make it happen, to make it even more beautiful. To show up for one another every day the way we show up for those 90 minutes of live or virtual entertainment.
I see plenty of reasons to get excited about the upcoming season. And I see plenty more questions to ask of our clubs, our fellow fans and reporters, and of ourselves, as we forge ahead into a new season and a new year.
I will not stick to sports. There are far more important things for us to discuss as we gather around a sport that puts those topics under the microscope.
In the Supporters section or behind a keyboard, on the mic, or on social media, I am here for this. And Reader, I hope you will join me.
Featured image taken February 9, 2020, the last time we all gathered together at Allianz Field.
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell