I Deserve Respect

Being a female football player is hard, not the most shocking thesis to cross these pages. I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to really dive into it because there are so many different layers to the issue. Today really set me over the edge though, I have to speak up. I’m fucking sick of the lack of respect. I’m sick of the soullessness of other athletes. I’m fucking sick of being treated like shit.

Every sport I’ve ever played, I’ve played with intensity. Whether you like it or not, I’m an aggressive and tenacious player who takes pride in her defensive capabilities. If I had to classify myself as an athlete, I’m a defender at my core. I will protect what I need to protect in the best way I can. To be a good defender you HAVE to be aggressive. To be a great defender you have to be blood thirsty. I strive to be great.

There is a time and a place for everything. When I play in an LFL game, I have a different mentality than when I play in a CoEd flag football recreational league. Sure, I’m still going to try my best, but I am going to play my game differently. LFL is almost intimidating because there are no holds barred. It’s a primal version of football, you have to use whatever tools you have at your disposal.

I’ve done things in LFL that I’ve never done in my regular life. I have slapped a girl square across her helmet. I have yanked a woman’s body off of my quarterback and thrown her, I have pulled a girl by her bra strap to get ahold of her. I have shoved a girl to the ground repeatedly as hard as I could. And I’m still not even scratching the surface of what I’m sure I’ll do in years to come.

I’ve trained myself to restrict that mindset to LFL games. Granted, I signed up to play in a men’s only league so that I could hone my physicality in a way that feels “clean.” Well, that’s part of the reason. I also joined a men’s flag football league because I know I’m better than at least 80% of the men out there. For 3 of the 4 seasons I played in TUFF Men’s I was the league leader in sacks. I had one season where someone beat me, but he is a fucking boss and has shown me more respect than any other male opponent at my position. I’ll give him the recognition he deserves, Tim Taylor, you are a fucking unbelievable lunatic and I love playing on the same field as you.

Back to the men’s league thing. I’m better than most of the men out there. I know it’s hard to admit when a woman is better than you at something. I acknowledge that it’s a blow to your ego. Most of you have tolerated me pretty well, but the ones who can’t tolerate me are insecure about their own ability.

The first time I ever stepped on the men’s field I got laughed at by everyone I lined up across from. No one took me seriously, people on my own team didn’t think I was cut out for it. I had to suck it up and get back out there every single week. It was fucking scary. I felt afraid and insecure. But I pushed through it week after week because I loved it and I knew I was capable. I had something to prove.

When I play in a CoEd non-contact format, I like to work on things I’m normally too afraid to try because of the contact. One of the specific things I’ve been challenging myself to try is jumping routes and going for interceptions. I wanted to develop the instincts in CoEd so that when I got to tackle I would be able to brace for contact and the muscle memory would be strong.

Today I had the coolest interception of my entire career playing flag football. I was playing a rolling corner in a cover 3 scheme that Kaker designed specifically so that Dianne and I could lock down our side, baiting the guys into testing us.

The opposing quarterback sent a guy deep on my side almost every single play. I got torched deep on one of the first plays of the game. I was so pissed at myself that I vowed to make a play to redeem myself.

So when a lofty deep ball came to my side and I got great positioning on the ball, I fully extended my body to make the catch for the interception against the intended male target. Guess what? I caught the fucking ball and it was amazing, it was one of those moments as an athlete that takes your breath away. It was that feeling that keeps me coming out onto the field; the shocking realization of what my body is capable of.

But that male ego, it’ll get you.

The guy who I stole the ball from decided to bring me down to the ground. I’m not sure how exactly he did it, because I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL. I wasn’t expecting to be touched by anyone, I was elated that I got the ball back for my team.

But while I was in the air, he took my feet out from underneath me and I smacked the turf directly on my tailbone and hyperextended my hip-flexor. Unfortunately because I wasn’t in my tackle mindset, I didn’t brace myself for contact so my body didn’t take the fall very gracefully. I was in no way prepared to be hit the way that I was by the person who I was hit by.

It’s okay though, right? This is why we have referees to make sure we’re safe. At least they would give me credit for the interception, plus some additional yards for the offensive PI? I could easily go to the sideline and deal with the injury knowing that the obvious call would be made. The league prides itself on being “non-contact” something I have specifically been talked to about because of my aggressive tendencies.

No, if you thought I was speaking the truth in my last paragraph… You’re wrong. They called it an incomplete. The call on the field was “incomplete” because the ball popped out of my hands when I hit the ground. For the record, there are no fumbles in flag football. They didn’t acknowledge that I ever had possession of the ball.

One of the referees couldn’t see the play, but understood that there was unfair contact. The other referee from across the field, a woman, refused to acknowledge the interception. The other team, obviously having seen the entire thing knowing full well what had happened, said nothing. The man who dragged me to the ground? Said nothing.

I lost my mind. I told every person on the field to fuck themselves. I ripped my flags off and went over to my bag and cried by myself. Not even about the pain, but just the frustration. I’ve spent every game feeling like I had to prove myself more because I’m a woman. Because I’m a woman who is better than most of the guys. Objectively: I am taller, faster, stronger and smarter than most of the guys.

The ones who are better than me are the ones who respect me. It’s the weak ones who can’t let their ego accept the fact that a woman is torching them.

I’m not sorry for anything I said. I’m fully ashamed of the behavior I witnessed today on so many levels. I’m ashamed of what that CoEd football league has become. I’m ashamed that not a single person chose to acknowledge what they saw and do the right thing.

If I can’t prove myself to people who have seen me play for over a year now, how can I ever expect to prove myself to the general public? To the guy in my office who tells me I can’t have my boyfriend running my fantasy football team? To the man at the airport who asks me if I’m a volleyball player and then assumes I mean soccer when I tell him I play football? How the fuck am I supposed to reconcile that men get paid millions of dollars to play football while I can’t even expect to get people to watch unless I play in my bra and underwear?

Please tell me why I’m not supposed to be irate.

I’m Not Dead

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I’ve started this post about 12 to 15 times and every single time I have the urge to write a sentence about how hard it is to put everything into words. Today I’m acknowledging, there’s no easy way for me to start this post. So here, you can have this useless paragraph chock-full of my own obsessive self awareness.

Around this time two years ago I was going through a really difficult breakup. One that woefully dug up every tenuous root of in life and left me hating the person I’d become. I was drinking way too much and floating through life like a sloppy clumsy shell of a person. I woke up every morning feeling like a body with no purpose, realizing that I hadn’t felt like myself since I moved to Los Angeles in the first place.

The sad truth is that I wasn’t myself. I was desperately searching for an identity that was with me all along, hiding almost. I wanted to be part of the big creative machine, I wanted to share a unique perspective, I wanted to live in an entertaining world that I helped to create. I wanted to make people laugh, I thought it was my purpose. I thought if I really put my mind to it, I could create outstanding animated comedy.

Slowly but surely, I broke off parts of myself and let them die. I became so obsessed with being the person I thought my bosses wanted me to be, I ceased to have a personality. I lived in fear for my job, every single day I woke up afraid I’d get fired for something that hadn’t happened yet. I lived in perpetual anxiety, juggling however many tasks my bosses placed upon me. I hated myself when I wasn’t good enough, and they constantly told me that I wasn’t good enough. So I constantly hated myself.

You can’t fully live your life when you hate yourself. You’ll always be slugging forward, yearning for the next opportunity to escape. Drinking copious amounts of whatever liquor I could get my hands on was my personal escape. I had a lack of “off switch” which was terrible for my brain and overall health. I wasn’t nice to myself for almost five years. 

Whether it be binge drinking, restrictive eating, binge eating, or over-exercising… I was a complete asshole to myself for about five consecutive years.

So how do you just magically stop yourself from implosion? How do you turn off that constant negativity? How do you quiet the criticism?

You figure out what drives you.

This sounds like bullshit from a self-help book, but I really mean it. Your version of success isn’t the same as someone else’s. Your dream job, dream home, and dream partner are all different. There is no template for what is going to fulfill you and make you feel whole, you just have to keep trying to see what fits for you. WARNING: This process feels pretty similar to being run over by an SUV repeatedly, but that’s okay: it’s supposed to.

During my studies in Becoming a Human Being 101 I learned that playing a team sport was the missing ingredient in my life.  In hindsight, I never found a passion for soccer, basketball or track. I had nothing that drove me other than being naturally gifted. I enjoyed so many aspects of being an athlete, but I didn’t love the game. 

With football, I don’t care how frustrated, angry, depressed, exhausted, confused, maniacal, and obscene I get. I don’t care that I turn into a sputtering overly caffeinated monster no matter what context I play in. I don’t care that my physicality rubs people the wrong way (plz appreciate that humor.) I  I will always look forward to stepping on the field again. Every single struggle is worth it because I get to keep playing football. I understand that I am obsessed, I understand that it’s not traditional, but when the fuck have I ever been traditional at any point in my life?

I’d say if anything I was hypnotized by the game because I was so infatuated with a man who shared this passion. I knew from the moment I first got my ass kicked by him in coed flag football that he was special to me. Not because of his appearance (he was wearing neon leggings and a skull cap the first time I spotted him) but because of the way he carried himself (despite looking like a clown.) The blind confidence with which he dissected my shitty defense, the no-mercy sportsmanship even though we were losing unequivocally… There was something special about this pompous asshole that drew me in. Against my better judgement.

Now, a year or so later, I’m living with that pompous asshole. He has taken me under his beefy wing and showed me a world within Los Angeles that I didn’t know existed. He brought out the girl I remembered from high school… The girl with a concerning amount of tenacity and aggression (an amount that could require intense psychological intervention without proper supervision.) The girl who wore clothing that matched her mood. The girl who laughs so hard she snorts and then chokes on her own spit. The girl who constantly wants to create and express herself.

Whatever obstacles I face in this life, I am comfortable. I am confident that I can handle anything that comes my way. I am unafraid, I am safe. I am myself.

cat cat face pussycat cat eye

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Meow.