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A Tale Told By an Idiot

30 May 2019

Yesterday, I finally renewed my season tickets, one day before the deadline. I don’t usually write about renewing my season tickets, because it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve done it, what, about ten times now? I can’t remember how long I’ve been a men’s season ticket holder now. It’s probably buried in the archives somewhere. But this year, I struggled with whether or not to renew my tickets.

I know that must come as a surprise. The men’s team just won back to back national championships. The program has never been better. I’m not in any financial strife. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, had I not caught a throwaway comment from Sandelin during a photo op with Governor Walz. He was asked about a White House visit, and mentioned they were trying to work something out.

I cannot tell you how quickly that sucked all the joy out of the national championship. You’ll recall how appalled I was when Amsoil Arena was host to a fascist rally last year, but that was simply the building. Anyone can pay the fee to rent it out. This is the team. The idea of seeing the team I’ve spent my whole life (and a good chunk of my money and time and heart and soul) following standing as a backdrop to god knows what kind of monstrous rant about one of his political opponents, or the media, or about — well, anything. Doctors “ripping” babies from uteruses after birth. His love for the dictators of North Korea and Russia. How rich he is. How great he is. How Totally Exonerated he is. Him him him him him. It’s sickening to think of. I don’t know why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to be a potential backdrop for an incoherent word salad of hatred and ignorance delivered by someone who is facing impeachment and/or criminal indictment once he leaves office, and I don’t know why an organization would ever want to take the risk. You think you’re going to the White House to be congratulated on an achievement and honored by the President, but instead you’re fed cold fast food and used as a prop.

I wish for the days when we had presidents who acted like adults, and who could pull themselves together and behave like human beings. Imagine if George W. Bush had used tUMD women’s visits to the White House after their championships as an opportunity to whine about how unfairly he was treated after the government’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina or to sneer at Al Gore and lead chants to have him jailed. I am sure many of the women on the team and staff had issues (to say the least) with some of his policies and may have had apprehensions about attending. But they knew they were not risking an unhinged rant full of monstrous lies and demagoguery. They knew they were not being asked there to genuflect to Dear Leader.

I’m sure there are people out there who wish for the halcyon days when sports weren’t political, while standing for the national anthem at games in taxpayer funded arenas, while cheering for professional athletes who are union members, while watching on-field/ice re-enlistment ceremonies and “hero of the week” honors that are always law enforcement officers or military members and never volunteers at homeless shelters or legal aid workers, while tearing up over the Miracle on Ice, while watching the Olympics in countries with horrendous human rights records…

SPORTS. HAVE. ALWAYS. BEEN. POLITICAL.

Showing up to the White House and showing tacit support for this president undermines the efforts of people of color and other minorities who have been treated with deliberate cruelty by this administration. Red Sox manager Alex Cora chose not to accept the White House’s invitation in response to the abhorrent and anemic relief “efforts” in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy skipped a White House event honoring Olympians due to the administration’s virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric. The Minnesota Lynx did not even receive an invitation. Accepting this invitation when people of color, queer people, and women have bravely stood up in protest of this cruel and inhuman administration is simply wrong.

There’s not much I can do about it, if the team and the athletic department want to go. Frankly, I don’t know why the athletic department and the university would support such a visit. They just lost a discrimination lawsuit; sanctioning a visit to a divisive president who is an admitted sexual assaulter certainly wouldn’t do much to build up the university’s credibility as an inclusive and welcoming institution. Last year, the vice president congratulated the team for winning the state high school hockey championship, so it’s not like the executive branch of government can even be bothered with the pretense that they actually respect the team.

All I can do is express how I feel to the athletic department with my words and my wallet. I waited as long as I could to determine whether or not the Bulldogs would be accepting the invitation or quietly letting it pass by due to scheduling conflicts (real or otherwise). The renewal deadline came and I chose to gamble that the visit will not happen.

When I tweeted about it yesterday, I got this response from a former player.

That’s nice. I renewed, so I suggested he redirect that money toward a charity and offered some options. Biddco pledged to match his donations, as did I, but we haven’t heard which charity he chose. It’s nice to know former players are keeping such close tabs on me!

What’s not as nice is what happened this morning:

Look. I am fully aware that most former and current players and staff think I’m a lunatic at best. It’s why I try to minimize my interactions with them. I’d like to maintain the illusion that I fly under the radar. I’m also fully aware that the majority of them run the spectrum from neutral to enthusiastic about this current administration and many probably relish the opportunity to bask in his orange sickly glow. I’m not interested in picking fights with anyone associated with the team (other than Bruce) and I certainly am not happy to call their attention to myself in this way, but I can’t pretend not to notice.

I didn’t expect confirmation from a player that I’m unwelcome in the Bulldog fanbase. And that’s perfectly fine if he (and others) feel that way. I suppose it’s good that I found out, in the long run. Maybe I can save $800 and cancel my season tickets order if this is the position of the team and the athletic department. I’ve certainly been critical in the past and won’t hesitate to be in the future. Perhaps there’s not a place for that in Bulldog Nation. I feel like a fool, sitting here in my cubicle full of Bulldog gear, after attending the Twins game on Tuesday honoring tDogs pre-game, writing on my fifteen year old Bulldog hockey blog, but I suppose that’s the cost of trying in some way to hold on to my principles and take a stand.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Obviously if they do announce a White House visit, I will be calling the ticket office to cancel. But now I’m weighing canceling anyway. It’s a lot of money, time, and effort on our part to drive up to Duluth for home games as it is; to know that I’m cheering on people who have such disdain for me they couldn’t just write it in their diaries or bitch about it to their therapist or even address me like a human being — well, that makes that drive feel longer, and the tickets feel more expensive, and the effort feel… not worth it.

I’m not going to pretend this diatribe is anything more than sound and fury, but that’s who I’ve always been, and that’s why the two or three or ten of you out there still read, isn’t it? I’m sure most people would be happy if I kept my mouth shut and let this blow over, and I probably should have, but it’s too late for that now.

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