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Soccer Poet

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Front Page News

Let me begin by saying that Robin Confer makes the best chili I’ve ever had. At first I thought it was because there’s about a pound and a half of ground beef in every bowl – and let’s face it, we award big big bonus points for that – but it’s also just plain delicious! I’ve had three bowls in the past two days and she may find me at her door begging for more before the week is out.

One of the cool things about keeping this blog is it puts me back in touch with a lot of the players I’ve coached over the years. Every school I’ve coached at is represented in our subscriber list. A lot of them followed my other blog and are happy to have a new excuse to not do work when they’re at work. And I applaud them for it.

Tonight I got a call from one of my all-time favorite people/players, Shorty. Anyone who has ever met Shorty will back me up on this – she is one of the nicest people to ever walk this earth. She’s warm and friendly and loyal and has a great big heart. She's perpetually cheerful and laughs at everything. She’ll help you before you have to ask, even if she’s never seen you before. So from a personality standpoint she is about the last person you’d ever expect to be a boxer.

Shorty took up boxing when she moved from Daytona Beach to Long island and she immediately fell in love with the sport. As it turns out, one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met is actually a natural pugilist. So much so that about 12 months after taking up the sport, Shorty nearly won the New York Golden Gloves title and qualified for the Olympics. So yeah, all things considered, that would qualify her as a natural.

When Shorty was considering a career move that would relocate her off Long Island, the most difficult part of her decision was leaving her trainer. An engineering firm in Kansas badly wanted her services. So did one in California. Did you know that Wichita is one of the hotbeds of women’s boxing in this country? Neither did I. But it is and that’s where Shorty went. And that is where she met her trainer, Tommy Morrison. Yes. That Tommy Morrison. You know. The boxer. The power puncher with the devastating left hook.

Not ringing a bell? Well, he defeated George Foreman and was WBO World Heavyweight Champion. He also knocked out Razor Ruddock. Remember yet?

Still nothing? Okay, let’s take a different approach. You seen Rocky V? Remember Tommy Gunn? Yeah. That’s him.

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I mean how cool is that?! I mean how would you like to train from a guy who can do this?

Okay, so for a sport that flies conveniently below the radar, women’s soccer has produced two media worthy scandals in one season. First was FSU coach Mark Krikorian leaving his starters in Tallahassee during the ACC Tournament. That one made it as far as the NY Times. Here’s a pretty balanced look at the Times’ take on it.

But I have a feeling that story is going to pale in comparison to what’s been happening at Belmont University in Nashville. To make a long story short, Belmont walked away from its women’s soccer coach, Lisa Howe, because she’s gay. Not because she’s gay and can’t coach. Because she’s gay. Here is the article from WKRN that got the ball rolling.

The story quickly became big news across Tennessee and is now snowballing its way to national attention. weighed in dramatically with this piece.

And the latest to tag along is the Los Angeles Times.

SI and the L.A. Times? In the world of journalism, those are two heavy hitters. At Belmont’s student newspaper, The Vision, Coach Howe is top to bottom news. And The Tennessean, another Nashville paper, has been doggedly and dutifully stoking the anti-establishment fires at ground zero.

As for Belmont’s leadership, they seem to have backpedaled themselves out of any comprehensible stance, claiming that Howe not only wasn’t fired for being gay, but that she wasn’t fired at all. Nor (and this is the real trick) did she resign. She just sorta stopped being an employee, like a pencil that had run out of lead. Now with the storm of negative publicity picking up strength like an August hurricane, Belmont, a Christian University, can’t realistically make a stand. The leadership has fallen into its own trap. They can’t say that Howe wasn’t forced out because let’s face it, no one is gonna believe it. And they can’t say that she was fired for failing to uphold their Christian ideals without also saying that she was fired. (For some reason this reminds me of Bill Clinton, during his impeachment hearings, asking for clarification on the definition of the word ‘is.’ )

I’m not here to pass judgment on any of it. Just seems to me if you’re going to take a hard-line stance about such a hot-button subject, you’d be better off stepping up and owning it. Raise a flag and say, “This is who we are and this is what we believe in and this coach wasn’t living up to our values so she was dismissed.” Sure, plenty of people would rise up against you. But others would rally behind you. At least everyone would know how you want to define yourself. I mean realistically, would Belmont be any worse off right now?

Regardless, if my little slice of the internet is the first you’re hearing of this, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Some very high profile people will eventually be asked to opine on this matter before all is said and done. Right now Belmont is looking at a snowball. In a week or two it will be squaring up to an avalanche.