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Captain Canada (Caroline Ouellette), Captain America (Julie Chu) and baby Liv makes it a forward line

First of all, the birth of Liv Chu-Ouellette is a beautiful story that should be celebrated.

Little Liv, who arrived on Nov. 5, is healthy and her parents are full of joy. Nothing else should really matter.

Except, in this case, there’s a delightful sidebar. Like, Liv has two moms, and they’re both very good at hockey. One, Caroline Ouellette, captained Canada during its gold-medal crusade at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and her other mom, Julie Chu, is a former captain of the United States national women’s team who was wearing the Stars ‘n’ Stripes in Russia.

Julie Chu, left, Caroline Ouellette and baby Liv.

That’s right, little Liv’s moms are Captain Canada and Captain America.

Although they’ve butted heads for many years on the international stage—one getting the upper hand at the Olympics and the other at the world championships—both moms are teammates with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Ouellette was preggers with Liv when they won the Clarkson Cup last spring) and both coach the Stingers at Concordia University.

Let us not, however, think of this strictly as a feel-good sports story. It’s a life story, first and foremost, with a hockey backdrop.

The fact we’re discussing and celebrating the birth of a daughter to a same-sex couple is another noteworthy testament to the progress the LGBT collective has made and, even though many people (mainly gospel sharks) pooh-pooh the notion that same-sex parents can raise children properly, evidence from numerous studies endorsed by the American Psychological Association suggest that kids of lesbian couples are as well-adjusted in most critical social areas as their heterosexual peers. Eve and Eve works just as well as Adam and Eve.

Among other things, here’s what the APA has stated:

  • There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armest, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997); On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
  • Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
  • Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).

So there’s that.

This is also another example of the deep chasm that exists between women’s and men’s sports vis-a-vis gays. While any gay male skating in the National Hockey League today remains deeply closeted, two of the world’s premier gay female players are out, proud and having babies, happily presenting daughter Liv to followers on an Instagram account.

I think we know what would happen if the respective captains of the Canadian and American men’s entries at the Sochi Olympics—Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise—posted a pic of themselves with their new-born on Instagram or Twitter. That’s right, the Internet would break. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and not even Donald Trump could put it back together again.

At a time when horror stories of sexual harassment and the ongoing hissing contest between two men with nuclear weapons are prevalent, feel-good tales with happily-ever-after endings seem scarce. Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu and baby Liv have given us one.

Bless them.

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A simple thank you just doesn’t seem enough

Unfailingly at this time of the year, I wonder what level of courage and bravery one must summon in order to go to work in the morning, or in the deepest part of the night, knowing that there’s a very good chance you’ll be shot. Dead. Or blown to pieces.

Canadian soldiers did that in World War I and II. Also in Korea.

They knew the bad guys would be spraying bullets and lobbing grenades in their direction. That they’d be required to navigate their way from Point A to Point B, aware they might trigger a land mine at any moment. But they did it. They crawled out of their foxholes—weary, hungry and scared—and they heard the whistle of German bullets fly past their ears and steal the breath from a comrade in arms. He was dead, and there were many thousands like him. Still, they soldiered on.

I simply cannot wrap my head around that horror.

Which is why saying thank you to our war veterans seems so inadequate. But perhaps that’s all those who remain with us want. All they need.

So thank you.


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Robbie Rogers was no Pied Piper for gay male athletes, so what now?

Under ordinary circumstances, the retirement of a physically broken-down defender who never set foot or wonky ankle on the pitch this season would be filed under ho-hum.

The thing is, Robbie Rogers wasn’t your ordinary soccer player.

Robbie Rogers

He was gay, out and proud, the sole openly gay man among the approximately 4,350 athletes listed on the 145 rosters that represent five major men’s professional sports organizations in North America. One in 4,350. So, yes, Rogers’ retreat from the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer this week warranted more than a line or two among the transactions noted on the agate page of a newspaper’s sports section.

But what did we learn from Rogers’ time as an out athlete in MLS, and what does his departure mean in the grand scheme of things? What does it tell us?

Well, on the positive side of the ledger, Rogers’ tour of duty in Los Angeles became a myth-busting exercise, in that the notion that a professional men’s team could not achieve success with a gay man in the lineup was laid bare as a misguided and completely false narrative. The Galaxy, with Rogers an every-day contributor, won the MLS Cup in 2014.

But we also know that Rogers was no Pied Piper.

Since he came out in 2013, only two other openly gay men have surfaced—Michael Sam and Jason Collins. Neither lasted much longer than a hiccup. Sam was on the field for the grand sum of 12 plays with Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, while Collins finished the dog-eared days of a 13-season NBA career with the Brooklyn Nets.

At its basic, most-simplistic level, Rogers’ retirement means there are now zero openly gay men among the approximately 4,350 performing in the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and MLS. Zero.

There are, no doubt, gay men in all five leagues, but they remain closeted. And that’s what Rogers’ retirement confirms for us—homosexuality in professional sports remains strictly a male issue.

Women don’t have that gay hangup.

Amanda Clifton and Elena Delle Donne: I do.

You’ll find open lesbians in the Women’s National Basketball Association (Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics married Amanda Clifton last week); in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Soccer League (Megan Rapinoe of the Seattle Storm is dating WNBA veteran Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm); and at the Olympic Games. And it extends beyond team sports. There are out lesbians on the pro golf and tennis tours. There have been for decades, dating back to Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and beyond.

Here’s what LPGA tour pro Christina Kim says about lesbians in her 2010 book Swinging From My Heels:

“Because there’s never been an honest, open discussion about lesbianism on tour, it has become a source of fascination among many golf fans and especially male reporters who have only heard various rumors and innuendo. Contrary to what many people think, we are not the Lesbians Playing Golf Association. By my count there are no more than two dozen gay women playing the tour right now. Considering there are 230 active members, you’re only talking about 10 per cent of the players, which from everything I’ve read is in line with the population as a whole.

“To every player I know, the issue is just not that big a deal. There are no super-freaky homophobes out here or militant man-haters. At most, a player’s sexuality may be an occasional practice-round conversation piece: ‘Hey, did you hear that so-and-so likes girls?’ ‘Really? Huh. So, did you hit an 8-iron or a 9?’ ”

Men’s sports, with their culture of machismo and misogyny, can’t get to where the women have been for more than 40 years. Often, the male jock’s go-to taunt for an opponent is a gay slur. Still. In 2017.

“My only regret in my 11-year career are the years I spent in the closet,” Rogers said in his parting comments on Instagram. “I wish I could have found the courage that so many young individuals have shared with me in the past five years to live honestly and openly as a gay person.

“To all the women and men who are still frightened to share their truth with the world, I’d encourage you to come out.”

Should we care if athletes in the five major men’s team sports leagues come out in numbers? Absolutely. We should all feel comfortable in our own skin, and it shouldn’t matter with whom we share our bedrooms.

The playing fields of North America (male division) remain anti-gay, despite Robbie Rogers’ and the LA Galaxy’s best intentions, and that’s not only wrong, it’s shameful.


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Country artists are rockin’ the juke box instead of playing country music

I have been reminded, yet again, why I don’t listen to today’s country music—because it isn’t country music.

What passes for country music today is…oh, hell, I don’t know what it is.

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

The Country Music Association Awards singalong has become a total misnomer. More accurate would be a title something along these lines: The Anti-Merle, Anti-Waylon, Anti-Willie, Anti-Patsy, Anti-Dolly, Anti-Emmylou Show.

I mean, what I watched from Nashville on Wednesday night was country like Faith Hill’s right leg is short and stubby. (If you observed Faith’s right stem while she sang a duet with hubby Tim McGraw you’ll know what I mean. If not, be advised that Faith’s stems are noticeably unshort and unstubby.)

George Strait and Alan Jackson had it right when they sang Death On Music Row at the CMAs at the back end of the 20th century: Someone killed country music/cut out its heart and soul/they got away with murder/down on Music Row.

The chorus of that Larry Cordle/Larry Shell-written song goes like this:

For the steel guitars no longer cry and the fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars are mixed up in your face
Old Hank wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio
Since they committed murder down on Music Row.

Once upon a time, country music was three chords and the truth. It was about the song. Now it’s…again, I don’t know what the hell it is, but apparently few folks can sing these days without distracting, blinding strobe lights, smoke and the volume cranked up so high that you can’t hear, or understand, the lyrics.

A lot of them look country, but they don’t do country.

Miranda Lambert looks country. Does it, too. Chris Stapleton looks country. Does it, too. Any coincidence that they were saluted as female and male vocalists of the year?

Miranda Lambert: A girl and her guitar.

I like Lambert. A lot. She can get after it like a hell-ya girl, but she doesn’t need gizmos and gadgets. She can stand on stage with nothing more than her acoustic guitar, her voice and her pain and deliver pure country music. She did the girl-and-her-guitar thing earlier this year with Tin Man at the Academy of Country Music awards. She was spellbinding. On Wednesday in Nashville, she genuflected in the direction of traditional country music with To Learn Her. This time she had a backing band and the performance included—wait for it—a pedal steel solo. The only one I heard in three hours. Imagine that. Pedal steel in a country song. What a concept. Miranda was Patsy, Loretta, Dolly, Emmylou, Tammy and Reba in a petite, powerful package.

What Miranda Lambert did is what country music is supposed to look and sound like.

It’s supposed to look and sound like what Little Big Town (with Jimmy Webb on keyboards) did with the Glen Campbell classic Wichita Lineman. Beautiful, four-part harmonies. It’s supposed to be what the Brothers Osborne did with Tulsa Time (a tribute to the late troubadour Don Williams). It’s supposed to look and sound like what newly minted Hall of Famer Alan Jackson did with Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.

Instead, we get too many like Luke Bryan, a terrible singer singing a terrible song (Light It Up).

I thought it fitting that Jackson closed the show with Don’t Rock the Jukebox, because that tune pretty much sums up my sentiments about today’s country music:

Don’t rock the jukebox
I wanna hear George Jones
My heart ain’t ready
for the Rolling Stones
I don’t feel like rockin’
Since my baby’s gone
So don’t rock the jukebox
Play me a country song.

Sadly, too many of today’s performers can’t, or won’t, play country music.


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The blessing that is autumn

Autumn, my favorite time of the year, arrived for me yesterday.

I saw her golden splendor, still clinging to tree branches in defiance of Mother Nature’s seasonal dictates, and I felt her crunch under foot as I made the lengthy trek from the concrete enclave I call home to my doctor’s office in homey Fairfield, with its inviting feel-goodness.

Because I live in downtown Victoria and seldom stray any great distance from home and hearth, autumn tends to escape without notice. The sole indicator that she has arrived are the peaks of the distant Olympic Mountains, which have begun to accept dabs of snow that I can see from my eighth-floor apartment. That is not to experience autumn, though.

Shuffling booted feet through piles of leaves is experiencing autumn, as is taking in deep breaths of crisp, morning air during a mile-long walk. There is a zen-like quality to autumn on the tree-lined streets of Fairfield. It is a cleansing, even as her signature colors lay strewn on the ground or piled high on boulevards and street corners.

I love autumn. Yesterday was a blessing.