It was finally going to happen. I was going to see my favorite athlete play in person. Someone who has inspired me as a soccer player, fan and gay teenager. But I learned you can't always get what you want.
If I had to name my favorite five athletes who have inspired me by their performance during competition and their impact they leave when they aren’t competing, this would be my list:
1) Robbie Rogers, defender, LA Galaxy
2) JJ Watt, defensive end, Houston Texans
3) James Harden, guard, Houston Rockets
4) Kevin Love, forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
5) Craig Biggio, Hall-of-Famer, Houston Astros
It is a very Houston-based list. I’m biased towards my city, because I love what Houston has to offer sports-wise. The people who play here really care about the community.
JJ Watt is a very prominent figure in Houston. Not only is he built like Captain America, he basically is Captain America. He does a lot of charity work with his foundation,The JJ Watt Foundation, and he is just such a character. Watching him play every fall, giving it his full effort for his teammates and the city of Houston, makes me proud of my team and my city. Amazing guy destined for Canton.
James Harden hasn’t been a Rocket very long, but he has also meant so much to the community, and the Rockets as well. His game has reached new heights since coming to the Rockets, and I get to see him flourish 82 games a year. He is always looking for ways to improve his play and improve his team, and he always puts it out all on the line. That’s someone I respect and really hope the Beard can pull the Rockets to the next level next season.
People give me a hard time for liking Kevin Love because he doesn’t play for my hometown team. I’ve always respected Love’s game, mostly his rebounding, which leads to second-chance points. I also consider him an underdog, because he doesn’t get the appropriate praise for his play that I believe he should. And when everyone thought he would be disloyal to Cleveland, he was loyal, just like he promised at the beginning of last season. He’s an underdog, and in my opinion, slightly misunderstood, which makes me relate to him.
Baseball has been on and off for me, because the Astros have been more off than on in recent years. I never played baseball, not even an inning of Little League, but when you’re 6 years old, and your hometown team is competing for a championship, you become fan. And Craig Biggio was, and still is, the best player to put on an Astros uniform. Biggio was a blue-collar guy who always put it out on the line for his team, and he stayed with Houston for 20 years. He is Mr. Astro.
Normally when you are a kid, you tend to like the best player on your home team. However, as soon as I got older and realized that sports are more than just a game, I realized I could like other guys for different reasons. And that’s why Robbie Rogers is #1 on my list. Robbie has been cited as a hero to many people who have written here on Outsports before me, and his play and his story mean a lot to me as well. He has had a major impact on many peoples’ lives, mine included.
When I was 14, I was going to quit soccer because I had injured my knee and I was just realizing I liked guys for different reasons than I could have imagined. When he came out as gay, everything just began to click. Maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe what I’m feeling is normal. Maybe what I’m feeling is right. My image of a gay person was a flamboyant, over-the-top personality who acted "feminine." When I saw a guy who seemed to have a very similar backstory as myself, it led me to realize that I didn’t have to be what people perceived me to be or I had to be any stereotype. I could be a gay guy who liked traditionally "masculine" things. I could be a "gay jock." Robbie gave me the strength that it was OK to be myself.
Of my Top 5, Robbie was also the only one I had not seen live and in person. There is so much of a difference between watching the game on TV or listening on the radio than to actually see the game in person. It’s so much more of an enhancing experience. So, when I saw that the LA Galaxy were coming in town to face the Dynamo on Saturday, I was super excited. I was going to get to see this guy who has meant so much to me on and off the pitch. My dad, being the guy that he is, somehow got us a pair of sixth-row tickets. Thanks dad!
On our way there, I was scrolling through my phone for some pre-game reports and found out that it was Pride Night. What a coincidence! And then I saw the lineup, and the one guy I was most looking forward to seeing was not in the starting lineup. I thought, oh crap, Is he injured? I look on the injury list, not there. I look at the suspended list, and there was Robbie's name. He had gotten one yellow card too many and had to sit out the match.
At first, I was disappointed, but I realized I was still about to go and see the 2014 MLS Cup champion, and the only LA team I will ever root for, the Galaxy. Robbie Rogers led me to the Galaxy, and I’ve become a great supporter of the club. For the first time, I was truly going into enemy territory, wearing my new LA Galaxy snapback into the sea of Dynamo supporters at a sold out BBVA Compass Stadium. I was going to see Steven Gerrard, the guy my cousins named their dog after. Also Robbie Keane, former striker of Tottenham Hotspur, my dad’s favorite club, and everyone on the Galaxy that I have grown to love. Without Mr. Rogers there, I was determined to still enjoy myself.
When I got to the stadium, I saw two guys holding hands, which made me smile a little bit, because it made me realize that Rogers’ presence in the game of soccer and on society has impacted other people other than me. I had never been to BBVA Compass Stadium before, so when I went inside, I was amazed. It’s a wonderfully built stadium and definitely a proud addition to Houston. When I reached my seat, I couldn’t believe how close we were. We were practically on top of the field, right next to where the Galaxy were training. Steven Gerrard was 500 feet away from me fielding crosses. I’m sure my cousins would be jealous!
As the game started, the crowd was roaring, and the atmosphere was electric. And when Will Bruin scored right in front of me in the ninth minute, the crowd rose in joy, except for me. I felt like I was the only Galaxy supporter in the stadium because the crowd was loud for the full 90 minutes. La Naranja definitely keep the energy up the whole game. Brad David also scored for the Dynamo in the 27th minute to double their lead, and I was pretty surprised. The Galaxy went into the night first place in the Western Conference, and the Dynamo were near the bottom of the standings. Now, they had a two-goal lead going into halftime.
Halftime lasted a while because the sprinkler system didn’t want to turn off. It’s the second time that has happened in the MLS this season. With the sprinklers off and the extended halftime completed, I would hope that LA could get a quick goal in. But the goal never came. They had a few solid chances, but none of them reached the back of the net. They got caught in a counter-attack late in the match, and the Dynamo extended their lead to 3-0, which would end up being the final score.
Along with Rogers, the Galaxy were missing three starters (Omar Gonzalez, Gyasi Zardes, and Jaime Penedo) on international team duty for the Gold Cup. The Galaxy were missing many key pieces to their lineup, and despite holding the possession for over 60% of the game, they could never really get their groove in the warm temperatures. (People call 90 degrees hot, but in July in Houston, it’s considered warm). The Dynamo were organized and disciplined and their chances were well executed. They definitely earned their three hard-fought points.
At the end of the game, I was a little disappointed. My favorite player didn’t play, my favorite team got beat by a good margin, but I still had a great time. I got to hang out with my dad, got to watch a great game, see some awesome athletes, and I made many memories. I can’t wait to see another game at BBVA Compass Stadium.
I didn’t get everything I wanted. But at the end of the day, nobody gets everything they want in life. You have to make the best damn lemonade you can with the lemons you got. Sports are way more than just a game, and they can impact people’s lives immensely. I'll take a rain check on seeing Robbie Rogers and know I will get another chance next year when the Galaxy visit Houston.
Update: Hours after this article appeared, Robbie Rogers tweeted this and showed what a class act he is:
Jeremy Brener, 17, will be a senior this fall at Clements HS in the Houston area. He played soccer until an injury cut his career short, but it remains one of his favorite sports along with basketball and football. He can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@BrenerJeremy).