So, here’s my story – and, I’m sticking to it. I came to this country from Hong Kong, as a 5yr old, with my mom, dad, and 2 younger siblings. For my parents, who spoke no English, and having had only a 3rd grade education, it was a tremendous leap of faith. As a result, I strongly relate to and agree with the vision of the United States being portrayed as ‘The American Dream’. As defined by James Thurlow Adams in 1931. "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”
Fast forward then, to the 1990’s. I remember reading one day that Gary Larson was retiring. As the cartoonist for ‘The Far Side”, he created a bizarre surrealistic world of anthropomorphized insects and animals, overweight nerds with glasses, and alien aliens, living in uncomfortable social situations, and, portrayed in visual and verbal gags of puerile silliness of such magnitude that might make George Carlin proud. And, which I knew I would miss – a lot.
And, what about George Carlin? Nothing was off limits for his sharp observational humor about life, which combined profound thought, fuzzy language and caustic wit.
And, that just made me think…of just how hard it was to do something like what they did – to create something out of nothing. And, in Larson’s case, it was on average, one a day, for 15 years.
So, that’s what Gary Larson and George Carlin inspired me to do one day, myself, about 9-10 years ago, as I’m standing around waiting for my first table (since I work as a server). (Note that I said ‘one day’, and, not ‘in one day’.)
During the idle time before the guests came in, my mind would wander. And,as Daniel J. Levitin wrote in The New York Times, “Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing. Daydreaming leads to creativity.”
So, I thought I’d make use of that ‘idle’ time and start writing down these weird thoughts. On order pads, lots and lots of order pads.
This year, finally, I decided to do something about it. Just throw it up on the walls and see what sticks.
So, despite this being thrown up in slow motion, it IS a work in progress. And, for better or perverse, progress it is.
So, why did I pick the LGBTQ as a niche? And, why sports? Well, as I said, I’m an immigrant. And, this country is about opportunity. And Equality. And Community. Gender Identity is a subset of gender equality, which is a subset of equality.
The LGBTQ, or gay, community, as defined in Wikipedia, “is a grouping of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, LGBT organizations, and subcultures, united by a common culture and social movements.” Their communal identity and strength are oftentimes expressed in the terms ‘Pride” or ‘Gay Pride” and is tribal in nature.
If you remember that ‘Cheers’ intro song:
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
You want to go where people know
The people are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name”
That feeling of community, of belonging, can happen immediately when you walk into a strange bar and you see people wearing your ‘tribal’ colors.
In a similar fashion, sports fans are tribal as well. In 2015, Deloitte Consulting surveyed 4,000 sports fans in the U.S. and learned that our hometown was the biggest factor in determining team loyalty (40%), followed by current residence (22%), family influence/history (14%), and, team performance (10%).
Throughout this country’s history, professional sports have helped advance understanding, acceptance, and Equality. Sports is about play; it is about joy. It is about teamwork, community and excellence.
It requires passion, drive, motivation; it requires determination, commitment and inspiration. Plus, respect for one’s self and others. It teaches us humility, patience and resilience.
Sports has a unifying element and helps to reduce conflict. That ideal has stemmed as far back as the Ninth Century, B.C., when Iphitos, king of Elis, created the tradition of the Olympic Truce. Every 4 years countries put aside their differences and showcase to the world, sometimes in just a few minutes or seconds, the best athletes this planet has to offer.
As the IOC itself says on their site:
“The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
And in The Fundamentals of Olympic Values Education, published by the International Olympics Committee in 2016, Section 1 introduces The Fundamental Principles of Olympism, as set forth in the Olympic Charter. They define a shared set of values. Value #6 states that, “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Although Roger Dover became the first openly gay athlete to compete in the modern Olympics, in 1988 in team dressage, it has only been in these most recent years, since the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, that the issue of gender equality and Olympic-level sport competition has become more public and popular as a social cause.
Anyway, this is my Journey. I invite you to join me on that journey as a member of my Tribe, which I call “The Tribe of the Union Rings”(which I pronounce ‘onion’, just for fun-in-cheek).
A ring, like a circle, has no beginning or end. It is a symbol of infinity, hence, endless, eternal, just the way love should be. It may symbolize completeness, continuity, and unity; it may represent the commitments and promises you have made to someone; it may symbolize your commitment to a relationship or to a new endeavor. These rings, together, represent that union and commitment to each and all of us.
Get a t-shirt that will attract attention and show that you love sports, and yourself, regardless of who you are.