Before watching 24SevenLax’s interview with Jim Beardmore (video above), I had figured that I would vehemently disagree with the living lacrosse legend on a number of issues, as we are both passionate and opinionated lacrosse guys. I was sure it was bound to happen, especially given the fact that JB is nearly 20 years my senior, and was actually looking forward to writing a post where I countered a number of his points with some solid analysis of my own. However, after watching the video, I can’t say I strongly disagree with Beardmore on much at all… well, except for this ONE REALLY BIG THING.
It wasn’t the F-bombs he casually dropped throughout the interview. It wasn’t the notion that D1 college coaches are egomaniacs. It wasn’t the idea that many kids today have suspect fundamentals or that kids out West should already be better players. Or that club teams are hurting the sport in some cases. I agreed with, or could at least see the argument for, all of those points.
What got me was Beardmore describing today’s game, when asked if it was soft, as “totally #$%&ing GAY“.
Throw out the fact that Beardmore decided to drop an F-bomb in there. It is considered foul language to be sure, and Beardmore clearly loves the word, as he uses it liberally, but on its own, it is not exclusionary, or divisive, nor does it target a specific group of people. It is simply offensive language, as deemed by our overarching culture. It’s a “bad” word, but not a “mean” word. I can deal with that stuff all day. Moving on.
The part that got to me, and by which I can’t abide, was when JB characterized the play as “gay” repeatedly. This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, and yet for some reason Beardmore repeats it three or four times, and with great emphasis.
Now I know that Beardmore is a passionate guy, who loves the game of lacrosse. I know he’s played it at the highest levels, and seen success on the field wherever he has been. I know that he is not “PC”, and that he speaks his mind, but I also know that there is a gay lacrosse playing kid out there who watched that video, and I can’t see that child benefitting from that portion of Beardmore’s assessment of the game, or life, very much at all.
Since Beardmore later talks about wanting to spread his knowledge of the game, and his experiences, I hope he does not take this the wrong way, as someone nitpicking his opinions, or being the PC police. It’s not about that. It’s about starting a conversation, and challenging assumptions, while growing our own community from the inside. Someone did it for me, and I hope to pass this lesson on.
When I was growing up, I used the term “gay“… and I used it a LOT. I used it to describe things that I thought were lame, or that didn’t interest me. I told other kids to “stop being gay” when they were doing something that bothered me. I didn’t really connect it with sexuality, or real people, especially not in the earlier years. To me, it was just a word, and I failed to see why anyone else cared so much. I was very ignorant.
Thanks to one family in my town, the Gallaghers, I started to think about my use of this word a bit more. Whenever I used it, they pressed me on the issue, and told me how hurtful it could be. They didn’t berate me, but they did engage me, and while I didn’t change right away, it got me thinking. When I used the word gay as a pejorative around one of the friends of this family, I noticed him cringe briefly, but he said nothing. So I thought nothing of it. When he left, one of my other friends informed me that his mother was gay. I realized right then, probably for the first real time, how hurtful and careless I had been for all those years.
I went off to college and attended a very liberal school in Wesleyan University. This experience further showed me just how wrong I had been. Did I become perfect overnight? No, I did not. I continued to use the word negatively. I used it in the locker room, and I used it around my “boys”, but I was starting to see how wrong it was in all contexts, and how people were being hurt without me even knowing, and for absolutely no reason. I could have been hurting teammates, and dear friends… and by the end of college, I reformed my ways. Why use a word that could hurt someone when it has nothing to do with the topic at hand?
I try to teach this lesson of understanding to my high school players now. We talk about using hurtful words like gay, or the N-word, and how it might not mean something deeply offensive to you or people you know, but how it could be devastating to someone else. And why would you want to devastate someone? They don’t always get it. Neither did I. And I don’t expect Beardmore to get it right away either. I just hope it gets him thinking, and hopefully talking… that’s usually a pretty good start.
You can sit back and say, “that’s not how I mean it“, or that people “need to toughen up, as it’s only a word“, OR you can be the bigger person, take a step up to being a better human, and take responsibility for the things you say. Since Beardmore is a proponent of killing the “laid back bro” stereotype in lacrosse, he should definitely get what I’m saying as well. Homophobia has no place in our sport either.
It’s not about caring what other people think of you, it’s about caring what other people think of themselves at a very basic level, and I hope Beardmore gets more on board with that. Looking at his past resume of trying to do good in the world, I’d be shocked if he didn’t.