I find myself in an in-between with most sports, wanting to write about them, but not enough to make it A Thing. (Title IX Hockey an obvious exception.) I’m not a Reign writer in any sense, but I am a season ticket holder that occasionally has thoughts.
The Reign and Women’s Sports
Even with Keelin Winters retiring, I can watch three (Three!) out athletes when I watch the Reign play. (Megan Rapinoe, Jessica Fishlock, and Madalyn Schiffel.) As a queer person myself this is wonderful for so many reasons, but two mostly come to mind. It’s important to LGBTQ everywhere to see ourselves represented, to see others like us simply exist as parts of society (as opposed to being the token stereotyped queer). Unfortunately there are so many areas where this doesn’t happen. It’s also great to be a part of a community (from the team to the fans) that cares about LGBTQ issues and respects and sometimes caters to LGBTQ fans. Again, you can’t really find this elsewhere in sports.
I’m a man! I’m 30! That is to say I’m relatively privileged and confident of my place in life. This is so much bigger than me and I’m fortunate to just be able to enjoy it. But you know there are young kids out there somewhere watching players like Rapinoe and Fishlock and Schiffel being their badass selves and seeing heroes and role models and proof that yes, they do have a place in this world.
Matthias was suspended three games for pulling hair in the Boston and Portland games. It’s a weird thing, not because it isn’t deserved (it is) but because the inconsistency in which sports deal with violent conduct means we really have no idea what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of punishment. (And sometimes what is and isn’t appropriate play as the NFL and NHL will fine and suspend your ass then use your head-hunting in promos.) Mathias’s suspension is all at once surprisingly harsh (given how little other leagues care about safety) and possibly a bit too light (given how violent and potentially injurious hair-pulling is, as well as her history).
Gender probably plays into this a lot as Ride of the Valkyries writer Stephanie Yang has broken down (quite eloquently I’d add).
This year’s Reign Rookie class is off to an excellent start with their second-round (Katie Johnson) and fourth-round (Kristen McNabb) picks scoring already. Third-round pick Arielle Ship was sent to Washington in the Matheson trade and first-round pick Maddie Bauer has yet to see the field. McNabb got the first action with incumbent defender Rachel Corsiebeing eased in due to coming off an injury and the newly-acquired Rebekah Stott still getting acquainted with the team. She’s played very well in less than ideal circumstances. A defender in college, McNabb was brought in to bolster the midfield. Still, this season has seen her playing center-back and her first game saw her staring down US National Team member Kelley O’Hara in her first pro game. O’Hara got some good runs in, but Sky Blue was held to just one goal on a penalty kick. Her nickname is McNabbers, at least according to Rapinoe’s Stops with Kop spot.
Katie Johnson though… Called KaJo (Kay-Joh) by the team and Kaiju (after the monsters from Pacific Rim) by the fans, Johnson has been spectacular. Forward was the most solidified position to start the season with Rapinoe, Naho, and Yanez all returning, and very large questions elsewhere (especially in the midfield). But in her short time, the Mexican National teamer has raised the question of whether or not she should be a fixture there. At 5-9, Johnson is a big, strong player that’s shown both bulldozing ability and fancy footwork. Her goal this season game blasting through defenders for a header, but last Saturday was her best performance. The assist on Rapinoe’s second goal shows up on the scoresheet, but it was Johnson that sprung Rapinoe’s and Naho’s 2 on 1 that resulted in Pinoe’s first goal. It was also Johnson serving the ball into Naho in the box that set up her assist to Lindsay Elston for her first career goal.
We’ve already covered McNabbers and Kaiju, but there are a lot of great nicknames on this team. Beverly Yanez is The Sunshine Assassin owing to her California birth and goal-scoring acumen. Jessica Fishlock is….terrifying. Okay, but I’ve also heard her called Tiny Dragon on more than one occasion, her fiery demeanor and play evoking the dragon that adorns the flag of her native Wales.
I love a good nickname (sadly my suggestion of ‘The Bureau’ for former Union hockey defender Alex Tancrell-Fontaine never caught on) and the ones mentioned are all pretty rad. I feel like we can come up with some good ones for other players on the team.