Looking back at it all, his ground-breaking announcement, his near brush with wildly premature retirement and his re-introduction into professional soccer, even Robbie Rogers is a little confused about why it was all such a big deal?
And what a wonderful development that is – not just for Rogers, but for all of us. Inching toward a time when none of this is a big deal says good things about societal progress.
Here’s what Rogers, who will soon be back on an MLS field after the LA Galaxy acquired his rights from the Chicago Fire, told the Associated Press on Friday:
I don’t know what I was so afraid of. It’s been such a positive experience for me. The one thing I’ve learned from all of this is being gay is not that big of a deal to people.
“People are just really growing and accepting and loving. Those other things are just not that important to them. I think as the younger get older and the generations come and go, I think times are just becoming more accepting.”
He had hints that things might just break this way back in February, when he broke the news on his own blog – leaving the game while announcing he was gay. The soccer nation was overwhelmingly supportive then.
But as recently as three weeks ago, as the former U.S. international stepped back into a locker room, joining the LA Galaxy for training, Rogers wondered how he would be seen and accepted.
Quickly, though, the Galaxy winger figured out that he was just another pair of feet, just another body in L.A. practice gear, same as the others.
He will surely be greeted a little differently than the others upon his first few appearances, positive acknowledgments of his courageous actions, if I’m guessing. (Even from opposing fans. I think … )
Soon enough, the newness and news value well wear off and Rogers will be … just another man in a Galaxy kit.
(MORE: Looking at the trade from Chicago’s side)
(MORE: Looking at the trade from the LA Galaxy’s side)
The other thing to say about Friday’s big MLS development is this:
Good on Chicago for not relenting on this one. By the looks of it, the Fire hammered out a pretty good exchange for Rogers’ rights (which they acquired from Columbus) for Mike Magee, one of the league’s scoring leaders this year.
It would have been easy for Chicago to cave here, to take 50 cents on the dollar, so to speak, as pressure mounted to get Rogers back in the league. Chicago didn’t seem to have a lot of leverage here, especially once Rogers said he just didn’t want to play in Illinois. (It was about his family in California, not about any disdain for figures around Toyota Park.)
MLS can always use another skilled set of feet, especially of the Born in the U.S.A. variety. But there was also the PR bonanza to be considered here; getting Rogers back into the league will help draw attention to a league that can always use more of it.
SB Nation’s Jeremiah Oshan writes about that one here, making the point that league critics absolutely cannot complain that the Galaxy got a sweetheart deal on this one. In the end, it may be a better deal for L.A.; we’ll need months or years to sort that one out. But sitting here today, it looks to almost everyone as though Chicago got more than fair value here.
(MORE: First chance to see Rogers with LA Galaxy will be … )