Patrick Reusse is a sportswriter based in Minneapolis. His bio at the foot of his columns for the Star Tribune says he’s been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968 and working for the paper since 1988. So, you know, he’s been around the block. He seems to mostly cover baseball and hockey, which is a pretty solid beat for Minnesota sportswriting. Keeps you busy all year ‘round.
But this weekend he decided to give soccer a shot. It’s unclear what his past feelings on the sport were, but whether by editor fiat or simply wanting to try new things, Reusse decided to cover Minnesota United’s home game against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Per his column covering United’s 2-0 win, he was a special guest of club owner and former health insurance executive Bill McGuire. By the end of the column, Reusse seemed to warm to the sport, declaring it and the Twin Cities’ MLS franchise to be “spiffy.”
But one thing really stuck in his craw. You know what really grinds Patrick Reusse’s gears?
Male soccer fans wearing scarves.
”Bill McGuire took the aisle and I sat next to him during the first half of Sunday’s soccer tilt between United and the vistors from Kansas City. He gave me a scarf celebrating United, and there were puzzled looks within his group when I said in all candor:
”‘My No. 1 complaint about soccer is men wearing scarves.’
”Which is true. I don’t think it’s manly to wear a scarf other than when shoveling snow, but that’s just me, and I have some peculiarities.”
You hear that, MEN? Fan scarves are unmanly! Throw ‘em away!
Lest you think this was just a throwaway comment before he moved on to more important matters:
”Shuttleworth bled for a while, adding minutes to the second half, and showed off a grotesquely swollen and broken nose after the game, but he still wound up with a shutout.”
”(Note: Yes, Shuttleworth had a shutout, and anyone who mentions “clean sheet’’ in my presence and happens to be a male wearing a scarf around his neck, I simply can’t be responsible for what happens next).”
Patrick Reusse hates fan scarves because they’re “unmanly.” He also hates it when people use conventional football terminology like “clean sheet.” (Presumably he also gets super grumpy if you call it a “pitch,” because here in AMERICA we call it a “field,” ya dummy!) And God help you if you do either or both of those things too close to Patrick Reusse, because if you do, he’ll give you what for.
I mean, look, normally this brand of casual homophobia from some meathead baby boomer sports columnist doesn't get more than a snarky tweet from me. People like Patrick Reusse are, frankly, not worth my time. And considering how much he struggles with a bag of pistachios, I'm not particularly worried about the prospect of being a victim of physical violence at his grisled hands.
Reusse's column doesn't really matter in isolation. But in the aggregate, it matters a lot. Because long after he moves on and files away his day out at a soccer game in his Now I've Seen It All! folder, people like me are going to have to stick around and clean up his mess. We have to support our clubs and our growing-but-still-fledgling domestic league in a fan culture that continues to harbor a certain baseline level of hostility toward LGBTQ supporters and live in a country where we risk our lives by going out in public.
Reusse's comment on male soccer fans wearing scarves helps normalize homophobia. It helps establish and reinforce social norms where homophobia is acceptable. Even if you give Reusse the benefit of the doubt and say that wasn't his intent, it's outweighed by his impact. Jokes help normalize bigotry. And in extreme cases, jokes can swing elections.
Whether it was intended or not, Reusse is establishing a social norm that says that male (or male-presenting) soccer fans wearing scarves is weird and wrong and bad. He also implied that violence is an acceptable remedy for this thing that is weird and wrong and bad. And no, Patrick Reusse is never going to try to punch me in the face for being too effeminate in his general vicinity. But someone else will. That's the world that Reusse helps build and reify whenever he pens ignorant stuff like this.
And people like Reusse will always deflect responsibility for helping build a world that is crueler and more violent than we deserve by saying it's just a joke.
It must be so nice to not have to live with the consequences of what you say and do.