Author: Robbie Rogers with Eric Marcus
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Non-Fiction
“Rogers made history.” —Sports Illustrated
Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.
While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player. Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.
Then last year, at the age of twenty-five and after nearly stepping away from a brilliant career—one that included an NCAA Championship, winning the MLS Cup, and competing in the Olympics—he chose to tell the truth. But instead of facing the rejection he feared, he was embraced—by his family, by his teammates, and his fans.
In Coming Out to Play, Robbie takes readers on his incredible journey from terrified teenager to a trailblazing out and proud professional soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, who has embraced his new identity as a role model and champion for those still struggling with the secrets that keep them from living their dreams.
You don’t grow up hating yourself by accident. You don’t learn to lie about your true nature on a whim. You don’t pretend to be straight just for the fun of it. You have to learn and be taught these things and I was a good student.
It’s a challenge, for me anyway, to somehow rate or analyze or place some sort of judgement on a book like this. This is Robbie Rogers’s story, in his own words, about his emotions, and his isolation, suffering, triumphs, losses, and successes. Given all of that, here are my thoughts and reactions about Robbie’s story, so far.
The opening chapters are a set-up of sorts, family history and early experiences. Then we get into the nitty gritty, more of Rogers’ voice coming through. So many of his memories are the kind that fuel the intensity many feel in that we have to keep working to improve understanding, education, and communication. No one should be made to feel they have to hide who they are in order to simply survive, let alone maintain love and acceptance from their family and friends. This was Robbie’s life, his world, in every single aspect, until his coming out.
Anyone could read this book. He presents ideas and explanations at a level that assumes not everyone knows what the rainbow flag represents or how the leagues of English football are structured. Being one who knows both, and much of the other detail he includes regarding the things important in his life, I still felt connected and motivated while reading.
There’s a good amount of football/soccer talk since that is his profession. He speaks about his different team experiences, explains how some leagues are structured, his personal accomplishments and challenges. He also describes how, even at the highest moments of achievement, he didn’t feel how he thought he would or, maybe even more telling, should. I’ll let him tell you why and how that was. It’s a large part of his journey to try and break free of the lies, loneliness, and hollow existence he often felt he was living.
Robbie’s family is a big part of his life. His parents, siblings, his aunts and grandparents, they all play important roles in many of the decisions he made. This is true both in all of those years before he came and since.
It never crossed my mind that I could be gay and play soccer. Never. So the better I did, the more trapped I felt like there was no way out, that this was how my life was always going to be.
Is it any wonder in the slightest that so many people become depressed and suffer all of the things that come with it? As human beings, we all naturally crave connection, the ability to breathe freely and live our lives as we really are, we want to feel that happiness that comes with doing that.
It’s difficult to help someone put their feelings, thoughts, and experiences into words that everyone else can easily read and understand, while still keeping a good amount of that person’s own voice in the telling. You want it to be as true a representation and translation. The beginning is a bit dry as it gives the lay of the land but then more of Robbie’s personality emerges. This is definitely Robbie’s voice in that it’s consistent, filled with excitement, pain, innocence, wearisome burdens, and hope, all of these and more coming through clearly.
There is a lot of emotion in this book, I felt a lot of emotion. It would bubble up, not really surprising me but, a constant reminder about how real this experience is, for Robbie and everyone else who lives in secret, in fear. Robbie struggled for so long, trying to reconcile who he really is with what he was taught growing up, both inside his family and by his religion, and his relationship with God as he sees and feels it.
Robbie wrote this while and is still in his 20’s. Make of that what you will. Mostly, I think about the fact that he’ll now be able to live the rest of his life as himself, not some shadow or shell of a lie.
I remember when all of this was happening, when he first came out, left soccer, and then returned, and all of the overwhelmingly positive support he received. Then when I heard he had written his story up to this point, I bookmarked it. It’s an important story, one that will hopefully help people struggling the same way he was (and still does sometimes), as well as those who have young people in their lives suffering and are looking for a way to open a dialogue, to show they are available with strength and support.
Someday, this kind of story won’t be necessary except to tell just that, a story. In other words, it won’t be such an “event” because we’ll be living in a society where sexuality isn’t something by which anyone is judged to be lesser than, invaluable, and unworthy. I think Robbie Rogers is doing his part to help us all get there.
There are some great images at the end of the book, as well as some information and links regarding the different organizations and charities with whom Rogers works.
His own campaign against discrimination is called BEYOND “it” and can be found here: http://beyondit.com/
Also, Robbie, I totally respect your choice to be an Arsenal fan. Really. I do. (LFC forevah!)
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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