Two Years Ago Today
Updated: Nov 20, 2017
On November 19th, 2015, I published a piece for CNN Opinion about a soccer team in Maine. My friend Betsy had posted a short news item about the team, the Lewiston Blue Devils, on Facebook and thought it would be of interest to me. It was. I quickly began to think about this team and its state championship trophy -- the first in the school's history -- within the larger international context at the time.
The world was reeling from the explosions in Paris, the first of which happened outside Stade de France, a soccer stadium, where the French were hosting Germany in a "friendly." It was no surprise that a soccer stadium would be the focus of a terrorist strategy -- in Europe, a "friendly" would bring together tens of thousands of people to watch the world's most popular sport.
But the already intense global conversation regarding terrorism escalated after Paris when rumors that one of the bombers at Stade de France entered Europe by exploiting a Syrian refugee network. Suddenly, the people who were fleeing this kind of violence that took place in their every day lives were under scrutiny, with seemingly nowhere to go. In the United States, governor after governor, including Maine's Paul LePage, stepped forward to declare that Syrian refugees were not welcome.
But soccer, I thought, looking at the story about this team in Maine, wasn't a pinpoint for terror. It was an example of what can and should happen in the face of a refugee crisis.
The reaction to what I wrote was shocking from all sides. Some readers saw the story as a heartwarming example of what happens when America lives up to its own ideals. Others saw me as part of the problem, leaving violent and threatening messages on my voicemail and sending me hateful emails in reaction to the words I had written. I understood how racism and xenophobia operate in the world. I teach about it, study it, write about it. And yet I was shocked by the level of vitriol.
But there was one email that stood out from the rest: "Have you been thinking about a book about this?" it asked. It was from an editor at a large press, the kind of press I had never dreamed I would ever publish with.
"I have thought of nothing else for the last 48 hours," I replied.
And so began the journey of ONE GOAL, a journey that brought me back to Lewiston, Maine, where I went to college. A journey that introduced me to so many families and coaches and community leaders and, of course, soccer players. I have never written anything so fast, and with so much passion, in my life. And now, two years later, it feels like February 27, 2018, publication day, can't come soon enough