How a Derby Gave Me Hope

Steve Hamlin writes:

Author’s note: This piece isn’t meant to be some cry for attention or self-centered use of an outlet to tell my story through. Truth be told, I had a lot of trouble writing this, finding strength to tell my story and how soccer imprinted it. This is a testimony. A testimony to the meaning of sport, the weight of a derby, and how 90 minutes can change everything both at club and personal level. Many times in this country, soccer gets painted as a foreign construct; a imported product that seems to find trouble grabbing the American public and inspiring things at individual levels like baseball, basketball, and football can. Hopefully my story convinces people otherwise. 

This story begins in my “lost” summer of 2015. My war on depression, which has been raging for at least half a decade now, was one that I began to lose, and lose handily. My grades had sunk further and further down the toilet, and that spring I had failed my first class ever. My relationship with my then-girlfriend had crumbled beyond recognition. To top it all off, an unknown illness had begun to ravage my body. Mind you, this was no flu or cold. My body was rendered weak beyond comprehension. The ability to process and hold down food had become an anomaly. My weight was dropping at a near exponential rate, and I could barely leave my couch. For all intents and purposes, I was dying, and I had not a clue in the world why.

Illness carries curious social effects with it. I hadn’t divulged the extent of my problems to many people, so the world continued to pass me by. Day after day I sat, giving no product to the world around me. I took in the news, my friends musings, and the world. My Netflix queue diminished, vanished, and reappeared in a cycle of boredom and chronic lack of productivity. For a person such as my self, who lives and dies by keeping himself busy and social, the mental effect of being chained to my living room was almost as disastrous as the physical. I had a severe problem in finding purpose in a life that seemed to be the same plain vanilla everyday. There was one, glaring exception for me: my New York Cosmos.

Although I was physically hampered from performing my usual youthful antics in the 5 Points, there was a period where I was still able to get out and attend matches in person. These matches, no matter how few they were, were an immense form of emotional and physical therapy. Pain was not present, only a tether between my heart and that of the team on the pitch. I was enthralled like never before, and found in these matches feelings of togetherness and community that had been so devoid during my illness thus far. These matches were battles, even wars, much like the ones I was fighting inside myself at the time. However, this would not prepare me for what derby would bring to me.


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