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On the Court and Out of the Closet: First Openly Gay Exy Player Heckled During Major Game

Kay Barrett

Minyard, 24, continues to decline comment on the major protest that derailed last Saturday’s match. The goalkeeper, who came out during a press conference two months ago, the first man in the sport to do so, reacted to chants from the opposing team’s fans by halting the start of the deciding game.... Read more.

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Kept Out, Shut In: Homophobia in the Golden Age of Exy

Aamir Neman

The sport, invented by the famous Day-Moriyama partnership, has had its fair share of scandal in the twentysomething years since its creation. With allegations of institutional abuse , links to crime families , and mysterious skiing accidents , the underdog sport now faces a problem much closer to home: the National Association’s stance on hate crime. Seems like the Exy family has a lot of cleaning house left to do. Read more.

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Andrew Minyard ‘refuses to apologise’ to the National Association of Exy, ‘risks suspension’

Lana Marten

Amid calls from the Edgar Allan Ravens, Kevin Day’s former college team, to suspend pro-league goalkeeper Andrew Minyard for his continuing mid-match protests, Minyard’s former college team, the Palmetto State Foxes, seem to have thrown in their lot with their former teammate. Neil Josten, starting striker for the Foxes, went on record in Minyard’s defence both in post-game interviews and his Twitter , saying ‘if the National Assocation want to stab themselves in the back by suspending Andrew, it’s their funeral. Have fun losing to Japan.’ Minyard is slated for the Court starting line-up as of next year, despite this being Minyard’s first year playing pro - though no announcements have been formally made. Next year, the National team will attempt to qualify for the International Games of Exy. Ex-Foxes Captain Danielle Wilds tweeted in support of Minyard, saying... Read more.

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*

Kevin rings Andrew before Andrew even makes it out of the stadium lot to his hotel. Andrew takes the call, because it’s better than waiting for Neil to ring. Kevin says, “I want to say I’m fucking surprised.”

“Go ahead then,” Andrew says, switching lanes, streetlights glinting bright and opaque like the glint of teeth. Light crashes against the windshield and breaks under the force of him in cat’s eyes, waning when he hits the accelerator. It's not his first choice, but the rental had been a good call. “You always did like denial of the obvious.”

There’s a long silence, then Kevin sighs. Andrew debates hanging up.

“Is this about Neil?” Kevin asks finally. It’s only half as disapproving as Andrew expected. Thea’s mellowed out the bones of him since that first year, even if they still ring sharp and hollow. The lack of bite unnerves Andrew more than it settles him. Change is an unknown quantity, the sort of thing that has Neil looking towards the horizon, that has Andrew trying to smoke out some new semblance of feeling; change is doubt. Leaving room for doubt isn’t something Andrew allows.

The crackle of Kevin’s silence is smug - he thinks he’s found it, some piecemeal part of what makes Andrew alive - but for all of the intervening years, Kevin hasn’t gotten any better at reading people outside of a court.

“It’s never been about Neil,” Andrew replies. He hangs up and turns off towards the hotel. 

It’s true. Andrew isn’t sure if he likes that it’s true. It’d be much easier if it was about Neil. It’s grown easier to admit what Neil means, half-asleep in Andrew’s bed with searing eyes; it’s grown easier, and Andrew has the curse of the self-aware. It’s much easier to use Neil as a sole reason and motive than to admit Andrew might be relearning to care for his own sake. Neil, after all, leaves little room for doubt. Neil, after all, is something Andrew can have.

*

It happens like this: Andrew Minyard signs with the New York Rebels when he’s twenty-three, after they court him for a solid four months of contract negotiations. Andrew flies out to their offices and before signing his name, he says, “So we’re all on the same page here: I’m gay. My partner is Neil Josten. I have no intention of pretending this isn’t the case.”

He doesn’t look at them. He looks past them to the Manhattan skyline glimmering out of the dusk in steel and monochrome and light. He says it with a kind of bored ease, like it hasn’t taken years of untangling things left internalised, crystallised, in his chest; like it hasn’t taken years of nothing, nothing, Neil; years of Betsy every Wednesday listening to him cough up words like fractures of bone. He counts to five in his head and then looks back to them. They look him in the eyes when they say, “That’s fine,” and even though he’s known - and known intimately - liars who said almost those exact words, there’s no morality clause in his contract and that’s something. So he signs.

“I’ve never been to New York,” Neil says on the phone that night, Andrew pacing the confines of his hotel room like something caged, smoking his way out of his own head, his own decisions, the sparkwheel digging into his thumb like the irritating reminder that he’s committed to keeping on living. The wistful note in his voice flares through Andrew like that fucking sparkwheel, settles in his chest whilst he chances a look at the skyline again.

“You’ll like it,” he says shortly. And Neil will, for all it’s the kind of city where you can disappear; for all Neil kisses him the night before graduation, climbing into Andrew’s bed, all hesitance as though still afraid to be pushed out, hard and longing like mourning, hands on Andrew’s chest like the ground’s been ripped out from under his feet. Maybe that’s what loosens Andrew’s tongue when they ask him in his first press conference how he’s finding the girls in New York.

“Presumably, they’re still women,” Andrew retorts, “I don’t really look.”

It’s true: it feels like he’s left half his brain and all of the space in his chest back in South Carolina, in the house in Columbia, wrapped up in the way Neil laughs. Maybe it is, but maybe it’s not; after all, Andrew could have left it there, but then the NBC reporter laughs the sort of unnerved laugh people have offered Andrew for over twenty years. She asks if he has a girlfriend, and -

It stops being about Neil entirely, and it starts being about this: Andrew is really, really fucking tired.

“I’m gay,” he says, almost spitefully - definitely spitefully - leaning into the mic, sarcasm so heavy it puts weight on every syllable and elongates it past the point where it could be mistaken, “So, no. No girlfriend. Do you have any more questions about the move?”

His phone immediately starts buzzing against his thigh. Kevin. He doesn’t touch it. His manager’s jaw doesn’t quite drop. Andrew looks at him and his eyes say no morality clause, and his manager shuts his mouth . Andrew looks back at the audience, the noise ricocheting ever higher as they clamour for attention. He repeats himself, which is something he rarely does.

“Do you have any more questions about the move?”

It seems from the riot of their faces that they don’t, so he gives it up and leaves, the echo of what it sounds like to be the first openly gay man in Exy following him down the corridor. He answers his phone, because he feels mildly disconnected and Kevin has always been a good reality check.

“Have you any idea what you’ve done?” Kevin snaps at him. “Do you even have the slightest -”

“Yes,” Andrew replies, and hangs up, then mutes his phone as an afterthought. Feeling much more grounded, he turns to his manager, still visibly shocked.

“The service stairs are that way, aren’t they?” Andrew says, and it takes a moment for someone to nod. They’re all staring at him like he just self-immolated on national television, but he knows a boy on fire and he isn’t what they look like. They’re all staring at him like he’s Andrew Minyard, and that settles him; through the seven flights to the underground carpark, he walks, doesn’t run, and his hand barely tremors on the handrail.   

By the time he gets to his car, it’s almost quiet outside, but he turns up his music to stifle the last remaining reverberation. They don’t know which car is his yet, or which apartment block, which means he makes it out there before they do.

“You know none of us care, right?” Pierce says to him the next day, halfway through changing out and ever earnest. When Andrew turns, the rest of the room is acting like they aren’t listening and showing themselves up spectacularly, an en masse of anxiously supportive heterosexuality that make Neil Josten look subtle.

“That’s nice,” Andrew replies, “I care.”

Anderson snickers loudly, but it’s clearly at Pierce’s face and not at him. Andrew knows the way that kind of laughter sounds, taut around the edges, fraying out of someone’s mouth. He grabs his helmet and heads out to the court.  

“So, do you have a, uh -” Shearer tries.

“Boyfriend?” Andrew asks, for the satisfaction of seeing Shearer figure out a suitable reaction. Boyfriend isn’t the first word he uses normally. It seems easy in a way that things with Neil aren’t easy; he uses partner, because it implies foundation. It sounds hard-won. Partner is a commitment worth tethering yourself to. “I have one of those, yes.”

It’s only half-mocking. Pierce takes that inch like it’s a marathon to run in one whole gasp, and follows Andrew onto the court, asking “How did you meet?” whilst Andrew fixes his neck guard and thinks briefly about ignoring him.

“He ran into me one day.” Andrew readjusts his gloves and tries not to laugh.

“So, does he play Exy?”

Andrew elects to ignore this one, having managed to outrun Pierce during drills but now in his vicinity again, and heads to the goal. Pierce, not seeming to realise that Andrew is electing to ignore this one, asks him again.

“Practise is about to start,” Andrew says, having never cared about practise starting time in his life; cracking his racquet down against the court floor a few times, testing.

“Will he come to watch you play?” Cooper calls over, grinning ear to ear. “You know about the comps, right?”

He knew about the comps - for friends, family and partners of the players - and had been mulling it over. It’s taking a while for him to decide and this sort of thing is exactly the reason why.  

“If you think I’m letting him anywhere near you, you should think again,” Andrew retorts, takes in Cooper’s answering cackle with a sense of vague puzzlement - he’s being genuine - and sends the first ball ricocheting back.

*

 

It goes to chaos at his first away game, because of course it fucking does: Andrew is already a livewire, crackling with the stress of an out-of-state flight, unfamiliar accents in an unfamiliar hotel, rearranging his room assignment so it’s the closest to the fire exit, rather than the furthest - of course it’s today. He barely makes it out onto the court before the chanting starts. It’s nothing he hasn’t heard in foster homes, in juvie, in the fucking street - but even through the plexiglass, the noise is deafening. It’s a good third of the stadium standing there in the opposing team’s colours, acting like his jersey number makes him first shot in target practice. For the first time in years, the lock in the door seems like it’s keeping them out, rather than him in.

“What the fuck,” he hears Shearer say, muted under the roar, his face twisted. “Are you fucking kidding me?”  

All of them are trying not to look at Andrew when he walks towards the goal. Cooper catches his arm and tries to say something, but he shrugs her off with all his weight and keeps going. Once, he heard shit like this and nearly killed three men, but there’s ten times that here. It makes them into a Goliath. Andrew tests the weight of the racquet in his hand, then looks out at the plexiglass. His eyes catch on the cameras.  His grip tightens. He’s older. His anger is something harder. His anger is something for himself. And this is his slingshot. Andrew puts the racquet down on the ground. Then he follows.

This is the thing: Andrew’s perfect recall allows him to know the playbook backwards. He knows the NAE’s regulations for player misconduct. He knows protest by refusal to play isn’t explicitly cited as an example. He knows it’s never been done before. He knows their statement on harassment. He knows it’s never been called on before. He doesn’t believe it’ll hold up, but this isn’t a political statement by intent. This isn’t him taking one for the team, striking out on a limb so he can carry someone else over on his body. He’s not a trailblazer just because he can’t get a boy on fire out of his head. Andrew Minyard is twenty-four years old, starting goalkeeper for the New York Rebels, and he deserves better than this bullshit. He isn’t sure when he decided that, only that the thought doesn’t feel as new as he thinks it should.    

So he sits and waits, ignoring the referee’s whistle and the increasing sound of the crowd outside, ignores his coach until she’s right in his eyeline and crouching by him.

“What’s the problem, Andrew?”

“Can’t you hear it?” he counters, and she has the grace to look guilty. “This game can’t start without me. I am not starting until they shut up.”  

“You’re sure you want to do this?” she asks him, very seriously.

“They seem to think I’ll just take it.” He barely nods to the crowd, but she winces anyway. “If you think the same, then you signed the wrong man.”

There’s a moment of silence.

“I asked if this was going to be a problem,” Andrew says. “You said it was fine. Were you lying?”

“No,” she says, assessing him. Her eyes glint when she stands up. “I wasn’t. And I didn’t. I signed you.”

The rest of the team, on seeing her stand, begin to head over. She turns her back.

“I’ll tell them.”

“Good to know,” Andrew replies, and stays on the ground.

*

Neil, predictably, is furious. Neil, who'd been due to arrive today anyway, whilst Andrew was flying back, arranged as a self-soothing technique. The cats winding around his legs, Andrew is stalled in the hallway in a pool of half-light from the bathroom, but he can hear the sounds of slamming cupboards from here. 

“You forgot to switch the light off again,” Andrew calls, with only routine irritation. His keys cut to his palm like comfort, he holds onto them a second longer before dropping them on the side. He tells himself he picks up Sir purely because he doesn’t want to die alone in his hallway after tripping over a smaller fucking mammal; Aaron would laugh him back out of his own grave. Because Sir is not a particularly nuanced smaller mammal, he doesn’t get the distinction and eagerly curls further into Andrew’s arms, headbutting him gently and purring like a rusty lawnmower.

Andrew’s world is loud these days. Neil rounds the corner, his hair pushed out of his eyes with a dollar-store headband last seen discarded by a seven-year-old girl, his eyes bone-sharp. The bathroom light, yellowed in the evening, strikes off the pale of them oddly. The feeling in Andrew’s chest at the sight makes him think of how gamma radiation is the best way to poison someone. Once it’s in, it can’t get out. It just knocks around in there, bruising all your vitals, death from the inside, death that is silent. Years of eidetic memory makes for extraneous metaphors. Neil says, “I’m going to fucking kill them.”

Andrew watches his mouth when he talks with something quiet and incurable.

“Don’t bother,” he replies. “I don’t like courtrooms.”

Neil winces, but still retorts.

“You’d come to see me.”

“You sound very certain of that.”

“Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re wrong,” Andrew says, trying for as bored as he can sound. It’s the voice that sent Wymack rolling his eyes and Kevin Day into fits of temper on cue. Neil smiles on hearing it, sudden and blazing and instinctive. In his arms, Sir wriggles, wanting to be put down; Andrew leans down and lets him before he does something stupid like jumping out into thin air, learning from boys with considerably less lives. When he brushes past Neil, he breathes in the tang of disinfectant.

“You’ve been cleaning out the closets, then,” Andrew mutters, glancing around the kitchen, with every light switched on and every door flung open, chaos unwinding in a narrative trail from Neil’s discarded jersey on the sofa, the television still blaring, stuck on the sports channel. “Thematic.”

Is this about Neil? Kevin’s voice is in his head, on a loop with no circuit breaker. Neil stands in the doorway, biting his lip, watching Andrew walk carefully around the kitchen and close every door. He’s nearly vibrating with some kind of righteous feeling and there’s not a chance in hell he’ll swallow it down quietly. In some religions, they once called the act of communion god-eating; if Neil’s last god is his own bullshit, he’s fucking fluent at speaking in tongues. Neil licks his lips and opens his mouth, clearly gearing up to say something, his eyes gleaming like zealotry, like the look he turned on Andrew one day in an airport when Andrew said these are truths like that would make them incorruptible, like it would set either of them free. Andrew, who is tired and twenty-four and despite all his best attempts has yet to master the art of turning himself to stone, cuts him off like having your throat cut: quick, clean, step back to avoid the blood on the floor.

“This isn’t to do with you, Neil.”

“Why would it be?” Neil replies. “That isn’t - that’s not why I’m -”

“Taking over my apartment in the middle of the night? Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

You have to step back to avoid the blood on the floor, you know. You have to remember that part. Otherwise, you slip. Otherwise, you fall. Otherwise, you get your hands dirty.

“I do have somewhere to be.” Neil’s voice is very steady. His eyes flash. “That’s why I’m here.”

Sometimes, Andrew looks at the photographs he has, carefully framed around the apartment. There’s only three of them, and the one on the windowsill of his favourite window is of Neil, laughing at something during a film night at the Tower, Andrew’s arm slung around his shoulder. Andrew is looking to the side. Neil’s whole body is angled towards him, Neil and his laughing mouth and his sunflower eyes. On bad days, Andrew tells himself the photo is all just mathematics, probability; a double-blind, a trick of the light. Except for how Neil is absurdly consistent. On good days, Andrew doesn’t bother to pretend he thinks that. He doesn’t think this is chance, or clever camera angles, or an axe he has to keep half an eye on for fear of it falling.

There’s a word for it. It’s not reciprocity, but that’s what Andrew’s settled on for now. Give him another year, and he might start to call things by their names. Give him another year, and he might start to call it more than gamma radiation. Once it’s in, it can’t get out: just because he’ll die with it doesn’t mean it’ll be the thing that kills him.

“Did Kevin say something?” Neil asks, finally catching up. Andrew shrugs.

“Kevin always has something to say.”

“What the fuck,” Neil says, anger simmering to the boil again, “Why would he think - they weren’t shouting that shit at me. Of course it’s not about me. What the fuck! I’m not gay.”

The last statement is delivered with Neil’s particular brand of petulance. Andrew looks at him, stood in his kitchen with his stupid bright eyes and stupid soft mouth. He’s wearing Andrew’s shirt, smells like Andrew’s disinfectant, the faint damp curl of his hair probably washed with Andrew’s fucking shampoo. And he’s sulking.

Andrew begins to laugh. He laughs out the noise in his head from the game, and he laughs out every last word invented for boys like him, and he laughs out the way the court felt rising up to meet him when he decided to sit down, because the ground under his hands has never been the fucking goalposts, has it? He’s never craved a home out there on the court. When he looks up, Neil’s face is so priceless that he laughs that out too. When he’s done, Neil is watching him, leaning against the counter, and he’s smiling in the way that always does something strange and alchemical to his eyes.

Andrew’s chest aches, but it’s a closing wound.

“Stop that,” Andrew tells Neil, “Did you manage to feed yourself whilst I was out?”

“I manage fine without you, you know,” Neil huffs, like Andrew doesn’t know there’s three separate cafeterias back at Palmetto.

“Do you, though?” Andrew sounds like he’s enjoying himself. That’s probably because he is.

Neil scowls and doesn’t answer. When he tries to stalk past, Andrew catches him with an arm around Neil’s waist. Neil rolls his eyes, but says yes before Andrew even opens his mouth. Hooked: that’s the word, Andrew decides, as he pulls Neil in, feels Neil’s hands tighten in the back of his shirt and his mouth open to a gasp against Andrew’s throat.

“I’m still so fucking mad.” Neil’s breath hitches; Andrew feels it in his own chest. Hooked.  “I’m going to -”

“Fight them tomorrow,” Andrew says.

 

*

 

High-School Exy Backliner Mimics Andrew Minyard in Sit-Out Protest, Refuses To Shake Opposing Team’s Hands

Angelica Howard

 

In Minyard’s home state of California, his presence on national and local news is making itself felt within the concrete walls of Abraham Lincoln High School, San Jose. Current starting backliner Holden Goldstein protested homophobic chants at the regional semi-finals this Thursday night by sitting on the sidelines of the court and refusing to join the line-up for customary pre-game handshakes - a move that directly echoes Andrew Minyard of the New York Rebels’ ongoing form of protest against homophobic crowds during games. Goldstein, 17, is just one of many young athletes across the country that have taken Minyard’s protest, which breaks no articles of player conduct according to the National Association of Exy, as an example form of legitimate protest within the sport.... Read more.

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WATCH NOW: New York Rebels join Goalkeeper in Sit-Out

Live at their third game of the season, the New York Rebels’ starting line-up has joined Andrew Minyard in sit-out prior to game start. View here.

 

*

Renee is on leave from the Peace Corps the week after their third game; Andrew tells her he’s paid her flight to LaGuardia and she smiles at him through the laptop screen like dawn’s breaking in her eyes. She comes to practise and sits, reading a book in between glances to where Andrew shuts down the court, the flash of her cross prominent over her shirt when the lights hit it. Andrew can feel the rest of the Rebels looking at her, can feel the weight of everything they want to ask, and gives himself the satisfaction of leaving them hanging all practise.

He’s missed her. It was hard to realise how much, when she rounded the corner in the airport, so quietly it was like something settling. She said, “It’s good to see you, Andrew,” in that same low sweet voice, and smirked at him, sideways and familiar, when he wordlessly carried her bags to the car. It was hard to realise how much he’s learnt to care for things that are by nature both irreplaceable and easily lost. It’s the fucking sparkwheel all over again, the annoyance of it against his skin, soreness as tenderness: an unfortunate side-effect of the commitment to keep living.  

Andrew swears he sees one of them go to ask if Renee is his girlfriend, remember, and then cut themselves off, but he doesn’t stop to check.

“Your friend’s pretty,” Pierce broaches the topic midst-changing out.

“She’s not bad,” Andrew replies absently, and registers Pierce’s surprise that Andrew even noticed with some kind of irritated amusement. When he gets out there, Shearer is chatting to Renee along with Anita. He doesn’t catch it all, just Renee saying my girlfriend and Shearer and Anita’s faces both falling in sync. Renee catches Andrew’s eye and stands up immediately, swinging her tote bag over her shoulder in a shiver of pastel cotton and bleached hair.

“Sorry,” she says to them both, sounding as unrepentant as Andrew would, “We’ve got plans.”

Plans amount to honeycomb ice-cream out of the East Village and walking absently through the night: after a day of blocking shots, Andrew feels every step he takes reverberate through him, but the ice cream’s good. Renee and him spend two hours in a late-night bookstore, another hour in heated debate over the world death of bees, and another hour in peaceable silence, all before Renee tries to bring it up.

“Do you want to talk about any of it?”

The passers-by send her brushing along his side and he flinches automatically. She sways, regains her balance, and looks at him.

“Why would I want to talk about it?”

She shrugs, and goes, “Is that a no?” and he nods. It takes twenty minutes of silence, the kind that is a weight in the way the weight of Andrew’s hand on the back of Neil’s neck seems to help him breathe - weight as a tethering point - before Andrew surprises himself.

“If I change my mind,” he starts, but his voice does something halfway through, some strange and unsure alchemy that breaks the syllables and reforms them to a question.

Renee smiles at him, sly and quicksilver, her hair against the backdrop of a shop window lightened to brittle fluorescence. He remembers her with blood against her mouth, how her grin had showed through pink and brilliant.

“I’ll be here.”

“No,” Andrew replies, “You won’t,” because she won’t, because she’ll be back wherever they send her, and he’s always gone for being literal as misdirection. She laughs brightly, tipping her face down to look at him.

“I missed you too,” she says.  

 

He allows it.

 

*

@aaronmminyard no i’m not andrew minyard i just look like him

 

@aaronmminyard @jengrafton10 okay but have you considered: fucking off

 

@aaronmminyard @jengrafton10 you’re a fucking embarrassment

 

@aaronmminyard @jengrafton10 don’t try this with me. i don’t care what you’ve heard. he’s my brother.