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Classic Bleeding Hearts

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

I once used the term - Bleeding Heart - in a conversation with a Caucasian gentleman. Reed seemed mildly upset with my choice of words. He suggested that I might not quite know the import of my verbiage. I assured him that I would read up on this coinage - Bleeding Heart - before using it again.

I did me a bit of digging. Originally the term referred to the heart of Christ and meant compassion.

Since the mid twentieth century, however, conservative journalist Westbrook Pegler was largely responsible for bleeding heart being used disparagingly, with his criticisms of FDR.

Since then the term has been used to describe people who are unnecessarily/excessively sympathetic to others, outside the mainstream.

Here is the account I was discussing with Reed. I mentioned the petty politics I had to put up with during my brief (soccer) coaching career.

During a Saturday soccer match, I switched players (6th graders). I took Malachi out during play and replaced him with a team member.

Within a few minutes I was confronted by a white lady who said I couldn’t do that. Malachi was a black kid. I told her that I could and I did. My priority at that moment was to win this soccer match. I asked her to see me later if she wanted to discuss my actions further.

Discuss she did, after the match. Dragging her husband into the fray, Maura reminded me that Malachi was a member of the minority community, and stated that I had expressed prejudice explicitly.

It‘s true that I was always balancing my will to win against my will to be equitable, and Malachi had less than his share of time in play (that day) because he was hardly moving, looked tired and disengaged.

I responded that I took Malachi out because he was not playing well as he had not attended practice sessions.

Maura was adamant. She was livid. She was shaking and gesticulating (with fingers pointing to the soccer field behind me). Her husband said Malachi couldn’t come to practice because his family was poor and had transportation issues. Maura said that I needed to apologize to Paige, Malachi’s black mother.

(It was clear to me that the poverty factor had been manufactured on the fly. The intention however, was selfless and noble - to stand up for the minority. The rage also had historic moorings).

We all knew that Paige is a PhD and a professional. I personally knew that Malachi’s family was affluent, because I was invited to their mansion.

I briefly told Maura that if Paige had any issues with my coaching style, she was more than welcome to speak with me. I then walked over to a group of parents, including Paige, to discuss our team’s latest win, and the lessons learned.

That was a Saturday. On Sunday I flew to Dayton, Ohio, to the Corporate Headquarters of my centenarian employer, making sure I’d be back in time for Thursday soccer practice.

After dinner at my hotel, I received an email from Maura, to which was attached our soccer league rules book comprising hundreds of pages. She wrote that I had broken specific rules in that book. However, she was conciliatory and suggested that everything would be all right if I just called Paige and apologized.

I emailed Maura back that I did not have plans to apologize to anyone for anything regarding Saturday’s match. I repeated that Paige was welcome to contact me anytime.

That was the end of the matter. To this day I’m not sure if Paige was aware of any of this.

We all remained friends, including Maura, her husband, Paige and I. Maura has voluntarily done multiple favors for me since that soccer season and she visited our house many times with her husband.


I also encountered issues with our team Manager, who repeatedly questioned my choices regarding apparel orders (color, size, shipping), practice schedules, food/drink coordination with parent volunteers, and coaching techniques.

However, she underwhelmed me as a Manager, and I decided mutual tolerance was preferable. I did not break the peace.

However, the overwhelming support and understanding of the vast majority of team parents was a primary cause for our team’s unbeaten record on the way to becoming champions that season.

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