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    Couples Who Can Play Together Stay Together: Love Goals

    By John Chen–

    “The highest points of my life are winning gold medals playing side by side on the soccer field with my Bear at the 2014 and 2018 Gay Games,” Francis Edward Laney IV told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. He thought that Robert Christopher “Bear” Travis would never, ever, not in a million years be the love of his life. From the very first time he saw Bear on the dance floor 8 years ago, Francis thought to himself, “Nope, he’s too perfect, too amazing and too young.”

    Travis, affectionately nicknamed Bear since childhood, has his own recollection of that fateful night. He told me, “Francis was so energetic and fun and talkative to everyone. He kept coming back to me on the dance floor spinning and spinning. But, for some reason, he wouldn’t talk to me, not even an acknowledgement. I thought he didn’t like me.”

    And yet, here they are, eight years later, dancing together, playing soccer together on the same team, sharing the same close group of friends and building a dreamlike life together. They even still blush when they speak of each other.

    Weeks after that first dance encounter, Francis gathered himself and asked Bear to lunch as a potential launching point to maybe, however slight the possibility, a real date. After all, it’s just lunch.

    “The lunch went well and I agreed to go on a date. But, our first date was a disaster,” lamented Bear. “I take pride in my ability to organize and be on top of things. I wanted our first date to be amazing because I wanted to impress Francis. The restaurant lost our reservation and a couple came into the empty theater choosing to sit just in front of us … ruining a potentially romantic environment.”

    As for how Francis felt about this disaster, he said, “The couple who could’ve sat anywhere in the theater was a downer, other than that the date was amazing!” He was just excited to spend time with Bear and that was, still is, and will always be the case.

    Bear started playing soccer with the San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club in 2008 and very much enjoyed all of the benefits the sport and the club offered: exercise, being outdoors on lush green grass, structured social life, friendships and more. As their budding relationship strengthened, Bear switched from a competitive to a more social, learning-oriented Spikes soccer team and invited Francis to join so that moving forward they could enjoy this great sport together as a couple.

    Through Spikes, Francis and Bear were able to travel, not just around the country, but also around the world to exotic destinations such as Antwerp and Cleveland. “Yes, Cleveland!” said Francis with a decidedly genuine laughter. “Maybe Cleveland is not exotic, but it was the acceptance and the support of the city, and the camaraderie and togetherness of the LGBT community at the 2014 Cleveland Gay Games that made the trip one of the best experiences.”

    Playing soccer side by side, Francis and Bear learned to communicate with and help one another in order to put up the best and strongest defense for their goal. The duo’s defense helped their team to win gold at consecutive Gay Games, a feat that can only be accomplished with excellence in teamwork, team chemistry and team communication. In doing so and moving forward, soccer helped Francis and Bear to be more connected and to continuously build and strengthen their skills and relationship as well as to build close-knit friendships.

    “Essentially, Bear and I built a life together through Spikes soccer,” Francis said. “Playing with Spikes has given us an amazing and wonderful circle of friends who are kind, fun, loving, giving and compassionate. Soccer helped us to stay strong and connected because of these friends we created together. They are our friends, not his, not mine, but ours. And this feels good.”

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.