Celebrating Free Spirits and Sports

I live in Tampa, FL, proud home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and annual host of MetroCon. To be fair, I’ll describe both: The Lightning is a fantastic hockey team. With all due respect to my hometown Blackhawks, there’s an approachable quality to the Lightning and its fans that grabbed me by my inner fangirl when I first moved down here and held on. I have been to very few hockey games in my life, but all of them have been Lightning games. I love the crowd, the energy, and the grit of my chosen team.

MetroCon is Florida’s largest annual Anime convention. Anime enthusiasts can choose to represent their favorite characters, often creating costumes that defy gravity and require feats of engineering. It is absolutely acceptable to wear a costume that looks, to the outside world, like an overgrown cow and have said cow run and hug a cosplayer who, again to the outside world, looks like a series of strategically placed strips of duct tape. The costumes are vibrant, the people friendly, the event energetic.

I sew clothes from patterns. To an Anime enthusiast, I am probably the equivalent of a single-celled organism of creativity. They create remarkable costumes that I would argue are every bit as fantastic and elaborate as the costumes in movies. Sometimes they actually look a little better. I have seen people dressed as Loki in more Loki-esque attire than Tom Hiddleston himself. As a fan of both Hiddleston’s grin and his acting ability, this is high praise.

You can predict where I’m heading with this: culture clash. The events of the busiest day of MetroCon collided with Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As I drove to pick up my daughter and her friends from the convention center, the only thing I was concerned about was traffic. I forgot that some sports enthusiasts, especially after a game, are a bit on the rowdy side, and inclined to judge people dressed in Anime awesomeness – shall we say, unkindly?

As people left the game and the convention center, I heard the occasional shout of “Freak!” getting tossed at the cosplayers. Where, I wondered, were the cosplayers tossing the word “Freak!” out at the sports enthusiasts? Of course that question is rhetorical. No arguments broke out that I saw, but still. Why did anyone have to judge? From an outsider’s perspective, isn’t it every bit as ridiculous to be walking around with a sponge #1 finger pointy thing or long noisemaker doohickey as it is to be dressed as the character from an Anime show?

We are allowed to choose how we represent ourselves and we are definitely allowed to choose what we will do in our free time. My beloved cosplayers are no stranger than my beloved sports enthusiasts. Just saying.

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