Identity Critique: “I AM NOT AN ASPIE”

Guest Blogger Morad Motamedi is a graduate of George Mason University Class of 2013 who majored in sport management. He graduated with a 3.7 GPA and was an honor roll student. His goal is to work in the sport industry such as a fitness center or a sports stadium.

My passion for sport has been a big force in my life. Sport has had an effect on my socialization and cultural expression. I am by nature a person who loves participation in sports and love being around people. Since my childhood, although I was very much interested in meeting people and making friends, for some reasons then unknown to me the opportunities never presented themselves. Early in my childhood, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is clinically defined as social communication disorder.

People with Asperger’s, I am told, have a poor self identity. Although I wanted to make friends and be part of a group, it must have been my inability to make conversation and communicate that prevented me to express myself in a meaningful and friendly manner. My love for sport opened the door to a very wonderful exciting world.

People with Asperger’s are called Aspies. I do not see myself in a different world. I have done mostly my communication with people through sports. Sport has been the main subject of my conversations, entertainment, education and social life. I travel often with my parents and wherever we go, the first place to visit is the main sport stadium in that particular city. I have been at TD Garden in Boston, Staples Center in Los Angeles, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Madison Square Garden in New York, Orioles Park in Baltimore, Football Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Olympic Village in Montreal, and University of Moscow Idaho sport facility.

I am not just a fan of sports, I live sports. When I watch sports on television, I can see myself living the life of a professional athlete. I am not only a fan of football on “Sacred Saturdays” who Steffensmeier refers to in his article, “Sacred Saturdays”. For me, every day of the week is “Sacred Saturday”.

Something that people may not know about me is that sport helps me to cope with stress. People with AS have difficulty managing their negative feelings, especially anxiety, anger, and depression. But, sport has given me the strength and ability to manage my emotions. As soon as something starts to bother me, I imagine myself in the football field and officiating the game. This is how I block my mind off any troubling issues and thoughts.

I believe I know who I am. I do not like to be identified as “Aspie”. I am a sport management student who has chosen it as a major for his love of sport and not for its future financial prospects. I am an honor roll student. I like to be identified as who I am and not who I am labeled with. Since the beginning of this year, it was announced that Asperger’s diagnostic terminology is eliminated and is being renamed. My identity and livelihood is not determined by changes in experts’ manuals and terminology. I am not who the clinician or theories change as they wish. I am not a label. Like any other person, what define me is what I feel, what I do, and what I believe in. I am not a label to be changed from time to time. I accept that I have deficiencies in my social skills, but that does not define me. I am a senior student from one of the best universities in U.S. I believe I am smart enough to do well in my studies. I do not get preferential or any other assistance for my academics, but my 3.7 average shows that I am just as intelligent as other students or even better than the average when it comes to most subjects of my studies. I have read that people with Asperger’s are very intelligent, but when it comes to label, people do not think of Aspergerians as being intelligent, they attribute it to its neural disorder.

While other people with Asperger’s can say, “I have a group I can belong to, I am an Aspie.” I say, “I have a group I can belong to, I am an athlete in heart. I am not an Aspie.”. Some may think I am in denial of the fact that I have Asperger’s. I am very well aware of this fact, I have seen the social struggle that comes with it, but sport has made this struggle bearable for me.

My love of sport has been a vehicle that brings out emotions in me. I was only three when my father introduced me to sports by teaching me the game of tennis. When he saw how interested I was, he started to take time as much as he could and play with me. Since then, we have become sports weekend warriors.

We would play tennis, basketball, soccer, catch/throw football. I joined FPYC to play basketball when I was 7 years old. Although I was playing well, but it was obvious that I could not have the same physical ability and coordination that other players had. Most of the time, I was sitting on the bench. The coach was trying to be nice to me but I remember all the excuses that he would come up with to keep me on the bench. That was my first and last participation in a sport team. This could have been very disappointing to a lot of people but I was OK with it, because when I was watching a game, it was as though I was actually playing myself. I could always picure myself playing in a team.

Later on at the end of my freshman year at Oakton High School, my basic skills teacher, who happened to be the head coach of the Varsity Football team, asked me to be the manager of his team. He had seen my passion for sports. I could not wait to start, but when I told my parents, they were concerned and contacted the coach, discussing their apprehensions about me being the manager of the team. They decided to let me accept the position. My mother believes that Coach Thompson was my guardian angel. He saw the passion in me and showed me the road to my future in sport. I started in August 2004 and stayed at this position during the last three years of my high school. We won state championship in 2006 and I was awarded Manager of the Year in my senior year. That was the opportunity of my lifetime. I was doing well academically. I was well known at my high school and everybody was respecting me for who I was. I was not being looked as being awkward, but accepted as part of the team.

In my position, I had a chance to see Darrel Green, a NFL Hall of Famer and one of the best Redskins football players on a weekly basis, attending games watching his son play on the varsity football team. I was very pleased and honored when he gave me his autographed ball for my graduation. Every day in my room the championship ring, autographed ball and the Manager of the Year Award remind me how wonderful and satisfying my life has been.

I decided to choose sport management major for my college studies, because I could not see myself in any other field of study. Every course that I have taken, I have enjoyed them thoroughly and never felt them as mandatory or burden, but joy.

Asperger’s Syndrome, or as is called AS, may be what is written on my medical chart and I have been carrying the social struggle that comes with it, but since May, the diagnosis as explained above does not exist anymore and it is under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders, ASD. I cannot say that I was AS, but now I am ASD. To me, these are labels and they do not define my social identity. I am a proud sport management student, who has overcome this label and is going through life with his love of sport.

I hope as time goes by, the term, Asperger’s, gets out of people’s consciousness and they can see people like me for who we are.