Los Angeles Times writer Mike Penner was an occasional press box colleague.
I didn’t know him well and won’t pretend to.
But he was another voice for soccer in Southern California at a time it seems those voices are diminishing, not proliferating.
And his was an eloquent one.
He came relatively late to the sport. And it showed in his writing. Mike’s genuine affection for a game he was still learning about shone through in his prose. Through his writing I came to rediscover aspects of the sport I had taken for granted.
He gave the sport time, space and respect. He understood the sport’s celebration of cultural diversity; he understood the sport’s inclusiveness. It appeared that it was to him, as it was to so many others, a liberating game.
I think, for a short time, it was a place he belonged.
One of the last times I saw Mike, at the Beckham return to MLS dog and pony show at Home Depot Center in 2008, he had become Christine Daniels. It was one of the first and biggest events Mike had covered as Christine. We hugged. She seemed to have begun to come to terms with who she was.
A few months later she was Mike Penner again.
A Times co-worker told me in recent months that Mike seemed to be withdrawing, spending much of his time anonymously compiling sports briefs rather than penning insightful columns. And on Saturday he died of an apparent suicide, the ultimate withdrawal from the world.
Mike contributed to the growth of soccer in Southern California and will be missed.
Read press box colleague Scott French’s tribute to Mike, here.