Sour grapes, Howard? This assertion is untrue. Watch the footage. Yet I suppose I too would be miffed if I allowed my toughest rivals four unanswered goals. Race riots aside, something that really blows apart the myth of the United States as a melting pot is when the Mexican national football (soccer) team El Tricolor plays its United States counterpart on the latter's home soil. Team USA is booed and jeered lustily, often by US residents with roots south of the border. Where's the love of country? It's not an isolated incident as this phenomenon has been going on for years, posing an interesting sociological question of where Chicano loyalties lie. With Hispanics accounting for over half of US population growth, these dynamics invite further examination.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is a biennial regional competition for top football bragging rights among countries in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Whatever the tournament, though--friendlies, qualifiers, and whatever else have you--the oddly enduring sight of Team USA being booed on home soil remains when matched up against El Tricolor . And so it was for this year's Gold Cup finals matchup. Despite taking an early 2-0 lead, Team USA was eventually overcome by a Mexican side featuring the emerging star Chicharito (of Manchester United fame) at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, urged on by strong home away from home support. It was not a pretty scene for the gringos as most of the 93,420 attendees were for El Tri. From the LA Times:
It was imperfectly odd. It was strangely unsettling. It was uniquely American. On a balmy early Saturday summer evening, the U.S soccer team played for a prestigious championship in a U.S. stadium…and was smothered in boos. Its fans were vastly outnumbered. Its goalkeeper was bathed in a chanted obscenity.With loyal "Americans" like these, who needs furriners?
Even its national anthem was filled with the blowing of air horns and bouncing of beach balls. Most of these hostile visitors didn't live in another country. Most, in fact, were not visitors at all, many of them being U.S. residents whose lives are here but whose sporting souls remain elsewhere. Welcome to another unveiling of that social portrait known as a U.S.-Mexico soccer match, streaked as always in deep colors of red, white, blue, green...and gray.
Even when the U.S. scored the first two goals, the Mexico cheers stayed strong, perhaps inspiring El Tri to four consecutive goals against a U.S. team that seemed dazed and confused. Then when it ended, and the Mexican players had danced across the center of the field in giddy wonder while the U.S. players had staggered to the sidelines in disillusionment, the madness continued.A long time ago, I tagged along with a Mexican-American friend to visit San Antonio from Houston (two increasingly Hispanicized cities themselves). Despite subsequently serving for the US military and one of those nefarious private security contractors besides in Iraq--the very definition of an ugly American to many--I will never forget his narrative explanation of a key event in US history. While diehard gringos know the battle cry of "Remember the Alamo" by heart, he simply said "We kicked their ass" without a trace of irony.
Because nobody left. Rather amazingly, the Mexico fans kept bouncing and cheering under headbands and sombreros, nobody moving an inch, the giant Rose Bowl jammed for a postgame trophy ceremony for perhaps the first time in its history. And, yes, when the U.S. team was announced one final time, it was once again booed.
There are certainly reasons you can point to as to why this undercurrent of Chicano resentment keeps bubbling to the surface. Certainly, sporting events can be venues where latent discontent is manifested. Latinos are often discriminated against as "illegals" even if they are not. Discriminatory legislation is often bandied about as a result. There's also the fact that those of Mexican descent have had a more difficult time economically than others in this supposed melting pot.
Likely, many Latin Americans believe that they moved to "America" due to economic necessity and not out of any great abiding loyalty to a country presumptuous enough to name itself after two vast continents. With the US economy increasingly down in the dumps, this instrumental justification grows more specious. As the land of opportunity becomes more of a curse, expect even more overt displays of anti-American sentiment from this increasingly large yet often marginalized group. Yes, Team USA versus Mexico in the US of A with the former getting booed may portend similar dynamics on a larger scale.
Some parting thoughts:
- Football (soccer) as a popular sport in the US is still a faraway dream despite considerable grassroots participation judging from indifference to Team USA in "international" competition;
- Mexican-Americans have seriously divided loyalties;
- A supposed reason for the sport's prospects in the United States is its growing Hispanic population. But, if much of this population more or less throws the finger at the home team and cheers on Mexico, well, you can figure that one out;
- To remedy these unedifying spectacles, apparently clueless organizers Stateside should try to hold these competitions in states like Maine--the most homogeneous state with a 95% white population. New Jersey won't quite do. While the crowd is almost certain to be smaller, holding these events in border states is just asking for it;
- "Founding Fathers"-style national myths need reconsideration in this day and age given that Anglos will be the minority in not that many years.