Saturday, November 12, 2016

Disappointment, Desperation, and Despondency (All Solely Related to Soccer)

Jose, from Washington State, introduced himself to me and E as he took his seat in the row in front of us in the American Outlaws section of MAPFRE Stadium. Cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a welcoming grin from ear-to-ear. He took off his coat, revealing his AO jersey. He sang and chanted at the top of his lungs the entire game.

We all rode the wave of emotion that is unique to being present while your team, your country is on the field, seemingly within arms' reach. Disappointment at the first Mexican goal. Desperation when Tim Howard was subbed out, unable to continue (please tell me why they watered the field right before the start). Relief when not one, but two, Mexican shots banged off of the crossbar and the post. Frustration at chances missed in the first half, largely against the run of play; and in the second, when we should have put the game out of reach. Jubilation when Bobby Wood scored the tying goal.

Howard lies injured.
(photo from via pinterest)

And, then, disbelief when Rafa Marquez, he who could teach Putin a thing or two about true anti-American villainy, scored the winning goal at the death. Right in front of us.

No emotions invested or wasted due to anything off of the pitch. No "Build the Wall" chants. No anti-Trump protests. Just devotion directed by us to our team, and them to theirs. And, of course, some derision sent in the direction of the opposing players. But not their fans, and not their countries.

At game's end, Jose was disconsolate, repeatedly banging his AO Washington-Tri-Cities scarf on the seat in front of him. He'd come all this way to witness that? E and I silently filed out, leaving Jose and his two friends to their despondency.

As we left, I caught the eye of a woman in the row behind us, wrapped in the flag of Mexico. I gave her a wink, hoping that she took it as a "congrats," not flirtation.

Yes, the U.S. Men's Team lost. But America won.

This is still is our America.

One Nation. One Team.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When the Yanks ...

It's been 15 years since I've seen the U.S. Men's National Soccer team play a World Cup qualifier, in Columbus, against Mexico.

This was that game:

What I remember the most, other than the fact that we won 2-0 (and that it may have been the coldest I have ever been in my entire life), from "La Guerra Fria" was Tony Sanneh coming out for final pre-game warm-ups in shirt sleeves, while the Mexican team huddled in its dressing room until, literally, seconds remained before the whistle blew to start the match.

A lot has changed since then.  Three more dos a cero wins in World Cup qualifiers in Columbus. And an election, just this week, that has given me pause to reflect on what being a supporter of the United States -- in the broadest sense, and in the context of its soccer teams -- means.

This is what I've decided:

I am still an American, as are the millions who voted, as was their right, for the candidate I did not support. As are the millions who did not vote (although maybe a little less love for them as far as I'm concerned). 

I still am proud to be an American.

I will still loudly and full-heartedly cheer and sing and probably yell at the officials in support of my team and my country.

Most importantly, I will cheer for a team that is comprised of African Americans, German African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, Icelandic Americans, Asian Americans, Croatian Americans, and, yes, some Anglo Americans too.

I will respect our brothers from Mexico for their right to cheer on their team, although I will desperately hope that their team fails.

This is what my America looks like:

photo from
I'm still all in.