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 sbnation.com 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.