If Jared Borgetti out-hustles the entire American defense to break a scoreless tie, but the game is played at Azteca Stadium, how long before México re-takes possession of lands lost in the 1848 ‘treaty’?
I am a fan. Actually, let me clarify: I am a FAN.
My fascination with sports might be considered by some to be unhealthy. I became literate via the sports pages when I attended DPS’s Steck Elementary. As I recall, the popular boys always talked about Monday Night Football, and I wanted to be a part of the madness. So I started to follow sorts, but since I was only allowed one hour of TV per week (yes, folks, per week), watching Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Joe Namath (you think I had to look that up? Ha!) do their thing every Monday was out of the question. In addition, we didn’t have cable—no ESPN. I was forced to read the sports pages every day.
Now, I read everything. History, poetry, literature, current events, hip-hop magazines, philosophy. But it all comes back to sports.
I suffered quite possibly the greatest heartbreak of my life on June 17, 2002, during that year’s World Cup. México, after standing tall in the first round, was humbled 2-0 by, of all teams, the United States. It was probably a month before I fully recovered, though Landon Donovan still appears in nightmares, streaking down the right touch-line, blowing past the hapless Mexican defense to score an impossible header past Conejo Perez. For so many years, Mexico was the lone dominant force in North and Central American futbol, and then this…
México defeated the U.S. 2-1 in an absolutely consequential game on Easter Sunday, a day not only significant for the resurrection of our Lord, but the resurrection of Mexican futbol. Had México lost, at home, who knows what mayhem would have ensued? Perhaps it would have been enough for Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata to rise from their graves and wage a new war on US soccer (even Pablo Mastroeni would cower before a pair of real warriors). Stampeding fans would have leveled Estadio Azteca; after losing to the U.S., what’s the use?
Perhaps I am being a shade unpatriotic. This is the inner-turmoil of a conscious Xicano: I was born in the United States. Citizenship, the prized hen that produces eggs of opportunity, was automatic for me. By citizenship, as well as by language, I am an American. I also recognize that given the choice (you know, less government corruption, economic stability, jobs), I would seriously consider relocating to the patria. As Selena’s father told us, “being a Chicano [or Chicana] is about not being American enough to be an American; not Mexican enough to be a Mexican.”
Who knows; I’d probably miss my espresso bars too much.
Now, to be a fan.
This was not just a 2-1 Pyrrhic victory, even if it was just a qualifying match for a tournament that is still more than a year away. Noooooo, siree, this was the biggest thing since Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla decided to get excommunicated. True, I would trade this win for a late-round Cup win over the gringos, but this will do nicely.
It’s really too bad that futbol could not have been used to settle the historical disputes between the United States and México. Really, our situation would be very different today if Americans and Mexicans took to the pitch for a redress of grievances.
True, the beautiful game would not have stopped Hernan Cortes and his plundering rabble. They had guns, steel swords, smallpox, and a devastating counter-attack. That Bernal Díaz was rumored to have a deft stutter-step, and Cortes himself would have been a starting midfielder for Valencia had he not set out to wreak havoc on México’s indigenous population.
Being a fan of the Mexican team is much like being, well, a Mexican. Futbol is México’s national pastime. A derivative of the Italian calico (minus the renaissance era skirts), the beautiful game came to the Americas via the Spanish conquest. Mexicans were able to make the game their own by combining its moves with those in ritual ball games played by ancient Mesoamerican societies. The mestizo game is unique to the world stage, easily distinguished from the fancy footwork of Brazilian futbol and Argentine long-ball. The Mexican game is also very different from that of the Americans, who rely on a helter-skelter running game, long passes, and an aggressive counter-attack. The Mexicans traditionally rely on ball control in the midfield, and a stubborn defense.
Since many of my readership (both of you) is not as well versed in futbol, I will move on.
The Mexican team is generally ranked by FIFA as one of the top ten in the world. Going into the 2002 World Cup, they were ranked 7th, though they fell to 11th after their second round debacle. But year after year, the tricolor disappoint, falling short when it matters most, apparently having spent their best effort in the first round. The 2-0 loss to the US behind egoists like Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones was just a knife to my heart. Even my pastor understood, calling the next day to offer me spiritual counsel, as well as Rockies-Yankees tickets.
So the Mexicans’ 2-1 win meant everything to me. Call me a consumerist sellout, or any other names you choose. At times I am baffled that sports are seen as counterrevolutionary and offensive to my more radical sentiments and ideologies. But remember, if you are a Mexican in the wilderness of the United States, there are times that a victory on the pitch is all we can hold onto.
The rest of the time, as in history, we are on the wrong side of just another lopsided US victory.
Gerardo A. Muñoz is a futbol fanatic of unhealthy proportions.