It’s the best rivalry in all the world.
Better than that highly pubbed UNC-Duke battle on Wednesday or the Red Sox-Yankees, Lakers-Celtics, Ohio State-Michigan, Jesus vs. Jews and Jon Lovitz vs. Andy Dick rivalries.
It’s USA vs. Mexico, bitches.
Excuse me while I nut in my pants.
Why am I so excited? Because I hate Mexico and it has nothing to do with my lawn or a bad taco. I have nothing against Mexican people in general – just Mexican soccer fans.
Wednesday won’t be my first US-Mexico rodeo.
In 2007, two friends and I made the trip from Indy to Chicago for the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Before the game, the Mexican fans were cheerful and friendly. There was a festive atmosphere and people were offering up their cervezas to us gringos, including one of us who was throwing up in an empty beef jerky bag.
We weren’t bothered that 80 percent of Solider Field was adorned in Red, White and Green. The place was packed for a soccer game, and to us that was pretty cool. But that soft, cushy vibe didn’t last long.
I don’t know what it is. Maybe decades of negative stigmas – deserved or not – that follow Mexicans has taken its toll. Soccer, or futbol, was one of their last vestiges of supremacy when it came to their neighbors to the north. You know, seeing as they’d lost eight of the last 10 matches against the U.S. on American soil, I figured they’d be used to handling a loss.
But perhaps they were still salty about Guerra del 47. I don’t know why though, look what Texas gave us:
Whatever the reason for the animosity, the behavior of Mexican fans during the Gold Cup final was appalling. I know the rivalry goes deeper than sports. There are socioeconomic factors in play and I’m not naive to that. And not every Mexican fan acted despicably. But to say it was a select few idiots isn’t an accurate assessment either.
We enjoyed the two older gentlemen sitting behind us who appreciated our knowledge of the game. And after a miscommunication with the gentleman in front of us [I yelled “Basura!” (trash) at an effort on goal by Mexico’s Jared Borghetti. The man thought I was calling him trash], he told us all about his hopes for his son in soccer. Actually, the dude wouldn’t shut up.
There were some lighter moments. When some of the Mexican fans decided to douse American supporters with beer, one of the older men behind us shouted out jokingly, “Hey, don’t ruin it for all of us. We won’t get amnesty!”
But all jokes stopped once the U.S. scored on a sublime volley by Benny Feilhaber to give the Americans a 2-1 Cup victory. As the seconds wound down in the game’s final moments, the two older gentlemen behind us were nice enough to warn us of possible impending danger.
Be alert! What the hell? I just wanted to watch a soccer game. I guess this is why they have fences surrounding Central American fields – keep the animals caged.
My friend then looked at me and told me it would be a good idea for me to take my glasses off just in case.
So we’re fully expecting to get jumped. All 130 lbs., of me isn’t too thrilled about this development. “Basura,” I think to myself. Luckily for us, we were just showered with beer. But a group of young American fans waving the Stars and Stripes weren’t nearly as fortunate as we were.
They couldn’t have been more than 16- or 17-years old and all they were doing was simply waving the American flag and cheering their team’s victory. There was no antagonizing. Then what could only be described as a gang of belligerent Mexicans tried to fight them. They threw beer after beer on the teens and a few came in swinging large wooden noisemakers wildly. All this happened five feet in front of us. There was no security anywhere.
An American fan, one far larger than me, had seen enough and sprinted down to the defense of the helpless teens. It was a wild scene. Don’t believe me? Take a look.
[My buddy was getting pumped for our upcoming trip and typed in U.S.-Mexico soccer into YouTube. Low and behold, what does he find? Amateur video of the incident. And toward the tail end of the clip you can see me (wearing a yellow U.S. Youth Soccer T-shirt) and my two friends.]
Now, I’m no xenophobe. I love the American melting pot ideal. But right after that game, I could have been best friends with Lou Dobbs.
Last week, my tickets to the game came via Sam’s Army, the U.S. Soccer fan club. A letter accompanied the tickets pleading with fans to act in a respectful fashion, something many of our Mexican counterparts failed to show us in Chicago.
“We in Sam’s Army have always had a policy of treating any opposing fan respectfully. Be it in the parking lots or in the section… Showing opposing fans a great time in the section is the way we will win them over so that they will be singing with us in support of the U.S. in the future. If you see anyone giving Mexican fans a hard time, contact security and have the idiot who is treating them poorly escorted from the section… It’s about supporting our team not rooting against Mexican fans.”
I’m not sure what’s going to happen on Wednesday. There is a lot of disdain amongst the players, fans and countries. And when you mix in alcohol, it’s bound to combust. Heck, some Columbus Crew fans got into a fistfight with some British fans during an exhibition game. What do you think is going to happen in the most bitter rivalry in sports? Especially because a lot of American fans haven’t forgotten their treatment during the Gold Cup match.
U.S. Soccer withheld the sale of tickets to the public and pre-sold to American soccer supporters to limit the number of tickets available to Mexican fans in the 22,000-seat Crew Stadium. So in a more confined area and after recent incidents in both Chicago and Columbus, perhaps there will be a sufficient security presence. If not, expect a scene on SportsCenter because these Mexicans are sick and tired of losing to us.
But you know what?
I’ve been hitting the gym quite a bit since June 24, 2007. And this time, I’m swinging back.