Mexico, as always

And so we play Mexico yet again with all the usual parties hurling the usual invective, spouting off the usual quotes and overall doing little but adding to the usual stew of pollution hanging over Mexico City.

Pardon me, but I’m a bit over the whole Mexico life-and-death rivalry thing.

This rivalry ceased being interesting to me on June 17, 2002 when we beat them when it truly mattered most, on a neutral site in the World Cup round of 16. There were no officiating controversies and no beefs to point to by either side. The USA simply marched into Jeonju and brushed the Mexicans aside. The US proved its point and announced that there were two “big guns” in CONCACAF now. Job done.

Since then, the US has proven that on a good day we can beat Mexico all over the field and that on a bad day, we can lose or maybe tie them. That merely makes Mexico like nearly every other country in CONCACAF that isn’t an island.

I am not saying that the match tomorrow isn’t important, because it is, but not because “it’s Mexico,” or “it’s the Azteca” but because we’re almost there. We’re almost in the World Cup and even with a loss, still probably only a win or two away. The sooner we wrap this up, the sooner we can begin the important and under-stressed part of this process, preparing for the actual tournament. That’s what Bruce and the players got so wrong in 2006 and that’s what we need to get right in 2010. But that’s for another column.

Maybe I feel this way because I harbor feelings that, amongst US soccer fans, make me something akin to a leper.

I actually like Mexico. I like Mexicans too. I like their food, I like their culture, I like their art, I like their women, I even like their soccer, and I thought bullfighting was one of the single greatest things I have ever seen live.

In short, I have few beefs with Mexicans, other than that too few of them live in the DC area for me to be able to get a really good plate of Chicken Mole Poblano around here.

I guess I am just not enthusiastic about being on the tip of the spear that wounds the Mexicans the way that a loss to the USA at the Azteca would do. I am not sure that as Americans we can truly know what a loss tomorrow will feel like to Mexicans, and I am not sure 1) we’d ever want to and 2) we ever could since we tend to react to national sporting calamity by the entire tournament invalid (the World Baseball Classic) or by denying the validity of the entire concept all together (Olympic basketball).

I should add that I am not a complete wuss about all this. There are countries out there I’d love to us beat far more than Mexico, even at the Azteca. You want to see me foam at the mouth? Let’s get Germany back on the schedule consistently. You want to see some serious trash talk out of me? Let’s play England every year or so. You want to see me completely lose my grip and start screaming indiscriminately at strangers? Have us play Duke or the University of Michigan.

But Mexico? Nah, I am more comfortable playing the underdog than I am playing the bully.

That’s probably why, if we win tomorrow, I’ll be happy and I’ll probably be a bit ecstatic; But I’ll leave the overt and almost inevitably distasteful chest-pounding to others. Maybe , if I see a Mexican person looking a bit despondent near me at the bar tomorrow, I’ll tell them, “you’ll get us next time” and buy them a beer.

That’s how rivalries are.*

*Except for Ohio State and Michigan… one can only hope Michigan never again wins against the forces of Scarlet, Grey, and Good.


15 thoughts on “Mexico, as always

  1. gutterball….

    i’ll miss the game at work, but i’ll say this, it would be a major upset because of all that goes into a game at the azteca, rivalry or not, its something special when you win on the road in concacaf, especially at a place that is a fortress

    scarlet and grey and good? when the small ten adds notre dame/rutgers/mizzou, then i’ll pay attention, til then, i don’t care

  2. DCSharksFC, why Rutgers? That’s about as far East as you get, and most Big Ten teams (with the notable exception of Penn State) are in the central US. Mizzou and Notre Dame should have been in the conference from the beginning, but I don’t really follow you on Rutgers.

    With regard to Mexico: I would love to beat them in South Africa, just to reinforce the point that this is mostly a one-sided rivalry when it’s not being played at exceptional altitude and/or with air less breathable than that of Mars.

  3. I would agree with liking Mexico, Mexican people, and most especially Mexican food. Would even go so far as to agree with your assessment of the mole down here in DC. When it comes to soccer, however, I want them crushed, humiliated, and continually reminded that we are now and will continue to be the better side. Their arrogance, poor sportsmanship, and sheer lack of class on and off the field are astonishing. Until they show us the respect we deserve, I’ll be sticking with those aspects of Mexico and Mexican culture I genuinely love and respect. El Tri? There’s not enough suffering in the world for them.

  4. You make a good point about getting officially qualified so we can focus on preparing for the Cup. One thing that gives me a great deal of confidence going into this WC versus 06 is that I feel thanks to the Confed Cup we have seen a clear starting XI emerge. Before 2006 I could sense approaching disaster because the starting XI was so still in flux during the 2 or 3 (remember the sad sight of JOB, one of my all time favorites, trying to get fit and reintegrated into the lineup) friendlies preceding the tournament. Assuming we can get another decent result tomorrow, I get the feeling that we will have our starting XI largely set with almost a year to go before the WC. This bodes well for us I believe.

  5. How about this one… GATOR BAIT!

    on topic… I’ve been overly excited for this game since the Gold Cup, maybe it’s this “revenge” factor putting everything over the top.

  6. I’d say the Mexican “ardido” that has characterized the rivalry makes me want to see the US beat Mexico all the time, without pity. And that really comes down to the Mexican players and whatever it is in the Mexican psyche that has decided that any win the US has against them isn’t worth showing a bit of sportsmanship when you’ve been beaten fair and square.

    That said, I agree that I don’t want to embarrass or wound our Mexican brothers, the common fans who live and die with the tricolores. I share your love for Mexican culture (although I like my Spanish of the castellano variety – listening to a Mexican speak Spanish is like listening to a Scot speak English, it’s pretty gruff – and yes, DC really is hurting as far as good Mexican food) and also know that a strong Mexican national team is an important component to the growth of the US as a soccer nation.

    But I’m all for the humiliation of the Mexican players and relish the opportunity we have today to place another marker in their collective psyches.

    That, and I want to get the damn taste of that 5-0 Gold Cup match out of my mouth. B/C team whatever, doesn’t matter, you don’t lose like that to your rivals. It’s like Michigan 41 – Ohio State 3 at the Horseshoe, even if your beloved Buckeyes were having an off year.

  7. I am not sure I read this correctly but you dont care about this game because you like the Mexicans and feel sorry for them?

    1.) This game would be amazing for a US team on the rise to win, especially at Azteca.
    2.) The Mexicans, above all, dont want to win because you feel sorry for them. They want to see a good game. Half of the joy of the whole entire nation comes in prep for the game. They enjoy the moment better than any people I’ve ever met. So believe me, it’s not going to steal their thunder all that much for reason number 3.
    3.) They know that they are in an extremely vulnerable position this year more than others. The US team is getting stronger. They have had 4 coaches in like 24 months or something ridiculous like that. Their team captain is out. They are in 4th place in the qualifiers. They’re going to come out fighting like hell which is why you should care about this game for reason number 4.
    4.) It’d be a shock if one of our players didn’t get pelted off a stretcher by beer bottles or a chicken head thrown at them while taking a corner shot. Only 4 of our players have ever played in this stadium. No one has ever won in this stadium. It’s going to be a monster of a game based on the intimidation factor alone.
    5.) Sure it’s not a huge deal if we lose. Sure it’s a bigger deal for them if they lose. But isnt that the game of soccer? You dont pull for someone based on if you like their culture or not you pull for the based on skill. The Mexicans are good, really good. And that is a great reason to pull AGAINST them especially when it’s your team playing! I lived in France for a year. When France plays England or Spain, I pull or the opposite team. Not because I dont like the French. I love the French. I love their food, their culture and yes, even their people. But who has the better game is the determining factor IF my nation is not playing.

    I think the last thing the Mexican people want you to do is downgrade the significance of this game because you feel sorry for them and like them. Because I’m pretty sure they’re all prepping in excitement for the game tonight, ready to whoop our asses like it’s the most exciting game of the year. Because to them, and to those of us who still value this rivarly…it is.

  8. Ever been to Manassas lately Aaron?

    If you listen to Espndeportesradio (730 AM in the DC area, and if you speak Spanish of course) you’d want to beat Mexico so bad just to silence all the arrogance and over-confidence the fans, callers and even the broadcasters show about El Tri. Go USA, yes we can…

  9. The ’02 match lies in history for all time, and there’s nothing that can change it. But, I agree with the earlier poster – if that blatant hand ball by O’Brien gets called, and Blanco puts a penalty past Friedel, the match would have been 1-1 and you’re looking at different game. But, that’s all irrelevant since that’s not how things went down. My point in bringing this up is that if you’re using this match to downplay the US-Mexico rivalry and it’s importance to U.S. and Mexican soccer, than you’re no real fan at all. This match is probably the main reason WHY this rivalry is so important. But, whatever…

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