Gold Cup Final: Mexican-American fans, USA Soccer, Tim Howard all ebarrassing
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The only other way to slice it would be on a golf course.
The soccer was disgraceful, the boo birds disrespectful and the sum of it disenchanting.
This was embarrassing all the way around.
You knew the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final would be dizzying for Team USA, but for soccer-centric reasons first and foremost and only. Team Mexico was a tall order, even without five players suspended for positive clenbuterol tests. Between Javier Hernandez and Co., a corps of Andrés Guardado, Pablo Barrera and Giovani dos Santos, Team USA was bound for a green and red nightmare for 90 soccer minutes.
But they got more than a 4-2 walloping. They got inflatable beach balls rolling across the mostly Mexican-American crowd's fingertips during the Star-Spangled Banner. They got incessant heckling and berating throughout.
They got everything these tournaments aren't about.
To think, that's what an event crafted with the rosiest of thoughts of international community had become. Sure, the world's fiercest athletes puff their patriotic chests, and fan followings follow. But there's a line, one that starts with decency and ends with humility.
Do you take issue with Mexican-American fans' behavior during the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final?
You don't boo. You don't jeer. You don't demonize and certainly don't personalize it.
By those parameters, some Mexican-American fans blew it Saturday.
To think, that's how citizens or guests of a country treat their home or hosts. Doesn't matter how you divvy the 90 percent pro-Mexico crowd. Fourth generation or just family visiting. Legal or not. That's not how they should've conducted themselves.
It's one thing to honor roots and get decked out head-to-toe in El Tri gear, a privilege citizens and travelers of all backgrounds should take advantage of. It's another entirely to five-finger slap those who receive most everyone with opportunity and openness to come, stay or pass through.
They had to have known and behaved better, given the undertones. For a game played at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, Calif., ground-zero for the US anti-immigration debate, that outward and accentuated a gesture would be seen as political.
Even if it was conjured as the Mexican-American equivalent of Tommie Smith and John Carlos' 1968 Power Salute, the epitome of the social suggestion expected on stages like these, it wasn't nearly as subtle or tasteful or properly placed.
If it was, shame on the crowd. That wasn't the time or place, and Team USA shouldn't field those sentiments. Plus: it's athletes, not fans, who earn the platform to demonstrate like that, if they so choose.
If not, there's no pass given here, given that those behind the pro-amnesty push are Mexican-Americans living in California, who should be aware of how their actions are perceived.
As for the game, how Team USA botched that one baffles. Ours was never the better team, even after Landon Donovan netted the second goal on 23 minutes, merely misdirection from the barrage handed by Mexico's quicker strikers and bullier back line.
Makes you wonder: if that's how the drug-free El Tris moved, imagine how suspended players Guillermo Ochoa, Francisco Rodríguez, Antonio Naelson “Sinha,” Edgar Dueñas and Christian Bermudez would have.
Anabolic breathing disorder treatments or not, you can't relinquish a 2-0 lead. Not in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Not in the 2009 Confederation's Cup Final. Not ever.
You can't be sure which is worse: The establishing a track record for incompetent closing. Or a team in tatters, with the throes of Bob Bradley's uncertain future. Or a Confederation Cup-less 2013 calendar.
For anyone rumbling about the home game that wasn't, don't. Gaffes like that implosion are explanation enough. USA Soccer doesn't have to be the best, or even better than its No. 22 FIFA world ranking.
But it can't crumble like that.
Team Mexico didn't. It didn't fall into the early hole or its fans' tactlessness. It matched proficiency with professionalism before and during and always. Save for some jitters and fidgeting while adrenaline careened through them, the squad stood tall and quiet in deference to their host's national anthem, despite the surrounding scene of their countrymen and supporters' behavioral graffiti.
And it's easy to be gracious as winners, but it's just as tempting to flaunt and taunt. Team Mexico only shook hands after, all smiles and salutations.
Rarely do sports set the model for society. This was the exceptional exception.
As was CONCACAF, for conducting the post-game ceremonies in Spanish. A Spanish-speaking team earned the festivities for a Spanish-speaking crowd to enjoy. Why wouldn't the Confederation cater to them?
Better question: why wouldn't you want them to? Hard to believe Tim Howard's poorly chosen choice words after.
"CONCACAF should be ashamed of themselves," he said. "I think it was a [expletive] disgrace that the entire postmatch ceremony was in Spanish. You can bet your ass that if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn't be all in English."
Maybe it would be. Maybe not.
If true, Howard should take pride in that distinction. Either way, he should take the podium and apologize.
Tough to know whether the fans would, if given the opportunity. You'd like to think it just a product of the mob mentality, booze or both.
Even then, it can't erase what the soccer and social components, and the scene were:
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