Wednesday, August 12, 2009
USA v. Mexico; Today @ 4PM
The core beauty of international soccer (or international sport in general) is that it's the one opportunity for a free-thinking, liberal-leaning, (usually) rational person like me to be WILDLY patriotic . . .and not be a douche bag for it.
It's beautiful. The team out on the field represents America as a PEOPLE, not a political entity. It's about what makes Americans American. Our work ethic, our dedication, our love for the underdog. Never about what we're doing in the Middle East, or how we're handling North Korea, or any such sociopolitical hangup that might otherwise make some citizens reluctant to boldly wave our flag. And that's more than just romantic sentiment, because FIFA rules mandate that no nation's government is to be involved or interfere with the sport at this level.
All people, no politics.
Pure and perfect.
Today, OUR national team faces a task (in my opinion) even greater than the much-talked-about (by US standards) games against Italy, Spain and Brazil at this summer's Confederations Cup in South Africa: Today, they're going to Azteca.
Standing ominously in the heart of Mexico City, Estadio Azteca is to American soccer what Mt. Doom was to Frodo. Today, our boys walk into the home of their fiercest rival. Perched 1.36 miles above sea level (1/3mi higher than even Denver, CO), in a city once ranked as having the worst air quality in the world...they will be met by 105,000 (think a sold-out Giants Stadium PLUS another upper deck) loud, angry and desperate fans who want nothing more on this day than to see them fail. And "fail" is the only word that American teams have know in this place. To date, Team USA has entered Mexico 23 times, and walked out with 22 losses and a lone draw.
But times have changed. Never has the US looked and felt so strong heading into Mexico City. Never have the fans been so optimistic that TODAY could be the day that the curse is broken. Never has that faint glimmer of hope been so bright.
If you love your country...not because of some processed and bottled idea of what it means to be a patriot (especially post-9/11)...but because of the amazing, strong, and talented people that call it home...then today is your day to become a soccer fan. There is no other game or country where a "Clint Dempsey" can stand next to an "Oguchi Onyewu", or a "Bornstein" next to a "Ching", all under the same flag, singing the same anthem.
Today, we put politics aside. We love our country because its home, and we support the men who set out to represent it...and us.