It happened again. A U.S. national team played an important international event on its home turf against Mexico, and the crowd was rabidly pro-Mexico.
This time the venue was the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in Phoenix, Arizona. The U.S.-Mexico game was won by Mexico, 5-2, and the crowd of 44,256 was described by cbssports.com as “boisterous” and “pro-Mexico.”
This comes on the heels of several U.S.-Mexico showdowns in soccer at the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifiers and “friendlies” in which crowds in Los Angeles and other parts of the American southwest rooted for Mexico instead of the home side. When it comes to playing against Mexico in soccer and baseball, the U.S. teams are, in effect, playing on the road whether the game is in Los Angeles or Mexico City.
When the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team played a CONCACAF Gold Cup final match against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles in June 2011, the majority of the 93,000 fans supported Mexico, and many of them booed and jeered the U.S. team, according to the Daily Mail. These fans were mostly American-born or naturalized Mexicans. To add insult to injury, the postgame ceremony was conducted almost exclusively in Spanish, and this infuriated U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“I think it was a (expletive) disgrace that the entire post-match ceremony was in Spanish,” Howard said, according to aol.sportingnews.com. “You can bet your a– that if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn’t be all in English.”
Returning to baseball and the 2013 WBC tournament, it is tough enough for the U.S. to try to win without the additional burden of home games feeling like road ones. Heaven knows the U.S. is often its own worst enemy by not bringing along its best pitchers and players. Pitching is often thought to be about 70 to 80 percent of the game, yet most, if not all, of the top ten U.S. starting pitchers chose not to participate. And American fans of the U.S. team should rightfully be criticized for not snapping up tickets and turning out in droves to support the home team.
Having said all that, there is still a larger question here. It is the question of assimilation and acculturation. Of all the waves of immigrants to arrive on U.S. shores, the Hispanic population in general, and the Mexican population in particular, seemingly have been the most difficult to assimilate. Perhaps this is because so many came at once. Or perhaps this is because so many Latinos arrived after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, when it is now so much easier to bring your old culture with you and install it here. For example, an immigrant today can turn on the TV to Univision or some other Spanish-language station. In addition, everything from product labels to election ballots is available in Spanish as well as English. Spanish-speaking customer service reps can be contacted just by pressing numero dos. An Hispanic living in the U.S. today can go about all his daily routines and rarely come into contact with the English language or American culture. There is little incentive to learn English or embrace the American way.
What should we reasonably expect of people who arrive here? Shouldn’t we expect them to learn our language, celebrate our holidays and respect our customs? When Mexicans march by the thousands in support of immigration reform, it is stunning to see how many Mexican flags are being flown about. And it is disconcerting to see how few American flags are on display. Shouldn’t we expect those marching on our streets for the honor of becoming citizens to carry and wave American flags?
Right now our teams are at a disadvantage in U.S-Mexico tussles. Moreover, native-born Americans who speak only English are at a disadvantage when they seek work in such occupations as customer service, because increasingly employers want bilingual applicants. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. If we don’t assimilate Hispanics into the fabric of America, we may soon be at a severe disadvantage in world affairs and economic competition because too many people living here will have conflicting and divided loyalties. We run the risk of creating an insular, nation-within-a-nation. For the U.S. to continue to prosper there must be a sharing of common values among all of her people. Speaking English and rooting for the home American team are two of the elementary things that should be expected of every loyal American resident and citizen.