Gustavo Arellano There is a method to
Gustavo’s madness. E-mail him at gustavoa@ucla.edu and ask him what
it is.

Mexico beat Honduras 3-0 in soccer this past Sunday qualifying
for the 2002 World Cup. Afterwards, the streets of Southern
California were swarming with Mexican fans bedecked in the red,
white, and green of the “Tricolores” (the nickname for
Mexico’s soccer team). As usual, the local media breathlessly
reported the ensuing mayhem. And as usual, people took this display
of Mexican pride as proof that Mexicans hate the United
States.


During a campaign visit to San Diego last year, Pat Buchanan
made such an observation. While talking about illegal immigration,
Buchanan noted that whenever the United States’ men’s
soccer team plays Mexico in Los Angeles, the ratio of fans rooting
for Mexico versus those rooting for the U.S. is preposterous. He
offered this incident as confirmation that anti-U.S. sentiment was
“taking root in the barrios” and of these
immigrants’ lack of willingness or ability to assimilate.

People have equated foreign country’s fans booing the U.S.
in sports with anti-American sentiment. But this isn’t
necessarily a bad thing. What Buchanan and like-minded individuals
do not take into account is the unique role the United States plays
in sports. Booing the U.S. in sports is a healthy way for people to
express their frustration on a domestic and international
scale.

Consider the Mexican case. For a country that has been besieged
by corruption and tragedy throughout its modern history,
Mexico’s soccer team has frequently been its only shining
point. The fervent support of the visiting Tricolores angers some
Americans because the stadium is always filled to capacity for
these matches ““ with Mexican fans. Buchanan was correct: the
U.S. team in essence plays a road game in its own country.

This does not signify Mexican hatred towards the United States,
though. Mexican fans want to see the U.S. lose, but not because
they don’t appreciate the opportunities that exist here. They
want the U.S. to lose for the same reasons people wanted the
Yankees to lose the World series ““ nobody likes a
juggernaut.

  Illustration by JENNY YURSHANSKY/Daily Bruin The United
States has dominated foreign countries, indigenous people, and
entire social classes, but never soccer. Consequently, the soccer
pitch has been a forum for countries to express their frustration
towards the U.S. This is one of the few places where the United
States isn’t traditionally number one.

Mexicans aren’t the only ones who bash the U.S. soccer
team either. Whenever the United States plays any country on its
home turf, fans of that country usually outnumber American fans. A
couple years ago, an Iranian club team played the U.S. national
squad in Los Angeles and more than 50,000 Persians came out in full
force. When the U.S. plays Poland in Chicago, the area’s
large Polish community always outnumbers U.S. fans.

These “anti-American” manifestations are also not
limited to the international sports scene. Throughout its history,
the World Wrestling Federation has always featured at least one
jingoistic wrestler and the current fall guy is Kurt Angle, a
genuine U.S. Olympic gold medalist. One would expect WWF fans,
being the most assimilated Americans, to cheer for anything
remotely pro-American. Yet fans boo Angle as if he were Osama bin
Laden.

Buchanan and the media should be frothing with nationalism at
WWF fans for such un-American displays. But the fans are no more
anti-American than immigrant soccer fans; their displays are
essential to their sociopolitical placating.

Booing representations of the United States is a healthy way for
people to voice their distrust of the United States. Granted,
booing a red, white and blue-bedecked wrestler will not stop the
constant reduction of civil liberties, but at its essence, booing
American symbols or cheering for something that stands in
opposition to the United States symbolizes resistance to a country
whose populace and government do not always do the right thing.

Since most people are unwilling to engage in physical protest or
voice their opinion, they choose to vent their frustrations in the
most public yet anonymous of forums ““ the sporting event.

Many people are disgusted by anti-American displays and demand
complete fealty to the U.S., even in sports. However, distrust of
the American government is necessary for a healthy democracy and in
the context of a sporting event, completely innocuous. When the
booing is over, sports fans ““ relieved of their anti-American
doubts ““ return to bettering this nation. Better to boo an
American gold medalist than blow up a federal building, no?