This little billboard, however politically correct or incorrect you think it is, may have never been more accurate than on June 25, 2011. The Gold Cup Final in Pasadena was definitely a home game for the ‘visiting’ Mexican National Team, and must have been an intimidating atmosphere for the players on the pitch. It was also an away game for the US fans in the stands. Although I poked fun at certain members of the USMNT supporters groups, I myself am a card-carrying American Outlaw (doesn’t change the fact that I still think some of them have World of Warcraft accounts), and as such, visit their facebook page often. In the wake of the controversial Gold Cup final, much of the discussion on the page has centered around the behavior of the Mexico fans at the Rose Bowl and the lack of adequate security (note: I will refer to those supporting Mexico as “Mexico fans” rather than as “Mexican fans” because from what I could tell, there where ethnically Mexican US supporters, as well as ethnically non-Mexican Mexico supporters. Furthermore, I do not believe the behavior of certain Mexico fans, should be associated with the ethnically Mexican community, or any particular ethnic community for that matter. Assholes come in all colors). From what I can tell, a general consensus seems to be that several of the fans supporting Mexico took it too far, from throwing projectiles towards US supporters to sexually harassing female US supporters (by some accounts), and that security essentially did nothing to protect those few supporting the United States. While I agree whole-heartedly in the lack of and level of the security, my experience with the opposing fans was different. By no means do I doubt the experiences of my fellow US supporters, but I thought it might be worthwhile to share my experience at the Rose Bowl, which appears to be an anomaly compared to those of the other US fans in attendance.
I attended the game with my girlfriend, my brother, and his fiancee. All four of us had tickets in the “US supporters’ section” and fully anticipated some severe jeering from those supporting Mexico. After enduring some heavy traffic getting into the Rose Bowl, we too, like many others, could not park in Lot H and consequently had to park out on the golf course, surrounded by predominantly Mexico fans. Once parked, we opened up a few brews, fired up the grill, and partook in what some people call tailgating. To our pleasant surprise, the Mexico fans parked next to us, immediately introduced themselves and struck up conversation about how we thought the game was going to turn out. All of them were really friendly and warm, from sharing clamato with us, to explaining what types of horses the Queen of Spain rides (don’t ask). Once we were done liquoring up for a few hours, we bid our parking lot neighbors good luck and goodbye, and ventured towards the stadium. Along the way, several groups of Mexico supporters found it funny to point out we were wearing US jerseys while drinking Mexican beer. Several others jeered us, in a non-violent, non-threatening manner, or wished us the much needed luck. By the time we got in line, we were handing out beers to the surrounding Mexico supporters to chug before entering the stadium. All in all, the walk in was fine, and all four of us appreciated the unique, lively environment outside the stadium.
Soon after entering the stadium, we saw the large group of US supporters wisely trying to enter through an alternative entrance to avoid any potential conflict in the general entrance. Unfortunately, Rose Bowl security made the ill-advised decision to send this group into the general entrance line, where, according to several accounts, verbal and physical altercations broke out between the rival sets of fans. I myself did not witness any fighting and do not want to make any comment on it, but alcohol and mobs usually do not mix well, so I do not doubt that both sides were a little heated.
After wandering around for a bit more, we finally made it to our seats and were pleased to see how good they were. Unfortunately, this euphoria was brief. Just as the game got underway, four Mexico fans informed us we were in their seats, presenting their tickets for justification. Sadly, they were right. What was worse, the usher told us that TicketMaster had made a mistake and that our seats essentially did not exist. At this point our section of the stadium was filling up to unsafe levels, so rather than fighting this, my girlfriend and I booked it up the stairs to get to some open space. While ascending the stairs, the crowd of people started pushing down on us. Worrying for our safety, I frantically asked the people above us, all Mexico supporters, to clear away for us to pass. Thankfully, two or three guys parted the Green Sea for us to get through and let us get out of the way. Shortly after, we found ourselves on top of a stairwell surrounded by Mexico fans, and admittedly, we were a little nervous that we were wrapped in the colors of Betsy Ross’ most famous blanket. After striking up some light-hearted conversation about the insanity of the stadium, a few Mexico supporters cleared a space for my girlfriend and I to sit and assured us we had nothing to worry about. Now maybe these few Mexico supporters responded better to the fact that I spoke to them in Spanish rather than English, but I like to think regardless of the language, these few supporters were genuinely good guys, helping out two young US fans, so that we could enjoy the game too.
Unfortunately, due to the massive TicketMaster mistake, we had to leave the game at halftime but not before parting ways with our newfound friends wearing green. We finished watching the game at home, and although I was heartbroken and angry that we had blown a two goal lead in the final, I was satisfied that I got to experience an incredible game day environment, with fun and friendly Mexico supporters. Again, I do not doubt the validity of any of the accounts of the other US supporters present that day nor do I trivialize the horrible things they endured during the game. Rather, I offer my experience as a reminder that the mistakes of few can ruin the reputation of so many. Hopefully, we all remember this and avoid falling into racist or discriminatory banter, so that we are able to continue to support and represent the USMNT in an honorable and admirable fashion.