I Still Hate Mexico: A Personal Essay

Ultimately, in my life, it all goes back to Kearny Avenue. 

The Lincoln Cinema 5 on Kearny Avenue is where I fell in love with movies.  Roosevelt Elementary School on Kearny Avenue is where I first donned the fake beard and prayer shawl to play Tevye – the world’s greatest introduction to the magic of theatre.  Palmer Video on Kearny Avenue is where I first rented Glengarry Glen Ross as a ten year-old and learned there was a thing called a playwright and folks like me could be one.  I kissed my first girl on Kearny Avenue.  I smoked my first cigarette on Kearny Avenue.  I punched a guy in the face for the first time on Kearny Avenue (Ryan Caldwell, 1993).

World Cup 1994.  Soccertown USA is electric as three of our hometown boys are on the United States side.  It truly felt like north Jersey was the center of the soccer universe for a time as Kearny was still full of Irish and Scottish (and transitioning into Portuguese).  Neighboring Newark provided the extra Spanish, Brazilian, Argentinian and whatever other South American delicacy you wanted on the table. 

It was the fourth of July.  Fourth of July 1994 and the United States was playing Brazil, the greatest nation to ever lace em up for this tournament.  How could we lose?  It was the fourth of fucking July!  If this thing went to PKs, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see John Adams replace John Harkes on the first attempt.  My family was not a soccer family so I watched the television set alone in my living room, listening to Roger Twibell call the match.  (Unless my memory is dead, I know it was Roger Twibell.)   

I remember the goal.  Bebeto across the face of Meola.  72nd minute.  Thanks to this magic internet, you can remember it too. 

My family was outside at the pool.  They didn’t give a shit.  I walked out to Bennett Avenue and up to Major Deli  on Kearny Avenue to get a pack of gum and a root beer (in later years, these items would be replaced to quell similar emotions).  As I stood waiting to pay, two men came in wearing Mexican jerseys.  The green and red stinging my eyes like a blood-soaked Kermit.  They saw me in my USA shirt and they laughed at me.  Actually laughed.  Individuals on the soil of my country laughed at me for cheering on my nation at the world’s game.

That was it.  My brothers hated the Boston Red Sox.  I hated Mexico.  My father hated Democrats.  I hated Mexico.  My mother hated my father.  I hated Mexico.  I have aged, hopefully matured, and you know what?  I still hate Mexico.

The 2002 quarterfinal defeat of Mexico in the World Cup erased most of the pain from that deli in 1994.  The Gold Cup is, well, the Gold Cup.  But with the increased excitement surrounding the Confederations Cup, substantially aided by the wonderful performance by the US in South Africa 2009, the Gold Cup has come to mean more than a trophy for being CONCACAF’s best.  It is an assertion of one nation into the spotlight of the international game.  It is an engraved invitation to the Confed Cup – international soccer’s most exclusive party.

And I want to be there.  Not just to watch my favorite team on the earth compete against Brazil, Spain and the rest of the world’s best.  But also to force those two deli jackasses to watch it too.  And the reason why is simple.

I still hate Mexico.

  • Gus

    This is phenominal. My team USA loyalty commenced witht he 3-2 defeat against Portugal in the ’02 World Cup. I was in the 6th grade and I got up around 3 AM to watch it. It was a David and Goliath finish.

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