VCT note: A member of VCT was at this game. He is extremely reliable. He said
FRONT PAGE OF LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1998
Anticipating the uproar over the Mexican outrage, the L.A. Times put the American Flag on the front page.
The message was, "look folks, they love the good 'ole U.S.A.!"
that he was doused with urine, as was the U.S. Marine band.
Saturday, February 21, 1998
What's Needed Is Some Civility
Last Sunday I took my son to the Coliseum for what I thought would be a great opportunity to witness soccer at its best. What we witnessed instead was a shameful display of hooliganism, vulgarity and disrespect. Never had I been so ashamed to be a Mexican-American.
My son and I were pelted with beer, soda and God knows what else for having had the temerity to display an American flag and cheer for our team. I watched with dread as I saw my son's eyes filled with confusion at the disrespect displayed while our national anthem was played even though we stood at attention for the Mexican anthem.
I was further saddened to have him witness the physical and verbal abuse heaped on Team USA by the "fans." I was speechless after the game when my son asked . . . why? On behalf of all Mexican-Americans who were there, I apologize to those abused, including Preki, Wynalda, et al. But most of all I apologize to my son.
That's not the way it's supposed to be.
* * *
Sergio Munoz is an editorial writer for The Times?
Your standards are much lower than I imagined. Instead of addressing outrageous and offensive behavior, Munoz tried to change the subject by talking trash about a member of the defeated team. He then went on to blame the problem on not enough U.S. fans in the Coliseum and uneven media coverage of soccer. What a joke. If this man speaks for The Times, then The Times has little to say to me.
STEVEN B. CHESSER
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The issue is not xenophobia, protectionism, or anything anti-Mexican. The issue is not soccer, nor trade relations. It's about civility, decent manners and behavior. Mr. Munoz, while you say (briefly) that you don't condone the mob's uncivilized behavior, you then spend the rest of your column rationalizing it. And although you suggest "to go sit among an Oakland Raider mob wearing a 49er shirt," the accurate parallel would be "go live in Oakland, work for the Raiders, then go sit in their stadium, in the company press box, and then insult the company, the players, and the staff while you're there--oh, and also throw things at them and encourage others to do the same thing while they walk past you."
* * *
Rationalizing that the pro-Mexican crowd at the Coliseum was no different than the fans in Oakland is like saying that what Hitler did was OK because Attila the Hun would have acted in a similar manner. Right or wrong, Alexi Lalas was speaking for many Americans when he criticized the Mexican supporters. And, if there ever was an NFL team from Mexico, I would be very surprised if the Oakland fans would do to the Mexican national anthem what was done to ours last Sunday.
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I find that it crosses the line of decency that supporters of the Mexican side had the gall to boo during the national anthem and throw objects at the American players. Those fans came to this country in search of a better life with more opportunities, and I deem it absolutely deplorable that they would demonstrate such disdain and disrespect toward their adopted nation.
* * *
Let's agree that the behavior of some of these fans was deplorable. But let's not assign responsibility for their behavior to the security guards. In taking precautions to minimize unruly behavior, there was appropriate security deployment for this event. Additionally, fencing that ran along both sides of the Coliseum tunnel was intended to keep flying debris to a minimum.
During the match, we apprehended a significant number of patrons responsible for hurling debris. However, there is only so much that can be done without infringing on the personal liberties of the patrons and the integrity of the event. Further, most of the significant incidents took place at the conclusion of the match, where crowd control must take priority over spotting patrons in mid-windup.
Short of expecting security guards to intercept debris on its way down, is a little unclear what Mr. Munoz would have them do differently. Security personnel go a long way toward ensuring the safety of our patrons, but it is neither fair nor realistic to expect them to govern the conduct of those in attendance.
Marketing Director, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
* * *
The situation during the Gold Cup final at the Coliseum serves as a microcosm for what's happening to California. Not unlike the U.S. hockey team of 1980, the U.S. soccer team was coming off its biggest victory ever (over Brazil) and yet, American fans were averse to attending their next game in a hostile environment, even though that game was played on American soil! Can you imagine if the U.S. hockey team had gotten the same reception at the Olympic final in Lake Placid? It can't be imagined, but here in Los Angeles, such hideous embarrassments are commonplace.
* * *
As an Anglo member of the U.S. soccer community, I read with dismay the L.A. Times accounts of Sunday's Gold Cup game between the U.S. and Mexico. I was at this game. Soccer in this country suffers enough from an indifferent or negatively biased media without being further burdened with inaccurate reporting, which unfortunately characterized all of The Times' articles, especially Bill Plaschke's.
First of all, The Times repeatedly mentioned that the "Mexican" fans disrespected the U.S. national anthem by drowning it out with crowd noise. The fact is that for many minutes before the scheduled start of the game, the crowd was roaring loudly in anticipation. The playing of the national anthems began amid this din and nonetheless, the crowd noise continued unabated. In point of fact, the crowd noise drowned out both the U.S. and the Mexican anthems, so the disrespect was universal.
Furthermore, the statement that "91,000 out of 91,225 fans . . . acted as if they hated the U.S." implies that the crowd was virtually all of Mexican origin. I don't know what game Mr. Plaschke was at, but I would say that the crowd was about 30% Anglo and the other 70%, while predominantly Mexican in heritage, also included a sizable number of other Latino groups, primarily Central American and Brazilian. Mr. Plaschke makes it appear like virtually every fan was pro-Mexico and anti-U.S.
* * *
It's amazing how worked up folks can get over the behavior of some rude, liquored-up fans attending a sporting event that they apparently know nothing about. Yes, as Sergio Munoz pointed out, the fans who booed the U.S. anthem at the Gold Cup put on a disgraceful anti-American display, and one feels for the U.S. soccer team that suffers from a pathetic lack of support from sports fans and, especially, the English language media, who write it off the world's most popular sport as a "Latino thing" and abdicating any coverage to the Spanish media. Do we also find it disgraceful and anti-American that our largest beer producer proudly proclaims in its Spanish-language broadcasts that "Budweiser is with Mexico!" as it shows video clips of the Mexicans scoring goal after goal and beating up, exclusively, on the hated gringos? Yet there is hope. It seems that our lads, despite fan apathy, have brought about a renaissance of soccer in the last few years, and they're getting close, really close, to switching the allegiance of the fans--much the same way as all the Packers' football jerseys and bumper stickers disappeared last month. Who knows, if our boys keep improving, maybe even Budweiser will come back to our side.
* * *
It is high time the organizers of soccer matches between Mexico and the USA made moves to protect supporters of the American team from the substantial sub-human, hooligan element that follows the Mexican team. I observed numerous situations where U.S. fans were pelted and even physically assaulted by Mexican fans without any police intervention whatsoever. U.S. fans have a right to feel safe at competitions between the two countries. I did not pay top dollar with two young children to sit among thugs. If these events cannot be adequately policed, then the fans should be segregated for safety as is done elsewhere in the world. S
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So one day out of the year, you feel like you're the outcast, like you're the minority, the foreigner who ended up on the short end of the stick. Deal with it, Plaschke, immigrants and people of color do it every day. Being disrespectful is wrong, I agree with you, but don't condemn all people of Mexican descent for the acts of a few unruly fans. There were more than 91,000 people at the game and only a few were close enough to throw objects at the American soccer players. Funny how you cannot rid yourself of your skin color long enough to criticize the disrespectful and ethnocentric statements made by Alexi Lalas and goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Lalas arrogantly commented that even though Mexico won, tomorrow Mexican fans would have to come back to reality and work for white America. Keller, on the other hand, plays on a predominantly white team and wonders why Mexican-Americans don't cheer for him. Would he cheer for Mexico merely because he lived there? The last time I checked, tickets were available for anyone to buy. The last time I checked, in America one is supposed to have the freedom to cheer for your favorite team, be it the Lakers, Dodgers or even Mexico.
* * *
The U.S. soccer team had to suffer the indignity of being belted with cups and beverages in Los Angeles, but, hey, there were 90,000 paying fans there, right? That's business. Forget what actually happened at the game. As long as there were plenty of butts in the seats.
JOHN L. MICHAELIS