Whenever the US plays Mexico, the game is must-see television at my house. But this year’s edition was special: it was a chance to shape a life. Well, that’s going a bit overboard, but let me explain.
My sister recently moved back to the US from Mexico with her three boys. Her husband is Mexican. which means that her sons have a fifty-fifty chance of becoming Mexico fans. I just couldn’t have a Mexico fan in my family so when I found out that her husband would be out of town for the game in Columbus, I took the opportunity to invite my oldest nephew, age 6, to my house for the game. The time was ripe to mold an impressionable mind.
My own rooting interests had been molded at a young age, so I relished the opportunity to play God, so to speak. My mom went to Alabama and my Dad went to Tennessee. I always seemed to pull for the Crimson Tide. Why? Because my mother would regale me with stories of watching the Bear conduct practice out her dorm window and how Joe Namath was an underclassman when she was a senior.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a whore when it comes liking multiple teams. But it is understandable since I moved around a lot. UNC is another team I root for. I used to spend my summers in Statesville, North Carolina. Many days were spent at my friend Kent’s. His grandfather was such a huge Tarheel fan that one day when he asked which NC team I pulled for, I told him I liked both the Heels and the Wolfpack (Duke wasn’t even in the picture back then). He clenched his fists and jaw and stared at me in a threatening manner. Ever since then, I’ve rooted for UNC.
Now I didn’t want to threaten my nephew into forsaking the country of his father, but I figured I’d give him some guidance. So he came over knowing that he was to root for the Stars and Stripes. Not El Tri. I wore my Nike Don’t Tread on Me t-shirt that I had worn to the US/Ghana game in Nurnberg. It didn’t bring us luck that day, but I wasn’t worried this time. It’s funny because before the game his sister and I had discussed how my nephew probably wouldn’t watch the whole game. Except for the Super Bowl 42, I can’t get my kids to watch more than 5 minutes of a sporting event with me. Sure enough, 25 minutes into the game, my nephew went off to play with my son. So he wasn’t watching when baby Bradley scored or Rafa earned his inevitable red card. But he would come back to the TV every time I screamed, ‘Yesss!!!!’ “What happened Uncle G?” “We just put this game away. The US is up 2-0. Adios, Mehico.” I’m not sure if he smiled because the US was winning or just because I was happy.
After the game, I drove my nephew home drunk. Drunk on the euphoria of the US embarrassing Mexico and Swedish Sven. But the more important victory was for the heart and mind of the USA’s newest fan, my nephew. As my nephew got out of the car, I asked him, ‘Will you watch another game with me?’ He smiled and said, ‘Yes, Uncle G.’
Look back also at Austin Kelley’s preview of the game.