I was going to maintain "radio silence" about the men's game but then I heard about Tim Howard's rant regarding the Gold Cup ceremony. Hosted by Univision's Fernando Fiore, the trophy award was conducted in Spanish except for that portion honoring the US team.
Such a thing should be relatively uncontroversial: Los Angeles is a multi-lingual city and the vast majority of people in the stands understand Spanish. It was being broadcast to Spanish speaking households across the region. In California, la vida futbolistica is conducted largely en español. The Gold Cup final is an international event, and if French is the lengua franca of sporting events in Europe, Spanish is it for the Americas. Anglo players and fans who don't speak Spanish will understand enough to get the gist: Howard certainly knows this, and was clearly displacing his frustration about the loss into this pseudo-self-righteous and reactionary rant about proper procedure.
Mind you, if Howard was a female player, he'd likely lose his place on the squad for more than a little while - FAs are particularly intolerant of the malcriada. (Ask Hope Solo.) But, no, instead Howard's rant becomes a focal point for nationalist identification. So, you know, the men's scene can look more and more like the worst aspects of the European game. Because this seems to be what the USSF and its corporate partners want.
There are finer points to this discussion: about the way ticket sales are managed, about the marginalization of fans of the USMNT in those processes (see, e.g. Alex Labidou's polemic for Goal.com). There seems to be no process that saves some tickets from being sold until the finalists are announced. That said - everyone in LA knows this and bought tickets well in advance of knowing who would be in the final. There is no reason that USMNT fans couldn't do the same. The one good thing about the current system is that it shows the sheer quantity of Latino fans of the game - fans far too committed to the sport to wait to see if their team made it all the way.
Fact is, if the final had been between Costa Rica and Ecuador, you'd still have a sold out stadium and a great atmosphere.
For the record: the United States does not have an official language. Every effort to make English the legal law of the land has failed: this is something every American can be proud of. This makes all kinds of things easier, it makes life richer and more interesting, and public space much more generous (in contrast, for example, with countries that refuse to produce official signs, documents in different languages to support the diversity of the language communities that live within that country).
Howard's rant will get lots of play because the issue of language is the preferred field for working out national panic about American identity. And that's of course, what's at stake.
What does need examining is the US Soccer Federation's cool relationship with Latino fans of the sport. I can imagine that for USMNT it must be depressing to never have a home advantage. (That "indivisible" motto now seems particularly ill-fated.) Surely the must be a better answer than digging in one's heals and stewing in rage.
But, hey, at least the US men's team has a crowd in the stands. And the USMNT gets the red carpet from the USSF, the hype from Nike. And all the press.
Wish I'd seen that kind of support for the women as they slogged they way through the World Cup qualifiers. Maybe we'd see better play from them if they saw better support from us.
So, to Tim Howard: Suck it up.
And to USMNT fans: You aren't real fans of the national team until that support extends to the program's better half. Ideally with all the passion but none of the xenophobia. Indivisible? Show us what that word really means.
The intimate connections between the US and Mexico, by the way, will be on full display when El Tri takes on England today - a few of squad's best players are from California.
Team USA plays North Korea tomorrow. If the headlines are still about Howard's rant, well, then we'll know how far this so-called support for the game here extends.