Clint Dempsey grew up in a small town in Texas playing soccer, often against grown-ass men, many of whom were Hispanic. Point being, he knows the kind of people who showed up to the Gold Cup semifinal, mainly to see Mexico-Honduras as the second half of the double-header, but who also applauded the United States after their win over Panama.
Dempsey, no doubt, has many memories of these same people booing the United States. He probably remember some of these people giving him a particularly hard time while he was playing against them as a youngster. So, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not really mean what he said in this quote that appeared in the Houston Chronicle after the match:
"And two, I’d like to think that a lot of people that were in the stands tonight that were maybe wearing a green jersey are making a living here and they have maybe a little more appreciation for this country."
In any case, I really hope that he does not really believe that the soccer team you support says anything about your appreciation for a country. With the United States playing Mexico in Saturday's Gold Cup final, though, I have a feeling we are going to hear plenty of other people make a similar accusation, and I'd like to go on record now as saying, Don't.
Don't fall into this trap. Don't let jingoism be mistaken for patriotism. Don't allow yourself to blur the line between sport and life to this degree. Don't turn this into an opportunity to break out tired, hurtful and lazy stereotypes.
I know, the desire to do so is going to be strong. With the final being held at the Rose Bowl, chances are at least 50 percent of the crowd will be rooting for El Tri. Suffice to say, most of those people probably live and work in the United States. Heck, a lot of those people probably have been here for many generations. But just because they root for the country of their ancestry instead of their country of citizenship does not mean they don't appreciate the United States.
In our lives, we all know people that root for a soccer team other than the United States. Maybe they root for England. Maybe they root for Spain. Maybe they root for Italy. Maybe their root for Slovakia. Yet somehow, we never accuse these people of lacking appreciation for this country.
Sure, we give them a hard time about not supporting the U.S. soccer team, but it rarely seems to go beyond fandom. Just because someone roots for Mexico does not make them a traitor. It does not make them an ingrate. It does not make them un-American. Let's at least try to remember that.
For more on how the two teams got to this point, check out our USA vs. Panama stream and our Mexico vs. Honduras stream. For more updates leading up to USA vs. Mexico, bookmark this StoryStream. For all of our previous Gold Cup coverage, check out the Gold Cup 2011 section. For more on Mexican football, including the Mexican national team, the Mexico vs. USA game, and the Mexican Primera, check out SB Nation's Mexican football blog FMF State Of Mind.