In case you missed the dugout-clearing crazy brawl in the Mexico-Canada game over the weekend, here is how the World Baseball Classic matchout came to resemble a World Boxing Classic bout. The brawl broke out in the ninth inning with Canada holding a commanding 9-3 lead. As a result of the loss Saturday in Phoenix, Mexico is out of the tournament, held every four years. Mexican pitcher Arnold Leon's beaning of Canadian batter Rene Tosoni appeared to be on purpose. Leon brushed him back in pitch one and two, then hit him full on on the third pitch. The Mexican side apparently was miffed that Canadians were running up the score on them to knock them out of the tournament.
But here was the odd thing. Fishermen all over the world are a superstitious lot. And what came up on this trip was the following:
Don’t bring bananas on the boat. Bananas bring bad luck. They scare away the fish. You won’t catch anything.
I thought this a might curious, perhaps a Mexican superstition. But I see that it is far more widespread than that. This article says the belief is prevalent among crab fishermen in the U.S. as well, and may have roots dating back to the banana trade from Central America a century ago.
Banana boats moved to fast for fishermen to troll effectively. The boats were trying to get their perishables to market.
This LA Times article from 2001 quotes a sport fishing boat captain, Bouncer Smith, of South Florida, and the extensive efforts he goes through to rid anything redolent of bananas from his boat.
"Typically, when customers arrive in the morning, the first thing I do is interrogate them," Smith said. "First, I check for bananas, then I check for Banana Boat sunscreen products, then for Banana Republic shirts and blouses, then for Starburst strawberry-banana [candies] and, most important of all, for Fruit of the Loom labels."
Now back to Ascension Bay. This is an amazing place, part of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Turquise waters. Extensive flats for bonefishing. It takes an hour and a half along a gravel road to get there from Tulum. But it feels further. I have not seen a night sky lit up with stars like that in years. Our first day out, we saw not a single other boat after traveling miles and miles on the bay. It was like going to Yellowstone and finding it deserted. When we weren't fishing, we were seeing countless roseate spoonbills and frigate birds.
The roar. That's what it comes down to. Estadio Azteca is one of the world's biggest stadiums, perhaps the biggest. When packed, more than 100,000 people crowd in there. This rivals Rio's famous Maracana, another temple of soccer.
I went to Azteca last night for the first time. I'm a fan of Mexico's national team, and they were playing a qualifier match with Costa Rica. This is the first round for nations trying to make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, so these matches generate a lot of emotion. That said, the Azteca was only half full, maybe 50,000 people. Many Mexicans probably thought it would be a romp. After all, el Tri, as the national team is called, beat Costa Rica easily last week in their first match.
We happened to be sitting in a box with some friends, both foreigners, one of them from Costa Rica, and the box was right above the section of the stadium reserved for Costa Rican fans. There were probably only a few hundred, a thousand max. I panned down with my iPhone in the video above.
I've seen a lot of soccer matches with the Mexican team on TV. But nothing is like being in the stadium with the reverberation of the throng. There was a lot of chanting between sections. The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are called, shouted, 'Ole! Ole! Tico! Tico!" and their trademark, 'Yes, we can!' Once Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored a header, the Mexicans around us chanted in unison, 'No, you couldn't!'
Near the end, it got a little ugly. Some fans above tossed plastic cups at the Tico fans below. Riot police protected the sector when the match concluded 1-0 in Mexico's favor. But by the time everyone filed out of Azteca, good nature prevailed. Some fans shook hands and joined the Ticos in shouts of 'Costa Rica!'
With the victory, Mexico (which took the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and is on a hot streak) will roll into the deciding round in CONCACAF, the regional confederation, assuredly finding a spot for the World Cup. Any home games in the upcoming round will certainly find roaring that drowns out what I heard last night.
A “laser lout” spent much of the match pointing a green pointer at U.S. goalie Tim Howard. As it turns out, it wasn’t enough to help the Mexican squad, which lost to the U.S. team 1-0 even though its play was clearly superior. Those are U.S. players above celebrating after their goal.
But I had a hard time focusing on the game on seeing that darn green light dance around Howard. It seemed like the height of poor sportsmanship by a Mexican fan.
On looking around the internet this morning, though, I found the term “laser lout,” and learned that U.S. fans are probably more guilty of this than anyone else. Earlier this month, police arrested a 17-year-old at Busch Stadium in St. Louis for pointing a laser at Giants pitcher Shane Loux. There’s also the case of a hockey dad earlier this year using a laser point against the goalie of the team playing his daughter’s squad.
“Laser louts,” of course, transform from a nuisance to a real danger when they point the devices at aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration tallied 3,592 incidents last year of laser pointers and aircraft.
One other thing about the match last night: What's with those wacky Gallic U.S. uniforms? My daughter said the American players should have been forced to wear berets and carry baguettes under one arm.
If you want to read a really great article on why the U.S. triumph last night was historic, read this Sports Illustrated column by writer Grant Wahl. Highly recommended.
I only caught snatches of the television coverage of the Summer Olympics while away over the past two weeks. But even with that, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the performance of Latin American and Caribbean athletes in the Games.
London 2012 was very kind to the region.
Both Guatemala and Grenada won their first medals ever. That's Guatemala's Erick Barrondo above, who won a silver in the 20 kilometer race walk. Colombia won four times more medals than ever before. And Caribbean nations continued their inexorable rise in track and field.
Mexico captured the gold medal in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Brazil snared more medals than ever before as it sambas toward 2016 when it plays host to the Summer Games.
The only negative in the Games was Cuba’s slide as an Olympic power. Its vaunted sports machine, like the nation itself, needs an overhaul. Cuba claimed 14 medals, which is nothing to sneer at. But looked at over the past two decades, the outcome was decidedly mediocre. At the Barcelona Games in 1992, Cuba won 31 medals. In the 1996 Atlanta Games, it garnered 25 medals. In Sydney, it captured 29 medals. In Athens in 2004, it won 26 medals. At the 2008 Beijing Games, it got 24 medals.
So it’s a pretty sharp slide. I’ll never forget riding a bus in Havana in the mid 1990s once. Most passengers wore somewhat shabby clothing and were skinny. Then athletes got on the bus. They looked incredibly well-fed and muscular.
Even countries that took home no medals from London stole a bit of the spotlight. Take Chile. Gymnast Tomas Gonzalez got a ton of publicity, not only because he was the first Chilean gymnast to qualify but also because of his natty little moustache. Check out this English language article on the “27 Things to Love About Tomas Gonzalez.”
Grenada’s government decreed a half day off work after its sprinter Kirani James won gold in the 400 meters. Trinidad’s prodigy in the javelin, 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott, claimed his Caribbean nation’s first field gold medal.
And Jamaica, wow! They just get better and better. Jamaica claimed four medals back in 1992. Now their total is three times higher at 12. And they have proven they have the best sprinters on the planet led by Usain Bolt, the fastest man anywhere.
Then, other islands also have great track stars, among them Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic (part of Hispaniola).
Here's a selection of AP photos of Latinos and Latinas. They include a moment after the Mexican soccer victory and young Trinidadian javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott. Above left is a photo of Colombian BMX cycling gold medalist Mariana Pajon.
An ancient Mexican breed, the Xolo, which is short for Xoloitzcuintli, is making its debut this week at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City's Madison Square Garden. The Xolo is usually hairless although the one you see above has some whiskers. It also has bat-like ears. A Xolo is a prized breed with a history dating to Aztec times. According to this story about Chabella, the Xolo competing at the show (which is not the Xolo in the video), the breed takes its name from Xolotl, the Aztec god of lightning and death. The dog was believed to accompany people upon their deaths to the afterworld.
The Xolo (pronounced 'sholo') is one of six new breeds making a debut at the dog show. The others are American English Coonhound, Cesky terrier, Entlebucher mountain dog, Finnish lapphund, and Norwegian lundehund.
If anyone clings to the belief that Mexican beef is safe from banned substances, new evidence is here to shake their faith.
I’ve been out of Mexico this week doing reporting in the southern U.S. But I can’t help make mention of the news from the international soccer federation known as FIFA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and Mexico’s own Secretariat of Health.
Turns out that massive numbers of teenage athletes who came to Mexico in June and July to compete in the Under-17 World Cup tested positive for clenbuterol, a steroid-like substance used by ranchers to bulk up their cattle before slaughter.
In an announcement this week, the groups said 109 players tested positive for clenbuterol presence in their urine. The groups aren’t taking any action against the players because at this point it’s widely known that Mexico _ like China _ is rife with tainted animal products. The positive tests came for players from 19 of the 24 squads competing in the World Cup.
Click here to read a story I did on this back in June. I wrote is shortly after five members of Mexico’s national team tested positive for clembuterol.
Tourists take note: When you come to Mexico, if you eat beef, you are likely to be ingesting clenbuterol. I, for one, am trying not to eat meat in Mexico. Just remember: These Under-17 soccer players were only in Mexico a short time, yet they still tested positive. If you live in Mexico, likely levels in your body are higher.
This is the scene yesterday at the soccer stadium in Torreon during a match between Santos and Morelia when gunshots broke out. Advance to about .38 to see where the fans _ and the players _ suddenly realize that a fierce gunfight is nearby. Later in the video, you'll see fans lying face down in the stands, huddled behind chairs, running wildly for the exits. The panic and fright are evident.
Employees sealed some exits from the stadium once they realized the shooting was outside. That's why you see frightened fans running in one direction, then across the field in another.
It later turned out that the shooting occurred outside the stadium. But the panic was such that it has become a national news item. Los Pinos, the presidential palace, issued a statement "energetically condemning" the violence.
I'm in Baja California with a shaky internet connection. But from what I can tell so far there was plenty of gunfire but no fatalities.
That was part of the headline over a column in the Los Angeles Times following Mexico’s rousing 4-2 victory over the U.S. national soccer team Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
For anyone who watched the game on television _ and certainly much of Mexico did _ one had to be be struck by the leanings of the crowd. According to this Yahoo Sports story, “Mexico was supported by more than 80 percent of the 93,420 in attendance.”
That is an extraordinary statistic. And certainly the red-white-and-green Mexico flags, hats, facepaint and signs in the stands attest to its veracity. One can’t help but wonder if there is any other country in the world that can host a “home game” and have its fans be outnumbered in such a hostile way.
This touched a raw nerve for some Americans. As the LA Times sports columnist wrote, “This was Staples Center filled with Boston Celtics fans.”
The columnist quoted a 37-year-old resident, Victor Sanchez, who said, "We're not booing the country, we're booing the team. There is a big difference.” It noted that fans such as Sanchez reside in the United States while their sporting souls dwell elsewhere.
"But eventually, the rules for their unrequited love get tricky. Because eventually, Mexico ends up playing the U.S. team on U.S. soil. And then folks start wondering, as they surely did Saturday, is it really right for folks who live here to boo and jeer as if they don't?"
The columnist, Bill Plaschke, went on:
“How many places are so diverse that it could fill football stadiums with folks whose roots are somewhere else? How many places offer such a freedom of speech that someone can display an American flag on their porch one day and cheer against the flag the next? I hated it, but I loved it. I was felt as if I was in a strange place, and yet I felt right at home.”
Some analysts saw the Rose Bowl game as a new sign of the reconquista _ or reconquest _ of the American Southwest by Mexicans and were offended by the sentiments of the LA Times piece. Here’s an excerpt from the American Thinker website:
“That a Los Angles Times writer approves of the most recent Rose Bowl spectacle underscores yet again that many in the mainstream media are out-of-step with what most Americans believe.”
The American Thinker essayist, David Paulin, goes on to quote the famous late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington (he of The Clash of Civilizations) who wrote in Foreign Policy magazine in 1998 that he was appalled by Mexican residents of the U.S. who booed the U.S. national anthem and cheered for Mexican sports teams.
"Such dramatic rejections of the United States and assertions of Mexican identity are not limited to an extremist minority in the Mexican-American community. Many Mexican immigrants and their offspring simply do not appear to identify primarily with the United States."
One objective fact amid all this interpretation: Mexicans probably care about soccer far more than Americans and would be more inclined to go to the Rose Bowl to see the game.
From personal experience, I’d also suggest that it remains foolish to underestimate the huge assimilative powers that have made the United States exceptional over the past several centuries.
My stepdaughter lived only two years in the U.S. during her adolescence since her mother and I moved often between Latin America and Asia. She used to voice some disdain toward the U.S., influenced by friends from Europe and elsewhere. Some of this may have been to needle me (her mother is from Nicaragua). But then she went off to university two years ago in the Boston area. Let me tell you, the richness of her experience there has left an indelible imprint on her. She could hardly be more American now. Even if her roots are foreign, her appreciation of the American experience is profound.
Following a soccer match in Houston Wednesday night between the national teams of Mexico and Honduras, the head of the world football association (FIFA), Joseph S. Blatter, made some startling remarks.
He said the five players on the Mexican national soccer team who were suspended June 9 after testing positive for a banned steroid, clenbuterol, weren’t the only ones on the team who showed signs of ingesting the substance.
According to press reports like this one, Blatter told ESPN after the game that since other team players also tested for the substance “then definitely it was the food. They talk about the meat.”
Following the scandal, I traveled up to a cattle-raising area of Mexico and wrote this story about how hundreds of people fall ill each year after eating steroid-tainted beef. The practice appears geographically widespread, given press reports of where people have been hospitalized.
In any case, Blatter’s remarks appear to have been too much for FIFA’s media office which promptly issued a statement, reported here, that Blatter wasn’t referring to actual teammates of the five suspended players on the Mexican squad but Mexican athletes in general.
This makes no sense to me. But I cannot find the FIFA statement on the association’s website nor can I find the video of the ESPN interview.
In any case, if Blatter thinks more Mexican athletes are testing positive for doping and that it “definitely” comes from steroid-tainted meat, then anyone who eats beef in Mexico might have reason for concern.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.
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Read Tim's stories at news.mcclatchy.com.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @timjohnson4
- The hostility facing Carlos Slim
- America's 'wicked war'
- A fast U-turn at the Mouse House
- The mysterious 'third hand'
- Was it 'happy talk' on Mexico?
- Al Capone and YouTube
- 'New president is serious about reform'
- A hissy fit from a powerful daughter
- The hooded students on campus
- A high-tech crossing for Big Bend
- Art and Architecture
- Border issues
- Carlos Slim
- Central America
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- Foreigners in Mexico
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