Las Ladies, episode 7

Mix alcohol and high emotions, and what do you get? If you're at the Estadio Azteca watching a World Cup qualifying match, you can get a pretty nasty spat. Like some others I've mentioned on this blog, this was a spat with racial overtones, a huge sense of entitlement and ridiculously bad behavior.

The above video was taken by an ESPN collaborator, Rene Tovar, in one of the boxes at the stadium last Friday night when the Mexican national soccer team was playing the Honduras squad.

Two women in the front row grew irritated and began insulting the people behind them, calling them "nacos." Click here for a better description of "naco," but take it from me that it's not a compliment. Soon, one woman tosses her beer cup at those behind her. Then it gets worse. One of the two "ladies" pulls a bag of pepper spray from her purse, turns around and begins spraying everyone behind her. Dating from this scandal, "ladies" is Mexican shorthand for referring to arrogant upper-class women with a strong sense of entitlement and little regard for laws. "Gentlemen" conveys the same meaning.

People started to scatter. "I told you not to mess with me!" the woman said, according to this Spanish-language blog posting by Tovar.

She waits a second. "You didn't understand? Let's try it again. Take this!" she said, according to the blog post as she squirted the pepper spray can again.

The video is going viral here in Mexico. One of the women reportedly is a law professor at a private university in Santa Fe, an expensive suburb in the capital. Let's see if there are any consequences for the "ladies." 


A Mexico soccer disaster unfolds

Mexico Honduras Socce_NostMexico is on the cusp of failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, and this is tantamount to national shame.

Honduras dealt Mexico a humiliating 2-1 loss Friday night in Azteca Stadium.

The loss knocked Mexico into fourth place for qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil. Only the top three teams in the North, Central America and Caribbean division get a ticket to the World Cup, while the fourth will go into a playoff series against Oceania winner New Zealand.

Mexico has punched its ticket to the World Cup every time since 1990. So its current predicament is the subject of anger. Only hours after the loss, authorities axed coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre. Fans chanted for his head at the stadium Friday night, and they got it. That's De la Torre in an AP photo above.

Honduras’s feat was extraordinary. It became the first team since Costa Rica in 2001 to win a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca, a pantheon to soccer that often holds more than 100,000 manic fans.

The U.S. and Mexico national teams play this Tuesday, and tensions will be sky high. Mexico nearly has to win to keep alive hopes of going to Brazil.

But get this: Mexico’s team has not won – or even scored a goal -- against the United States in the three qualifying games at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, since 2001.

Interim Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena has one task ahead of him: Find that mojo that helped him carry the Mexico national team to a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. It’s been lost , and now even Mexico’s best players are suffering a crisis of confidence.


Peruvians win Mexico City marathon

I'm still hearing people cheering out in the street for the stragglers from this morning's Mexico City Marathon, the route of which passed directly in front of our building.

I took the video above at a little after the 31 kilometer mark in the marathon, or about three-quarters of the race. In it, I believe you see the two leaders at that point, Kenyan runners Simon Njoroge and Rodgers Ondati. Later a Peruvian athlete, Raul Pacheco, would overtake them to win in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 56 seconds. Another Peruvian, Gladys Tejeda, also captured the women's title, a little more than 20 minutes back.

El Universal says Pacheco won a purse of nearly $35,000. I don't see how much Tejeda won.

It was a real delight to see how international the marathon, which drew 20,000 runners, has become. There were many Africans among the early men's and women's finishers.

Below are some handout photos from Mexico City Hall of the event.





Altitude+smog=tough marathon

020713 MANCERA-MARATÓN 08Mayor Miguel Mancera wants the annual marathon in Mexico City to regain some lost luster. The marathon, scheduled this year for Aug. 25, is not ranked among the world’s most important races.

At an event Tuesday, Mancera bemoaned the lack of prestige for the local foot race.

“I must say, we're not even among the top 100 marathons in the world. We can’t let this go on because it is a very important marathon, a marathon that serves as training for other marathons. The altitude and the route of the race make it worthy of much attention,” Mancera said.

Mancera said nearly 10,000 runners have signed up for the race but that he is hoping for 20,000 by race time.

Mexico City is no doubt a challenging venue for a race. First off is the elevation: 7,900 feet above sea level, high enough to make runners gasp for breath. The altitude “can add up to 10 minutes to a runner’s overall time,” according to this website. Second is the smog. On most days, a haze covers the city.

Click here for the Runner's World list of the world’s top 10 marathons.


Crazy brawl on the diamond

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.


Yes, we have no bananas -- on board

I’m not an experienced fisherman but I just went fishing with some friends on protected Ascension Bay in the Yucatan. It felt like having a national park all to ourselves.

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. 


Watching a match at Azteca Stadium

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.


Harassing the U.S. goalie

Mexico US Soccer_Nost
You couldn’t miss it if you watched the friendly soccer match between the U.S. and Mexico 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.


The Latin, Caribbean medal haul

London Olympics Athle_Nost
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.

London Olympics BMX C_NostMexico 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.

London Olympics Socce_Nost

London Olympics Athle_Nost-1


Debut for Mexico's hairless dog

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.



This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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