(Photo: Joseph Maiorana, USA TODAY Sports)
I’ve been looking for “my America” for quite some time now. I lost it when a presidential candidate belittled his opponents in the primary with childish insults and schoolyard nicknames. I lost it when I found out that one of the political parties was rigging their primary election in order to favor the insider candidate over the outsider. I lost it when millionaire professional athletes decided that it was more important to make political statements during the national anthem, one of the few things that consistently unifies us as a country, and pervert it into an occasion for personal protest. I lost it when a man was pulled from his car in Chicago and beaten for voting for the “wrong” candidate. I lost it when I found out in July that over 2000 Americans had already been shot this year in that same city and the news media were barely interested in the story. I lost it when I found out that members of that same media were colluding with one of the presidential campaigns, even to the point of giving them debate questions ahead of time. And I lost it when after we conducted a free and fair election, people took to the streets to protest and burn and pillage. None of that is my America, the America that I grew up in, and the America that I love.
Last night I traveled to a soccer bar in Albany, NY to watch our nation’s soccer team play our arch rivals, Mexico. It was a hugely important match because it was part of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. We arrived fairly early and I treated myself to authentic German food and Oktoberfest beer. It was wonderful. When the Mexico national anthem was announced I stood up in respect for our opponent and I prayed that none of our players would do something disrespectful or stupid when our anthem was played. I was delighted to see hands on hearts and singing. As the cameras panned the crowd I saw Americans of every ethnicity waving flags and singing together in unity. When the game got underway we went down a goal early but we did not lose heart. In the bar, people cheered and chanted and sang soccer songs. It was then that I found it. I had realized that I had found my America again. I scanned the room and we were all there, people of all heritages, Africans and Asians and Hispanics and Europeans. We were all there united behind our team, singing and cheering together, our diversity melting away and willfully giving way to a unity. When the USA tied the game we erupted with joy, shouting and high-fiving and hugging each other. Chants of “USA, USA” filling the room with deafening effect. I found my America again last night in a soccer bar in Albany, NY.
With two minutes remaining in the match Mexico scored again and we were unable to recover. We lost 1-2, the first time we have lost at home at this level of World Cup qualifying in 15 years. It was devastating but we did not spill out onto the streets and burn things and destroy. We shook each others hands, we hugged, we consoled, we moved on because we are Americans. Last night I found my America and just before I left the bar I realized that I was the oldest person in the crowd, that I had just spent the last three hours of my life immersed in a crowd made up almost entirely of my “favorite” (generation, The Millennials. I couldn’t help but feel that God was looking down and laughing at me from his lofty perch because I had found my America again in an unlikely place with the most unlikely group and my heart was filled with joy.
A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am less than that. Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”. If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts. Thank you for reading.