Sunday, June 26, 2011

Timmy and Pat

I was trying to figure out why Tim Howard sincerely believed that the Gold Cup post-game ceremony had been conducted entirely in Spanish, and why so many English-speaking reporters didn't remember that the master of ceremonies of the trophy presentation, Fernando Fiore, had in fact spoken both Spanish and English throughout.

Here's my take. The reporters in the pressbox were busy writing up stories, and the ones who spoke English were no doubt mostly focused on Team USA's collapse of allowing four unanswered goals. They weren't inclined to listen carefully to a noisy, echoing announcer.
Howard, for his part, had personally suffered those four goals. He was probably emotional and not thinking clearly. He may have heard Fiore's thick Spanish accent and nothing else, even words in English.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived near the Beverly/Vermont subway station (Yes, LA has a subway, albeit a small one). Pat, an Irish-American girl from Chicago who lived in my apartment complex, was always nervous about walking around the neighborhood, partly because she stood out with her blonde hair and green eyes. She'd wait to run errands with someone she knew. One day, we were walking to the subway station together, with plans to visit a jazz club in Hollywood. A Hispanic man whistled at us from across the street. We ignored him and kept moving. He yelled derisively at us as we continued down the sidewalk, and Pat clutched at my arm.

"Oh Andrea," she said, knowing I spoke Spanish. "Is he following us? What did he say?"

I stared at her. "Pat, he said, 'Go to hell, stupid lesbians.' He said it in English. You didn't hear him? It was pretty loud and clear."

She had heard, but not really. Her nervousness canceled out listening carefully. The man's accented English had registered with her as 'Spanish' and she honestly thought he was speaking in that language, not English at all.

Howard might have preferred someone with a more typical American accent, perhaps, to present the postgame ceremony alongside Fiore, but that didn't happen. But neither did his assertion that the entire event took place in Spanish. Fiore spoke partly in English, but Howard apparently wasn't listening carefully enough to notice.


Paul Poenicke said...

A.C., you're right on about this one. I think Timmy was just angry about his performance and the loss against Mexico; no racism was suggested, although the quote, take out of context, could suggest so. Timmy should come out and explain his comments so that no one can conclude such things. In a nation where Spanish may be the national language in about fifty years, I think such a comment would be classy and help overcome any potential wounds between the US and its latin fans. After watching that game,the US needs more interaction with its non-European fan and talent base, not less. Frankly, Bill Plaschke's "take" on the game was about as racially offputting as Timmy's comment--beyond the fact that it could have been produced by an undergrad journalist student.

ChelseaMatt said...

Plaschke's take was not racist. I think you're commenting accurately on Tim Howard's sensitivities without the ability to recognize your own. It's troubling to see so may Americans rooting against the USA, especially if you're not versed in the sport, as Plaschke is not.

ChelseaMatt said...

I enjoy your commentary, though, please don't stop on my account