Loving Football in a Household That Loves Futbol
The only football I knew as a kid was La Liga Mexicana. I didn’t know there was any other type of football. Friday through Sunday was Liga Mexicana weekend. I grew up loving Las Chivas de Guadalajara. They were the most popular club in Mexico. To be honest I was only a fan because my dad was a fan. Some kids went to go play catch with their dads, I went to watch soccer games with mine. Chivas normally played on Saturday nights, so did my dad. No, my dad wasn’t playing professional soccer but he was playing in a league called “Papi Futbol” a league for men 35 years of age and older. We would record the game, and watch it when my dad’s game was over. When there was no Liga Mexicana, my weekends were dreadful. At this point, the only sport in my world was soccer and not just any soccer, it had to be Liga Mexicana. I went through heartbreak and joys with Las Chivas but mostly heartbreak. We lost a final in penalty kicks, we were embarrassed in the finals of a continental tournament, but we were champions in 2006. Although Chivas is the most popular team in Mexico, it was not easy to be a fan.
Fast forward to middle school: I just changed to a school that well, let’s just say it wasn’t very diverse. Sports were a common topic at lunch but not the sports I was familiar with. Sports like, basketball, football, and baseball. I had obviously heard of the sports before but they weren’t something I knew too much about. Eventually I started looking for any sport I could find on TV (when La Liga Mexicana wasn’t on obviously). The first sport other than soccer that I became familiar with was hockey. I found the San Jose Sharks in middle school and consistently on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30. Now at this point I had a small television in my room that didn’t have a channel guide so knowing that the Sharks were consistently on channel 81 was huge for me. In 2009 the Sharks were in the middle of winning the presidents trophy. What did that mean? Heck I didn’t know but I knew that the Sharks were good. I watched and they won most of the time. Learning the rules was a work in progress, I knew you had to put that little puck in the back of that net. But first you had to beat a giant covering over 80% of the goal. How they did it? I had no idea. I think I liked it mainly because the premise was like soccer. Put an object in the back of the net, but there’s a goalie trying to stop you. I understood that, then I had to learn things like icing, power plays, and penalty kills. I spent months trying to figure out what it meant when a team went full strength (when a player’s time in the penalty box has ended). In the end, Hockey and Soccer were my two favorite sports.
Next I found the Warriors. The Warriors weren’t very good at the time but basketball was a little bit easier to understand because I had played NBA 2k3 as a kid. I knew you had to dribble, I knew you had to score in a hoop, and I knew that Shaq and Kobe were unreal in that game. I watched the Warriors a little more each year. It started in 2010, the Warriors and the Sharks played in the same season so I focused more on the Sharks than the Warriors but I knew the main players were Monta Ellis and David Lee. Every once in a while, the camera would show some guy in a suit (currently the best three point shooter of all time!) and Bob Fitzgerald or Jim Barnett would say that he would be good, like maybe a back to back MVP, once he got over his ankle issues. Personally, I thought it wouldn’t happen. One day, the Warriors traded Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. And I thought what the heck, Ellis is their best player. But I didn’t really understand the whole NBA like I did the Liga MX.
I discovered football around 7th or 8th grade. The first time I remember watching football was when the 49ers played the Giants in the NFC Championship and Kyle Williams muffed a punt (not once, but TWICE!) which led to a Josh Brown field goal in overtime. That was my first memory of a football game. The following season I did not miss a 49ers game. I found the channel that the Niners were on. I didn’t understand the sport for the most part. I played Madden a little bit but nowhere near enough to understand what holding was or a false start or intentional grounding. Wow football is a complicated sport, but I understood the premise. My dad 100% hated football (to be honest I think he still does). He hated the sport because he didn’t understand it; he hated it because football was on Sundays. Since Chivas moved to playing on Sundays, I no longer watched the Chivas games with him. I traded off between the football and Chivas which frustrated him.
I stayed tuned in more and more to the different sports, eventually this drove me away from Liga MX. Chivas were struggling, and although they are the team that I have always supported and will always support it was becoming difficult. I am the type of guy that will be in a bad mood if my team loses. I pour my heart out into every team I support, so as a middle schooler it was difficult to see that the team I root for wasn’t putting in as much effort into playing as I was into following them. I strayed away from soccer and moved more into “American” sports. My dad noticed this too, I was disinterested when we spoke about soccer. News like, “Chivas just fired their coach” turned from a surprised reaction to a, “Really? Again? That’s the 3rd one this season.” My dad wasn’t happy that I was starting to get into new sports, not necessarily because he didn’t want me to do so but more because he didn’t understand them. He saw hockey as big brutes knocking each other over (as he views football). This strained our relationship for a little while. When we tried to talk about soccer and he mentioned a player I wasn’t familiar with he would say “Oh right I forgot you don’t watch soccer anymore. You’re turning gringo.” I wanted to argue with him but the truth is he was right, in order to not be lost in the conversation at school, I had to know what had happened that week in sports and those sports did not include La Liga Mexicana.
When I got to high school in 2009 it was different. There were few Latinos but there were heavy stereotypes. When a group of guys were talking about football, American Football, and I tried to join the conversation, I got weird looks. Looks that came from the prejudice that I didn’t know anything about football. I distinctly remember a classmate of mine, James Hastings (name changed obviously) say to me, “Fernando we’re talking about football, not futbol. You don’t understand this.” He was right on some level, I wasn’t a genius in the sport, but I could hold my own conversation. At school, I didn’t know enough about football. At home I didn’t know enough about Futbol. It took me time to get people to understand that I wasn’t the stereotypical Mexican that only liked soccer. It was something that I had to prove to my dad. I love sports more than soccer. He didn’t understand my love for football, or for hockey, or for basketball, or for baseball. My dad understood this and had to adjust, he watched some baseball with me. Although he normally fell asleep by the time the 4th or 5th inning rolled around, he still tried. He watched Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with me and didn’t fall asleep. To me that meant a lot more than the championship. The next sport he tried to learn was hockey. He would catch the 3rd period with me and he started to understand it a little more. He watched the Warriors championship run with me. The Warriors are special to me and my dad because during the final series of the Warriors and the Cavaliers I was hospitalized. I was in the hospital for one week. The only television we could watch was the Warriors game, because the nurses wanted to watch the game. Visiting hours were after the Warriors game (not on purpose obviously, just a beautiful coincidence) so my dad visited me every day. We talked about sports. He knew that sports were my passion and kept me happy. He watched every sport that he knew I watched. During this time, the Giants season had just started, the Warriors were in the NBA Finals, and the Sharks were in the playoffs. Liga MX was in its preseason. The hot stove was a big topic. Who was going where. Every day my dad came with an update from what happened the night before. New rumors from Liga MX to see who was going where. The Sharks played well. The Giants blew a save. And the Warriors won. We did this every day until a week later, I was released from the hospital. We were able to watch Game 6 in the comfort of our home. Things were back to normal. Well, not exactly now my dad watched hockey with me when he could. My dad asked me to keep him updated on the Warriors and the Sharks. Or as we called them, Los Guerreros y los Charkos. Chivas now played on Saturdays and we were back to watching games together. Fast forward to 2016. I am in college and my dad is back home. I call him every Sunday to talk about this week in life. But to be honest it was mostly this week in sports. How did the Warriors do? The Giants blew another save?! And, the longest and most controversial topic, result aside: how do you think Chivas did this week?