CARSON, CA - JULY 23: We're tired of hearing it, folks. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
If I had a nickle for every time somebody told me, "Chivas USA is a failure," I'd have enough money to get by for some time. If you follow me on twitter, you know that I periodically gnash my teeth at the kinds of comments I get from non-Chivas fans, people who may or may not even watch the team ever, yet who believe they can tell me not only why the team I follow is a failure, but what the team should do to "fix" said failures. One of the common refrains is that Chivas USA is a "failed" club, and either needs to fold or to move far far away, changing the name and wiping away any connection to the history of the club to this point.
This may be an obvious point, but do those people understand how insulting and condescending those comments are? Far be it from me to defend every move the club has made over the years, because there have been plenty of missteps, believe me. But to so frequently invoke the "solution" that Chivas should disappear one way or the other is the kind of critique that literally no other team in the league, or for that matter in American sports more generally, has to deal with. And the same old things are said time after time. Let's go through some of the misconceptions and so-called solutions below.Chivas USA is a failure because they are neither a team of Chivas de Guadalajara youth players/rejects, nor a team of all Southern California players
First, the initial proposal to make Chivas a team made up of Chivas de Guadalajara players was doomed from the start. Besides the fact that a policy that allows for a certain national or ethnic group to work at a particular business in the United States runs afoul of labor laws and anti-discrimination statutes, the idea that the Guadalajara side would be willing to part with promising youngsters for Chivas USA was a ridiculous idea from the start. Chivas de Guadalajara is a team in a very competitive league that has a large and vocal fanbase. On top of that, the club is required to develop talent in the youth system and bring them into the first team at young ages is a consequence of their self-imposed disadvantages in the transfer market in Mexico, as they do not play foreigners and other teams sell Mexican players to them only at a premium.
As a result, the pipe dream that if Chivas USA had stuck with the original proposed plan, they could have had Chicharito in their side prior to his transfer to Manchester United is laughable. The only players that Chivas de Guadalajara sent to Chivas USA were players that they didn't really have much interest in, or else they would have stayed with the Mexican club. Fortunately, from the entrance of Bob Bradley into the club to the present, Chivas USA has been very much a club oriented to MLS. The perception that Chivas USA exists as a farm team for Chivas de Guadalajara has been false since practically the beginning.
As for the recent story that Chivas USA would emulate the Mexican club and play a Southern California-based group of players was also misunderstood. First, I don't think the people involved with player personnel at the club agree that the team will be transforming into a Southern California-only team anytime soon, if ever. More likely is that the club will try to develop as many good young players as possible, and try to stock the youth system with as many good prospects as possible, with the hope that as many of them as possible will make the transition to the first team and become successful MLS players. You know, the same policy that most other MLS teams are also trying to develop. I also believe a policy of using only Southern California natives has problems, but given the realities of MLS, where larger proportions of international players are coming to the league every year, I don't see the team switching to a SoCal-only policy for years, if ever.
So, to summarize: Chivas USA does not exist to play only Mexicans, or to play only Southern Californians.
Chivas USA is "the Mexican team" and it needs to move away from LA/fold
This common perception is related to the last misconception, but there's more to it. First, the racial politics that come with the assumption that Chivas USA is "the Mexican team" needs to be unpacked. Does the team try to market towards Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans living in Southern California? Yes, and given the demographics of the region, that's not a terrible marketing strategy, frankly. But anybody with half a brain should realize that Chivas USA has fans that are not Mexican, whether they are Latino of other national origins, Asian, African American, white, or Native American (not to mention biracial and mutliracial people, or people who don't identify under any of the previous categories). By boiling down the entire fanbase to a singular Mexican identity, folks don't understand the inaccuracy of that perception, in addition to another level of baggage.
I don't think many of the people who engage directly with me have overt racist attittudes on the matter, but let's take a look at the bigger picture. If Chivas USA is considered "the Mexican team," the implication, whether intended or not, means that the fans of the rest of the teams in the league are not Mexican, but even more, are given a singular default white identity. Again, another obvious point, but there are lots of fans of various races who follow all of the teams in MLS. Chivas USA certainly does not have a monopoly on Mexican fans, and to use Chivas as the outlier in the league drives perceptions that fans are white, first and foremost.
And this has implications beyond the rather small arena of American professional soccer. By positing Chivas USA are "the Mexican team" and need to fold, we see an implied societal parallel at work. Latinos are the fastest growing population in the U.S., and already make up almost half of Los Angeles County's population. Given the anti-immigration rhetoric that continues to be a hot topic politically, the legacy of racism against Latinos in the U.S. historically, and the recession that has heightened feelings of looking for a scapegoat, Latinos in the United States continue to deal with a great deal of discrimination and exclusion.
I'm not saying that people who arrogantly tell me how my team needs to be fixed all have these hostile feelings towards Latinos. More often than not, they try to keep their solutions, however misguided and uninformed, in the realm of the practical. But it cannot be denied that on a wide level, there is a connection between the perception that Chivas USA is "the Mexican club" and that it is a "failure" and needs to fold. No other club in the league, no matter how many mistakes and missteps taken by the front offices and coaching staffs, are given the "solution" that they need to disappear. The racial politics are implicit most of the time, but they are certainly there.
As a result, I take the complaints that Chivas USA is a "failure" so personally because I perceive it to be a fundamental denial of dignity by others. I cheer for a lot of different teams in different sports, and never is the critique leveled against any of the other teams I support. On one hand, Chivas may struggle with this more because they are a relatively new team, but nobody is claiming any of the teams that have come in since Chivas that they need to disappear. It's fundamentally unfair, and it needs to stop.
Like I said earlier, I don't think the club has been flawless in making decisions over the years. I have many critiques of my own. My advice, first and foremost, is to quit being so unbelievably dramatic if you have a constructive critique of the team. Quit calling the club a "failure." And please quit copying all the people who've written this crap before, because guess what, we've heard it all.
And take some perspective before you open your mouth. Would you want to deal with people who continually tell you your club is awful and needs to go away? Would you like to spend your time constantly defending why you are a fan and not talking about, you know, the team on the field? Do you want people who think they know more about your team than you do, despite probably seldom watching them or reading much about them, to constantly tell you that they have all the answers?
Finally, if you aren't even trying to be fair, if you're just out to tell me that my team shouldn't exist whatsoever, STFU.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!