This week’s readings Borderball with Club Tijuana and Bolivian Ball both had some cool details about each other while featuring culture differences. Borderball with Club Tijuana, by Alicia Rodriguez is an interesting read about a soccer club in Tijuana, Mexico. This soccer club, club Tijuana, has a rich traditional and short history from their amazing soccer debut. Xolos (team name) gained entry to the second division, winning the promotion of top-flight Liga MX in 2011. They started strong, reaching the playoffs in just their second season, following a deep run capturing the league title in their third season in 2012. This club had many differences, but the one that stood out was the fan base and culture outside of the game. This club is located Tijuana, which is right below the US-Mexico border. San Diego is well known for their fans that drive down to Tijuana, which is roughly 30-45 minutes away. This American support has changed the way this club has functioned and grown throughout the years. The way they provide shops, supporting these Americans at their games, and the way they set up both English and Spanish languages and players on their team is very cool. They even set up twitter accounts, both in Spanish and English. Although this club is based on Tijuana, Mexico, it doesn’t mean their team is fully Hispanic. The mix of Mexicans, Americans, and other foreigners shows the relationships and welcoming this club provides. Bolivian Ball, by Eduardo Leal, is about American basketball player’s who traveled from the US to Bolivia to pursue their basketball dreams. Travis Dupree is from Eastman, Georgia, who attended Voorhees College, in South Carolina. Much changed after moving to Bolivia. Throughout the article it states how Dupree wasn’t comfortable with the elevation differences, almost 14,000 ft in altitude, forcing him to lose 30 pounds. Dupree mentions how different the game of basketball was from the US style to the Bolivian way. More everything, dribbling, teamwork, and according to Dupree “they used to pass the ball to the Americans and wait for us to score. Now it’s a bit different, but still they love to see us dunk. No Bolivians dunk.” It’s crazy how so much can change, and how other foreign players view American athletes, and why they do so. American basketball is obviously one of, if not, the top country for basketball so maybe this is a reason why others view Americans so well.
This article talks about how San Diego has adopted Club Tijuana as their own team, and how in past people would be very hesitant to jump the border to go to Tijuana, because it had a questionable reputation, but thanks to San Diego not having an MLS club, and Club Tijuana they now very actively cross the border to support Xolos, a Liga MX team. The success of the team is very impressive, the only started the team back in 2007 and within 4 years they were able to make it to the top flight. And within their third year they were able to win the title. A truly remarkable success story, the only other story I can think of is the story of RB Leipzig in Germany and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Back to the article, it mentions that about 20% of the people that go to the Estadio Caliente are Americans. A fan mentioned that they prefer going to Xolos games instead of going to Dodgers and Raiders games because, 1: they felt more safer, and 2: the game wasn’t nearly as “boring”, meaning that there is much more of a fan culture at the Club Tijuana games then the Raiders and Dodgers games. And this article also mentions that even though San Diego and Tijuana are vastly different cities, Tijuana has reached out to a San Diego fanbase that is desperate for a good stable franchise. Going as far as making a English website and english twitter account for fans, and they are also setting up academy teams all across Southern California. This article mentions since Tijuana is so cutoff from the rest of Mexico and doesn’t appeal to really any fans other then local ones in Baja, that they have to basically rely on their American fans.
In conclusion, I think that San Diego rely on Tijuana because, it is a stable club that is competitive and won’t move locations, meanwhile Tijuana relies on San Diego and other Americans because, other than local support Tijuana doesn’t really have any fans. Basically, they both need each other.
The readings this week centered around sports and cultures. Furthermore, the readings Borderball with Club Tijuana and Defenders of National Honor deal with the difficulties and spectaculars that occur when national identity, national culture, and sports culture blend. Defenders of National Honor, for example, details the emergence of Cuba from Spanish rule. “Playing baseball separated being Cuban from being Spanish.” As Gerald R. Gems writes, “[S]port became a political tool of accommodation or resistance to the dominant power or a means to greater nationalistic identity.” Some decades later, due to US occupation of the island following the Spanish-American war, football became the sport of focus as it spread amongst the upper-middle class. The Defenders’ article really focuses on this moment, as sports-clubs began to dual US military teams and academia can pin-point the moment football began to take root in Cuba. Of particular interest to me was the attention given by three institutions, the University of Havana, the Vedado Tennis Club, and the Havana YMCA, which author Wood credit with helping “spread and formalize” American football in the culture. Similarly, author Alicia Rodriguez of Borderball gives credit to Club Tijuana for its dominance of fanship in the California region in their strategy of recruiting players with dual citizenship in Mexico/America so they can keep their roster open to more international players while setting themselves up to pull American fans with American players. Here I found a link between the two articles, as both show that sports and organization heavily relied on Club organization and maintenance for success. The Defenders’ continues to detail the dominance Cuba had in Football, establishing a national and international reputation of success on the football field. However, as the article notes, this ended in 1956 with the revolution. After the fall of Batista’s regime, “the liquidation of Havana’s social athletic clubs ended their influence on the island’s sport culture.” Following, the identity built and fostered by Cuban dominance in the sport began to fade. Likewise, Borderball notes Club Tijuana’s lack of play-off finishes in recent years. All in all, I concluded that sports can bridge divides, merge cultures, enflate national feeling and help nations feel strong when they’ve just got on their feet. But I’ve also learned that sports can only do this when they have the structure and support and government security to do so.
This week’s readings focused on the US-Latin American relationship through the scope of sports. Specifically, the two sports looked at are football and American football. The first reading looked at the football club Tijuana. The club is located just under the United States and Mexican border. The reason this club is so special is due to its effort to draw in American support. The team has sought out Mexican American players to draw in American soccer fans. The club also has major support from the San Diego area which is very close to the border. Fans will often make the drive down to Tijuana in order to support the team. San Diego does not have a team of its own, so the Tijuana club has become its de facto home team to support. This influx of American fans has caused the club to use both English and Spanish as its official languages which is very unique amongst Mexican clubs. Tijuana has taken tremendous strides in unifying both Mexicans and Americans for their support of the border town club. The second reading discusses the sport of American football in Cuba and what it signified in US-Cuban relations. A lot of Cuban identity already relates to the United States due to their military occupations during the early twentieth century. It was during this time that the popular sport of baseball was introduced by American soldiers. Football was also introduced, and a few Cuban universities adopted the sport and created their own teams. What ensued was a number of games between Cuban universities and American universities. These games became crucial to the Cuban national identity. Just like baseball and the Olympics it was a way to defeat the nation that had once occupied them and flaunt their independence. Overall, these two readings offer two very different views on the US-Latin American relationship through sports. Tijuana shows the cooperation between Mexican and American fans to support their club. Cuba shows the rivalry in sports that grow from political events.
The relationship between Latin America and the United States regarding sports is a story of compromise and holdout. Today we see the free flow of talent to and from one another without opposition. American basketball players are quite prominent in foreign leagues and are a viable option for those who fail to reach the NBA as seen in Eduardo Leal’s piece “Bolivian Ball”. On the other side, today Latin American countries provide a steady pipeline of talent to the MLB acting as a sort of farm system. This however was not the case in years past as described in Rob Ruck’s piece “Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game”.
Before collective bargaining agreements and player unions MLB had a monopoly on the game and its players. The owners held all the power resulting in unfair cheap contracts with clauses that kept players tied to teams for their entire career, nullifying free agency. This is where Latin American countries, prominently Mexico stepped in to challenge the system. The Mexican league headed by Jorge Pascal offered an opportunity for American players to make more money than the MLB offered them, resulting in some players jumping ship. This did not sit well with the MLB owners who saw this as a threat to their monopoly on the game and their stronghold on revenue sharing. In response to these harsh penalties were placed on players who left, most notably a five-year suspension for anyone who left the MLB for another league and for anyone playing against these players. This not only made MLB players decisions harder but anybody that aspired of reaching the professional league. MLB also put pressure on manufacturers to delay shipments of orders from the Mexican league teams due to their poaching of players. Ultimately these restrictions coupled with the financial burden caused by the increased salaries of the Mexican league put them in a situation that could not simply continue. Ultimately the league stopped its pursuit of American players and had to cut its payroll and roster sizes to turn a profit. This meant that the MLB had survived their competition in creating a challenging league and resulted in other leagues reaching agreements to act as the eventual farm system we see today.
This weeks readings were focused on two sports that are historically associated with American professional leagues, Basketball and Baseball, and how these sports have become gradually decentralized, highly competitive, and socially integrative within Latin American cultures. The article, “Bolivian Ball” details the heightened presence of several African-American basketball players within the Bolivian Basketball Federation. The author, Eduardo Leal, summarizes the prior and present experiences of American athletes during their time in Bolivia, who often found themselves playing in this radically different cultural setting in response to a lack of interest from NBA teams, typically after concluding their collegiate career. Although the Bolivian league was only founded recently, their administrative willingness to value inclusivity, and to compensate athletes proficiently has identified their basketball league among American players as a second chance to become financially successful while playing the game you love. Similarly, the article, “Viva Mexico” describes the symbiotic relationship between Black or Caribbean players, and the Mexican Baseball League during the mid 20th century. Before Jackie Robinson’s historical breakthrough within the MLB in 1947, African-American and Caribbean athletes lacked many professional opportunities at home that were financially proficient, which encouraged them to accept positions on the Mexican baseball roster. Although baseball was historically central to American culture and the MLB attempted to monopolize baseball’s popularity, multiple Latin American countries, including Mexico, recognized the racial and cultural exclusivity of the MLB as its weakness against their success. Specifically, in the late 1940’s Mexican businessman Jorge Pasquel shaped the Mexican baseball league to become a major, globally recognized competitor, who challenged the MLB to try and remain the same powerhouse it once was without the integration of other races and nationalities. They couldn’t. While the Mexican baseball league gradually became identified as a threat to MLB’s monopoly at the time, the rise of Bolivian basketball has not yet intimidated the NBA towards systemic reconstruction, but that is most likely due to the NBA’s international and historical reputation for valuing inclusivity. Although both American baseball and basketball began with racially segregated barriers, the innate structure of baseball was curated to reflect American values, including white supremacy, which made any attempts for replication within Latin American countries almost impossible to perfect.
This week’s readings both focused on American sports like Basketball and Baseball growing outside of the country into Latin America. The reading ‘Bolivian Ball’ written by Eduardo Leal focused on African American basketball players going to Bolivia after college to continue their professional basketball career and play in the Bolivian leagues. While the other reading, chapter six in ‘Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game’ is about the MLB struggle with another baseball league outside of the United States, the Mexican league. These readings are similar because they both document foreign, Latin American sports leagues attracting American athletes to come to their country to play their beloved sport professionally. The Mexican Leagues directly competed with the Major Leagues by acquiring players from the segregated African American baseball league, and playing during the same time as them. The difference between Bolivian Baseball and the Mexican League is the way they both work to gain American athletes. Bolivian Basketball acquires players who have little to no shot at playing in the United States professionally. While on the flipside, the Mexican Leagues worked to gain players of notable talent who already played professionally in the United States, or even playing from other areas in the world the MLB was trying to get players from. The competition that the Mexican league posed on the African American leagues, and later the MLB worried the MLB. It is a different story with the Bolivian Basketball poses little to no threat to the NBA, or other professional levels of American Basketball. A similar concept in today’s sports where a foriegn league makes another more popular league worry would be the European Premier Football(soccer) league and the American Major League Soccer. The MLS in the United States will often acquire many players from the European Premier league and get them to play in the United States, like David Beckham. It would be interesting to see other foreign sports leagues become popular and begin to acquire American players in the same fashion the Mexican League did. Overall both of the readings reveal the importance of foreign leagues and what they can provide for athletes. The Mexican Leagues allowed for African Americans to escape the prejudice they faced playing in the American segregated league. While the Bolivian Basketball League allows American basketball players who have little chance to play professionally in the NBA, a chance to play professionally elsewhere. These readings give a wonderful insight into how foreign leagues used to affect American sports, and how they do nowadays.