Bloodied but ready

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Here they are. Half bent and bloodied. But nonetheless standing among the 32 nations competing in the 2014 World Cup.

Not long ago the magnificence of El Tri was palpable and foreboding. They dispatched their opponents with unapologetic confidence and towered over their foes. Dominant. Uncompromising. Destined. No one could predict their stumble and fall during final qualifying for the quadrennial tournament in 2013.

Their rapid and ignominious decline was as unimaginable as it was perplexing. Drawing in cavernous Azteca stadium was seldom witnessed in years past but losing? Unheard of. Until Honduras defeated them 2-1.

By then the Mexican national team was a staggering, punch drunk shadow. For the first time in millions of lifetimes the possibility of El Tri not qualifying for La Copa was real. It would have been easier to imagine the Pope abdicating his papacy for a woman. But their demise was real and as qualifying continued Mexico’s imminent disqualification appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

In their region the top three teams are guaranteed passage to the world’s futbol championship. In decades past Mexico had become accustomed to occupying one of the top two tiers. But this time they were on the bottom looking up at the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras, clinging to rosary beads and praying. Hoping to advance to a playoff series against the All Whites of New Zealand.

 

The team that had showed promise in 2011 and 2012 flailed with ineptness and underperformance in 2013. In the end it wasn’t their talent and merit that kept their hopes alive. It was the United States. In a meaningless game against Panama, Mexico’s arch nemesis kept El Tri on life support by scoring a game winning goal over Panama, who also had been vying for a playoff spot.

 

Panama out, Mexico in. Alive for one more day. One more chance.
Mexico’s road to Brazil is littered with the bodies of three fired head coaches and shameful ties and embarrassing losses. But the hiring of their fourth coach, Miguel Herrera, and his use of a virtually brand new squad netted Mexico what they needed—two wins over New Zealand. And a berth in the World Cup.

 

So here they stand. Battered and bloody. But on their way to Brazil to face Cameroon, Croatia and the host country, Brazil.  Two of those countries are ranked higher than Mexico (Brazil is ranked 10th in the world and Croatia 16th) who is considered the 20th best team on the planet. Only the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are ranked outside the top 20, at 51st.

 

But as Mexico’s run to Brazil has shown fans and observers, anything can happen. The strong sometimes falter and what was once considered conventional wisdom can prove to be wishful thinking.  What happens next remains to be seen. With Mexican and futbol, nothing is certain.

 

 

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Tale of a folk hero

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Some heroes are apparent. Others unrevealed.

Some heroes are apparent. The brave cop, the selfless firefighter, the life-saving doctor.  Others are not fully realized: the inspiring activist, the devoted teacher, the sacrificing parent.

But folk-heroes. That’s another matter.

They are born of mortal flesh yet transcend the limits of being human. They hoist and carry the dreams of the masses.

On one October night Raul Jimenez leapt from the ground with the grace and poise of a danseur, his back to the Panamanian goal.

Sixty thousand people in the stands at Azteca stadium silently watched, their hopes of advancing to the World Cup diminished by Panama’s late game-tying goal.

The striker sank back to the ground, his back the vanguard and his feet overhead, striking the ball.

Sixty thousand people in the stands at Azteca erupted as the ball crashed into the net.

Mexico would live to fight another day.

On that night in Azteca a folk hero was born.

Long live The Bicyclist. Long live El Tri.

 

 

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It’s all meaningless until it means something.

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Fidel Martinez and the Xolos have been struggling to be competitive this season. (Photo/Vega).

In July, our beloved dogs of Tijuana bit Club America in the keister during a summertime friendly at Petco Park. The final score was 5-2 but the score could have been more lopsided had the Xolos not eased their attack in the second half.

On Tuesday, America registered a regular season victory, 2-0, over Tijuana at Azteca stadium. That score may as well have been 21-2 for all the meaning it carried: none.

Even if the Xolos had managed a tie, the game—both of them actually—would have meant little. The club’s problems run deeper than the win loss column.

The dogs have no bite.

Their once vaunted defense has been struggling to keep opponents from scoring more goals than they and the dynamic duo of Riascos-Martinez was left grounded when Duvier Riascos was traded away at the end of last season. On his own, Fidel Martinez has sputtered, at times performing brilliantly while on other occasions he struggles to find meaning and purpose on the field.  As a result, the Xolos are not  scoring the way they used to. And that is why they sit in 12th place, four spaces removed from playoff contention.

The Xolos won the Mexican championship last year. But that means nothing today.

They have more ties than wins and more losses than ties but even that matters just slightly.

What’s of import to the club and its fans is Friday. On Friday the Xolos must win their game against Querertaro, the team occupying the eighth and final place in the playoff table. While a victory and its accompanying three points won’t guarantee the Xolos an appearance in the post season, it will be more helpful than a mere tie.

What matters most now is winning the remaining five games. Anything else and the playoffs are all but out of reach.

And that means a long, sorrowful break until the 2014 season.

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A rush to punish

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Former congressman and current San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

The walls are closing in on San Diego mayor Bob Filner  and unless he’s Houdini the only way he may get out of his current predicament is to use an emergency exit out of City Hall.

The septuagenarian this week was accused of sexual harassment. The accusations were enough for supporters of his 2012 mayoral campaign to publicly demand his resignation. Two of those beseeching voices belonged to attorneys; another a former colleague and councilwoman.  Of the attorneys, one was counsel for the accuser(s).

During a morning press conference arranged by the trio no details of the transgressions were shared. Preemptively the spokespersons said they would not reveal identities or elaborate on the allegations. They also called on the media not to victimize the accusers by hunting them down in search of answers to questions that lingered. In essence, what the made-for-TV media event boiled down to was this: A group of prominent political insiders saying the mayor knows what he did and he needs to quit.

So here’s what the public knew then: People were accusing the mayor of sexual harassment and the triumvirate who had supported his bid for the mayor’s office now wanted him gone.

Within hours of the televised briefing—minutes in some cases— some constituents wanted Filner’s resignation. They said there would be no way he could continue leading the city. Never mind that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Just the stink of troubling accusations was enough for some observers to want the man gone.

By day’s end the politician famous for a mercurial temper, lack of tact and occasionally abrasive demeanor would issue a statement. Filner wrote, in part:

“I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.”

He went on to declare that he would receive sexual harassment training and he’d work on changing his behavior.

So here, then, was what the public now knew after the initial press conference: People were accusing the mayor of sexual harassment and insiders who had supported his bid for office now wanted him out. The mayor, in turn, admitted he had disrespected women—at times intimidated them— and he was working to change his behavior. He also indicated he would not leave his job.

What the public still did not know: What was the nature of the harassment? Physical—did he chase women around the office with his slacks shuffling around his ankles? Or was the sin verbal?  Did the mayor make unwanted remarks about anatomy and appearance? Was it something along the lines of a dirty old man saying, “Nice aluminum cans. Want me to recycle them for you?”

Some people argue that details don’t matter.  That accusations should stand on their own and a search for specifics is nothing more than salacious trolling to satisfy  prurient curiosity.

But details do make a difference. Especially in matters involving public officials. Should a person who makes rude, ribald double entendres be subject to the same sanctions as someone who is a serial bottom-groping belittler?  Using a pop culture reference: Should Michael Scott from “The Office” be regarded in the same way that Don Draper of “Mad Men” is?

The television references are not meant to diminish the seriousness of the vague accusations aimed at the mayor. Nor are they used to create sympathy for him. Filner’s admission that he did something wrong is troubling. He must be held accountable. But what’s the appropriate penance? Public shaming? Political ostracization? Was the crime idiocy or latent misogyny? Without all of the facts how can the public make an informed decision?

Yet one by one the elected officials who supported Filner in his campaign for mayor are calling for his resignation. Ostensibly they know something the rest of us don’t. As a result their  contention is that the man is damaged and his ability to lead is compromised.

It’s a fair point to consider. But it’s equally fair to recall that others in the political world have been accused of being too damaged to govern—Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsroom, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Clinton come immediately to mind. While some of those mens’ indiscretions happened outside the political realm or on a consensual level, the point remains they continued to lead despite the turmoil. Some might argue successfully so.

Late Friday afternoon another press conference was held and two more former political allies demanded they mayor resign. But neither of them mentioned having seen direct proof. Nevertheless as the sun set on the tumultuous week the gathering vanguard indicated the stories of harassment they heard directly from the victims were troubling and nothing but Filner’s exit would suffice.

Make no mistake: accusations of abuse or harassment are troubling. As is the offense when it actually happens. Troubling, too, is when there is little evidence supporting the accusations, as was the case just a few years ago when a political player  accused  interim-Chula Vista councilman Mitch Thompson of corruption and demanded his immediate resignation. (Public Comment/May 11,2010 CV council meeting)

What’s equally troubling is the almost instant call for Filner’s resignation before all of the facts were made known. The rush to judge, condemn and punish has become almost as instantaneous as publishing a message on Twitter. The vast majority of the public does not know what the mayor did, though we know he did something.

Before his detractors could have the last word Filner called for an independent review into the allegations against him. Pledging to continue his pursuit of attitude adjustment the mayor contends he is innocent of sexually harassing anyone. That may or may not be the case. But unless there is a full public review of the matter, the public won’t know for sure what the mayor did and if Filner should repent and stay on or be run out of town and disappear.

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Moments to live for

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Landon Donovan speaks to the media before the team's July 5 game against Guatemala. (Binkowski)

Landon Donovan considered the question of milestones. Less than one hour after helping his teammates dispense with the team from Guatemala by scoring two of six goals, the 31-year-old man stood in the cement bowels of Qualcomm Stadium.

Fifty-one international goals. What does that mean?

Nearby conversations trampled over each other. Questions and responses bounced off steel and stone  before they were captured in reporters’ recorders.

Donovan is quiet. To hear him requires attention. One must lean in.

The goals were nice, he said. Pleasant moments. But at the end of his life he doubted they’d be recalled on his deathbed. So, for now, he would enjoy the moment.

Perhaps it is because he is in the beginning of his third decade that Donovan recognizes the proper place for athletic feats is next to perspective. Aging has a way of helping one sort through the pebbles.

Or maybe it was his time away from the game— absence from club and country that re-calibrated an internal compass that focuses on all things present. Since his return after a self-imposed three month separation, Donovan has been mindful of living the moment and enjoying the present.

For Donovan the joy of the day was playing again for the national team, something he hasn’t done since 2012. For the nearly 30,000 fans who watched his return their joy was made sweeter by the drubbing the Yanks handed the Central American country. They, no doubt, expect Donovan to be back on the squad that hopes to play in next year’s World Cup.

But Donovan manages his own expectations. He will be 32 then. And he accepts that his future hinges on his performance from game to game. The friendly against Guatemala was a first step in regaining his form and finding a rhythm he must share with other players who are looking for a way to Brazil.

Like the two goals he scored, the moments where his quick passes were unmet or an arcing cross veered off course were fleeting. So too were the bungled exchanges and the haphazard defending that occurred in the game’s first 25 minutes.

Those moments were some in a series of events linked together forming a path to this month’s Gold Cup with, perhaps, improved performance and—players hope—a call up to the World Cup qualifiers.

Playing, improving, winning and qualifying is a process.  One that Donovan says he’s enjoying.

As does Joe Corona. In starting the game, Chula Vista’s contribution to the national team said he savored the opportunity to play in front of friends, family and fans who typically follow his exploits with Tijuana’s Xolos.

Joe Corona, left, started for the U.S. Men's National Team July 5. (Binkowski)

Corona knows his road to Brazil is a long one. While he’s travelled with the team in World Cup qualifying, his playing time has been limited. His moments have been spent as an observer from the bench or as an occasional sub. But Friday the minutes he played were spent in an unrelenting pursuit not just of the ball but of a regular place in the starting line up.

To have watched midfielder, you wouldn’t know that Corona has spent  a grueling year playing futbol. First there was his team’s defense of its national title beginning in January; at the same there was the continent-hopping demanded by the Xolos’ pursuit of the Copa Libertadores trophy, and of course there was the United States attempting to qualify. And now the friendly. And the two-week long Gold Cup tournament. Followed by the beginning of the Xolos summer season at the end of this month. If Corona was worn down—physically or mentally—there was no indication of it when he played at home in Qualcomm.

Maybe that’s because Corona knows opportunities are fleeting, too. When the coach gives you the start you do what you can. And then you find a way to do what you can’t.  Despite playing only one half and not scoring, Corona made the most of his chance. He chased down Guatemalans as if they owed him money. And he delivered some passes with the accuracy of a hillbilly killing a squirrel.

Life is filled with moments. Some of them you will remember some of them you won’t. The key is making the most of them all, whether you’re a 31-year-old veteran scoring 51 international goals or a hometown kid starting for the red,white and blue.

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Rumors and recycling

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Rumors, gossip and muttered innuendos are the duct tape of political nattering. Given the circumstances they serve a variety of purposes.

The right tidbit, spoken in casual passing to a polit-ee (the equivalent of a smug, self-described foodie who treats you to a breathless recounting of a divine mint leaf stew served with boiled cacao they had at a roadside bistro in Nicaragua) can make the rounds from one wagging tongue to the next until finally the rumor has more truth to it then a one word answer from a priest under oath.

In a different context a rumor can serve as verbal recon, gauging the public’s reaction to an idea in an effort to determine where friend and foe lie in a political quagmire.

Whispered “I heards” are also useful for building a bond between two people who have nothing in common other than a bit of shared information, intel that establishes trust: an integral step in cultivating a valuable relationship.

And, of course rumors and whispers are also good for a few good contemplative chuckles.

Voters are more than a year away from having to elect a new mayor in Chula Vista or council member. And while the average resident might not be giving Campaign 2014 much thought, those who would be in power, or at least suck up to those who would be in power, are already thinking about not saying no to the idea of running for office because you never know what will happen if the family is OK with a possible candidacy. (That’s the thing about rumors, gossip and confirmation—rarely will a contender give you a straight answer.)

Chula Vista councilwoman Mary Salas is expected to run for mayor in ’14. During her campaign last year to rejoin the council for a third term, Salas deflected criticism she was merely looking for something to do until the current mayor left office. She never said she would run for the mayor’s seat, but she never said she wouldn’t.

Likewise, one of her anticipated opponents, councilman Rudy Ramirez, is also believed to be eyeing the office because his time on the council comes to an end next year. But like Salas, nothing official has been declared.

Not long ago La Prensa printed an item that said Councilwoman Pamela Bensoussan and former councilman Jerry Rindone were considering a stab at running for mayor. Add to that duo Shirley Horton, the former assemblywoman who was once a Chula Vista mayor, and you’ll add the name of a person who tops a lot of people’s wish list.

It’s an impressive compilation. But not for the reasons you might imagine. Of the five people listed only one of them has been away from the council during the last decade—Shirley Horton.

Rindone first joined the city council in 1990. Four years later he was re-elected to a second term. He joined the council again in 2000 and served eight more years. In dog years, that’s a total of 112 years on the city council.

Salas occupied City Hall from 1996 through 2004. After doing her time in the state assembly she came back to 276 Fourth Avenue last year when voters elected her to a third term in office.

Horton, on the other hand, left the mayor’s post at the end of an eight-year reign in 2002.

Of course it’s still speculation to think that any of these people will run for office in the coming year. But if they do and if they win—especially in the case of Salas, Horton or Rindone— never let it be said that Chula Vista voters aren’t into recycling.

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Add your two cents

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Should Californians spend more money on education and social services? What about jumpstarting local businesses with tax breaks and other incentives?

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is hosting a community meeting noon to 2 p.m. June 8 at the Montevalle Community Center, 840 Duncan Road in Chula Vista.

Weber and her staff want to discuss the state of California’s budget and what the state’s spending priorities should be.  Free parking and refreshments will be available.

 

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Super Saturday

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If you’re bored this Saturday you have no one to blame but yourself.

It may still be April but National City is celebrating Cinco de Mayo a week early April 27 at Pepper Park.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the National City Chamber of Commerce is hosting the 11th Annual Mariachi Festival. Ten mariachi groups will compete for $4,000 in prize money.

Also on Saturday is the Go Green and Clean Family Day hosted by the Otay Ranch Town Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Highlights from this include the Eastlake Educational Foundation’s Cycle Eastlake Half Marathon, 5K Family Roll & Stroll and Cycle poker ride. For more information about the event click here.

Saturday is also when the Chula Vista Public Library Foundation hosts its annual Bon Appétit fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Otay Ranch Town Center. The event will feature a variety of wine, beer and food. There also will be live music and a silent auction. For ticket information click here.

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The main course has arrived

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A documentary featuring San Diego's only all women car club makes its California debut.

Familiar with the Que Viva Cine Latino film series at Otay Ranch Town Center in September? Think of that as the appetizer to the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival which kicks-off March 7 and runs through March 17 in Mission Valley.

 This marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, which features movies from Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, and the U.S. , to name a few participating countries. As part of the landmark celebration the festival is bringing back some of its groundbreaking works, including “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, “Desperado”, “Ciudade de Deus” and “Amores Perros”.

 Also of note, a documentary film about San Diego’s women only lowrider car club, “The Unique Ladies” will make its California debut March 13 at 6 p.m.   

 For a complete listing of films , go to sdlatinofilm.com.

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Plan a business meeting

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Meet business and community leaders in your neighborhood. The Eastlake Business Association holds meetings every Monday of the month beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Oggis Pizza & Brewing Company, 2130 Birch Road. For more information visit eastlakebusiness.org.

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