For all the ink that was spent in the run-up to the Confederations Cup Playoff between the United States and Mexico, there were remarkably few pieces that dove into the deeper nature of the rivalry. This isn't to say that cultural tensions weren't explored - Donald Trump's rise as a presidential candidate brought the immigration debate squarely into focus in the weeks before the match - but most pieces followed tradition and only began scratch the surface of the deeper chasms between the two countries.
This is understandable because social tensions between the United States and Mexico seem to have slipped out-of-style at some point during the last 20 years. Sure, latinos might be the nation's largest ethnic minority (with people of Mexican origin dominating that bracket), but political and social issues important to those groups only jump into the national discourse during presidential debates or midterm elections. Immigration, discrimination and community infrastructure are token issues that attract pandering every few months, but as part of an ongoing concern for the population at-large? Nah. And as part of a match preview? Definitely not.
This isn't a criticism, but a reality. Anxieties between the two nations have been around for so long that it's easy to become desensitized to ongoing struggles under the assumption that they've been resolved. Immigration might rear its head every so often, but the long history of discrimination and prejudice is treated as a relic of the past when it's still a reality for much of the Hispanic population in the United States. For many, the wounds haven't even begun to scar over. And for some, they're still bleeding out.
From violent immigration raids to communal prejudice and an overbearing sense of otherness, the stories of the past are the living, breathing stories of today. There's a long-term sense of disaffection in a root struggling to find its place. It's a raw emotion that underlines the relationship between the two countries; a raw emotion that was on display on Sunday in Pasadena.
From Donald Trump-inspired piñatas to signs that read "You Can't Deport Us All," and posters that referenced Mexico's own struggles with Ayotzinapa, political activity could be seen across the entirety of the Rose Bowl.
And yet, even in a space so defined by conflict, there was room for common ground. From the second and third-generation kids who wore U.S. jerseys in the midst of Mexico supporters, to supporter groups that exchanged chants before embracing, all the way to the parking lot huckster with a backpack carrying Mexico and U.S. paraphernalia, there was room for understanding.
If we're ever going to break down our differences, the first step is taking place outside the stadium gates.