I really don’t hate America, but…
… But I’m accused of treason every four years.
It last happened in the press box at Citizens Bank Park in Philly, where the Blue Jays played the Phillies after G20 protests prevented the teams from playing in Toronto. I was a baseball beat reporter back then, and I spent the morning at Roy Halladay’s belated farewell-to-Toronto news conference, and later dutifully recorded the details of the Jays’ 5-1 victory over Cole Hamels and the Phillies.
But that afternoon was a masterpiece of multitasking. I spent the bulk of my time and attention and emotional energy watching round-of-16 World Cup game between the U.S. and Ghana, dashing back and forth between my computer and the monitor showing the match, pecking out my game story whenever the action on the screen slowed down.
I’m Canadian-born and a U.S. citizen too, but that day I wore my support for Ghana the way Pit Bull wears white pants — brazenly, without shame or regard for the tastes of people who might judge me for it.
And they judged me.
When Kevin Prince (Neck Tattoo) Boateng scored early, I shouted and clapped and received sideways glances from locals in the press box.
When Landon Donovan scored on a 62nd-minute penalty kick, I groaned and the they all smirked. Minutes later, when returning to my laptop to bang out a few grafs of my game story former Philly-turned-broadcaster Gary “Sarge” Matthews pulled me aside and cautioned me to tone down the pro-Ghana talk lest I turn the entire room against me.
And when Asamoah Gyan scored the game-winner in extra time I raised my arms like Rocky at the top of the Art Museum stairs, prompting one local baseball hack to turn to me and ask a question that had been gnawing at him since the game kicked off.
“Why do you hate America,” he asked.
With a straight face.
So with a straight face I explained to him that I don’t hate any country, least of all the U.S. I just happen to cheer for Ghana at World Cup time.
“Besides,” I continued. “As far as I know I was from Ghana until somebody came and put me in a boat, hauled me across the ocean and made me an American. I have a right to cheer for Ghana.”
Now, when Canada finally qualifies for the World Cup I’ll happily support that squad, no matter where I happen to live at the time.
But heading into Monday night’s “Grudge Match” between the U.S. and the squad that has eliminated them from the last two World Cups, my loyalty hasn’t budged.
Call me Kwabena.
Yen ko Black Stars!
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