Bilingual fans of the USMNT often enjoy the dual delight of Spanish and English language TV broadcasts. We benefit from selection and competition. If an anglo announcer is disinterested or off his game, then we can switch to Univision a familiar cry of “Gooooolllllll!!!!” If the latinos are a bit over the top, then we can flip over to some dry humor and light commentary. As the USMNT has incorporated more chicano (American of Hispanic descent) players, though, an annoying trend has started: negative and sometimes offensive nicknames for chicano players.
At least in Spanish-language broadcasts.
Most US fans were sad when Miguel Ponce, a dual citizen and player for Chivas de Guadalajara, opted to play for Mexico and not the Yanks. However, English-speaking fans have at least been spared hearing his “nickname” on Spanish-language TV: Pocho. For those not in the know, “pocho” is a derogatory term used to describe a chicano who is ashamed of being Hispanic and/or does not speak Spanish properly. It rhymes with the term “mocho,” which is Mexican for Spanish that is mumbled or heavily accented. Pocho is a pretty offensive term, especially for US fans of Hispanic descent. In Mexico, individuals sometimes don’t grasp just how hard it bites.
Luckily, no Univision announcer has used that term to describe any of the US players during this year’s Gold Cup, where you can find some great sports betting sites both in English and Spanish. As an American watching the games on a US television network while in the US, I am still baffled, though, by commentators (including Univision) referring to Francisco Torres as “El Gringo” Torres. I’m not offended by the term “gringo,” which originated in 18th century Spain to describe foreigners who speak Spanish with an odd accent. I can understand that Torres plays for a Mexican club and, in those games and that setting, being a US citizen or “gringo” stands out. For the US, though, he plays on a team of gringos. I’m disappointed by the lack of creativity and appropriateness of the nickname more than anything.
The only nickname that offends me in the Univision broadcast of US games is not a Spanish term, but an English one: “homie.” Edgar Castillo, a promising left back who shunned Mexico for the US, has somehow earned the nickname “homie.” Homie, of course, is short for homeboy; it’s a term plucked from African American Vernacular English and refers to a close friend. And that’s the weird part. It wouldn’t make sense for a TV announcer to refer to a player as a close friend because they are probably not. There’s no indication that the nickname carried over from Edgar’s club career either. Rather, the nickname appears to be a reflection of the tattoos that grace both his arms.
The insinuation, of course, is offensive to both Castillo and African Americans. The term “homie” is not a reference to a close friend, but rather an allusion to tattoos and a violent, gang-banger subculture that too often gets painted in shades of brown and black. The great irony is that one of Edgar Castillo’s tattoos is of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a religious symbol not affiliated with any criminal syndicate. Edgar also broke through in soccer by succeeding at the high school level and was seen at the Dallas Cup. He grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a modest-sized city near El Paso, Texas. Does being brown-skinned with tatts make you a “homie”? Should it?
The Univision coverage of the Gold Cup by and large has been excellent. The passionate commentary, combined with an impressive words-per-minute count for the play-by-play, is often a beautiful song to the ear of US fans accustomed to awkward silences and random asides. Still, I’d really like to hear a better nickname for Edgar Castillo and his slashing runs forward from the left back position. He deserves much better, and so do we the viewers.
Elliott is the author of “Real Madrid & Barcelona: the Making of a Rivalry”, available at iTunes for $5.99 here.