Upon hearing that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died Tuesday at the age of 58, I was immediately transported back to 2009, when I attended a World Baseball Classic game between Venezuela and the Netherlands.
I was writing a column for The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper at my alma mater, the University of Miami, and went in with a plan to focus on the night game between Puerto Rico and the United States.
But plans rarely go accordingly, and I soon found myself a part of something I, as an American, couldn't quite understand.
Sitting out in right field, surrounded by Venezuelan fans - think Eagles fans with musical instruments - I heard what sounded like a taunt directed towards one of their own players, Magglio Ordonez.
But how could that be? Why would they boo their fellow countryman?
Here's an excerpt from my March 2009 column:
Then something happened that I didn’t fully understand. Magglio Ordonez, a member of the Venezuelan team, stepped up to the plate and, although the crowd was nearly 75% Venezuelan, he was greeted by some of the worst booing I have ever witnessed (and I’m from the city that booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus).
“Fuera! Fuera! Fuera!” the fans yelled as Ordenez waited on the first pitch.
I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I asked the lady sitting in front of me, “Why are they booing him?”
“Es Chavista,” she replied.
My small Spanish vocabulary allowed me to infer that she meant he was a supporter of Hugo Chavez, the unpopular leader of Venezuela. I have never seen so much political passion displayed at a sporting event, and I was actually moved.
The amount these people cared for their team and more importantly the country it represented spoke volumes about how unenthusiastic Americans were for the event.