The terrifying Mexican football legend of Columbus, Ohio

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

Mexico have played the U.S. in Columbus, Ohio four times now and each time they have lost 2-0. Given this level of almost supernatural consistency (Clint Dempsey even missed a late penalty in the most recent edition to keep the 2-0 scoreline intact), Columbus, Ohio has become a nightmarishly mythical place that is only spoken about in hushed tones within Mexico. A legend has developed — told to young children as a warning of what lurks on the horizon for their beleaguered national team. This is that legend...

When the United States became consumed with jealousy over Mexico's long, peaceful reign of dominance over them in football, They summoned dark forces to change it. For many years, They pretended to not care about Mexico always winning or even the sport itself. They made jokes and paid attention to far more boring things like baseball and films about affluent teenagers who think their lives are difficult. But in secret They conspired to end Mexico's glorious success by inventing a town called Columbus, Ohio out of nothingness in 1990s.

They strategically placed Columbus, Ohio in a territory so nightmarishly bland that even They call it "flyover country." It is a territory that only exists to make life miserable for Mexican footballers. And it's there that They built their first "soccer specific stadium" — a term that loosely translates to "tiny demon fortress." A David-like hovel that can only fit less than 25,000 people in a land of Goliath sporting cathedrals. Few Mexicans have been inside the Columbus Demon Fortress, but those who have say that it is a horrible place where the chants of "USA! USA!" penetrate the skull with their thunderous volume and maddening repetition. It contains rows of metal benches that offer terrible lumbar support and the scoreboard spews flames and black smoke when it has been too long since the last non-believer has been offered as a sacrifice.

In Costa Rica, they tell stories of the USA forcing snow from the skies above Colorado, but in Columbus, They have chosen to use the bitter cold as a weapon against Mexico. They did this in February 2001. The first time a brave Mexican team was subjected to this despicable place.

The frozen players were left helpless as the USA unleashed a wolf — a Josh Wolff — to strike the cruel blows that would lead to the first dos a cero result in their favor. The frigidity of Columbus, Ohio penetrated El Tri so deep that the phantom chill followed the team to the World Cup on the other side of the earth and produced another 2-0 loss to the USA in the first knockout round. Rafa Marquez has worn mittens and a knit cap ever since. Even when he goes to the beach.

It was not until 2005, three years later, that a Mexico team would be sucked back into Columbus, Ohio for a World Cup qualifier. Some say that the town simply did not exist in the time between those matches and a massive apparition of the golfer Jack Nicklaus loomed in its place. But in September of that year, the apparition was gone and the vicious realm of Columbus, Ohio was back, fueling the USA players to grow larger and stronger than ever before. They paralyzed the talented and courageous Mexican players with their harshly judgmental stares, causing endless self-doubt that no amount of psychiatry could ever cure. And again, They won 2-0.

Four years passed. Their shrunken hearts hardened by a poor showing at the 2006 World Cup, the USA doubled their efforts to make Columbus, Ohio even more horrific than before. Again they summoned frostbitten temperatures for Mexico's reluctant visit in February 2009. They called their goalkeeper Tim Howard, but this was not a man. He stopped all of Mexico's valiant and impressive shots the way the far more realistic Robocop stops crime and the coach's son mocked Mexico's non-coach's sons by scoring two goals to make 2-0 yet again.

Another four years passed and Mexico's footballing struggles worsened. The curse of Columbus, Ohio followed El Tri back to the infinitely better Estadio Azteca, which became site of the Great Goal Drought of 2012/13. Three scoreless draws — including one against the USA — tortured the once proud team and when their thirst for a goal was finally quenched at the Azteca, Honduras scored one more to inflict a rare home defeat and prompt the firing of the manager. Three days after this, the Mexican team had to return to Columbus, Ohio. A place where no one dances.

The now perpetual result inevitably continued its repetition. Even with a new manager and a desperate attack, there was no match for Tim Howard's pirate beard, Landon Donovan's infected eye of doom and unnervingly happy German who leads them. And just to make it that much more spirit-crushing, the dark forces ensured that the USA captain missed a penalty in added time to keep the 2-0 score tattooed on the minds of their mistreated guests. The loss put Mexico in danger of what was once unthinkable — not qualifying for the World Cup.

While the USA players celebrated their own qualification with their most putrid of domestic beers, the Mexican players were left to ponder what they must do to end Columbus, Ohio's reign of terror. But it may not be satisfied until Mexico's national team is reduced to the lowest depths of non-existent irrelevance that the USA's team once occupied. A place where the only sound that can be heard is the faint whisper of "Columbus, Ohio..."

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