Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Brazil 1 Switzerland 1
I was so looking forward to The World Cup, and anticipated so much pleasure from it, that I forgot about one thing in soccer:
I was telling a co-worker about this and she reassured me that the players grimacing, crashing to the ground, and writhing in agony would be okay.
"No, no." I explained. Not their pain. They're 25 year olds in the peak of physical condition. I'm not worried about their pain. I'm worried about mine."
The first several days of The World Cup did not go according to plan, more specifically it did not go according to my plan. Spain merely tying Portugal by managing to partly gift Cristiano two or even three of his goals, Messi missing the penalty and Iceland tying by acting as a wet blanket with Argentina. France, who I wanted to see play well, winning tepidly. Teams playing with a little life and joy, like Peru and Nigeria going down to order and organization. It was I who was moaning. It was I who was grimacing, crashing to the ground, and writhing in agony.
This, this pain is soccer. But it was no good. I can't do the whole World Cup like this, with this pain.
So I took myself in hand. "Self," I said. "You have got to find a way to enjoy this more. It cannot be about results. It cannot be so conditional. You must extract more joy from all these moments of beauty and skill."
The beautiful game.
And no sooner had I resolved this than Mexico, playing a lively, forward, adventurous game, brought down the mighty Germans! "This is what I'm talking about!" I cried. Here is joy. The first and biggest upset not brought on with fouls and defense and walls and a single moment's luck, but by a team playing and believing. It was wonderful.
I was ready for the exciting Brazil team!
And then Brazil filled me with happiness, playing exciting, Brazilian Football for 20 minutes, culminating with a firebolt goal from Coutinho. I had arrived!
And then, just as suddenly, it stopped. Brazil turned down the music. Half of it was they lost the thread of the game from out of nowhere, and half of it was Switzerland fouled them 137 times. The referees have gotten in the business of protecting defenses. I was furious.
But then I remembered what I was there to do. Look at the glorious way that Marcelo catches a 30 meter pass dead at his feet. See the miracle of Neymar almost magically passing through a Swiss player, leaving him clutching desperately at his shirt. I believe. Exult Switzerland in your tie. It was all you could do. I do not know who will win this tournament, but it will not be you and your ilk, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland, Germany. Mark my words, joy will win.
Joy will win.