I can always count on a sporting event to inspire me to write something. Although I’m not sure how often I write about victories, you can always count on me to pour out my feelings over a loss. Except, except I don’t know what to say. I had the idea to write this, and then I planned to write it, and then I’ve just been sitting staring at this blank page. Sports fandom does not make sense. There’s a reason that fans are short for fanatic or fanaticism because it’s all irrational anyhow. Becoming so invested in something that you have no personal relationship with, becoming so involved in an activity that you might’ve never even played at any level. I’m not here to speak about people’s relationships with sports because it’s nonsensical and yet transcends all cultural barriers. Nor does the sport even matter. There will be some fans of table tennis with the matching intensity and fervor that someone has for football. Be it the football you throw, or the one you kick.
That brings us to the topic at hand though. Soccer. Football. Whatever name you prefer for it is fine. Both the USA and Brazil have been knocked out of the World Cup, and well, one of those teams was expected to not amount to much. The other, Brazil, was considered one of, if not the favorite, to win it all. As an honorary Brazilian myself, through marriage to a home-grown Brazilian beauty, I obviously have been extremely invested in Brazil throughout the tournament. Since 2010, I’ve been a major fan of the World Cup in general, although my soccer viewing only seems to happen for a month every four years. So yes, I might not be an avid follower of the sport, but when the World Cup comes around, I become a devoted follower. I own jerseys, I have flags, I bought a commemorative soccer ball, and I once toured the Real Madrid stadium, I’ve done it all. In prior years, I supported teams (countries) of places I’d visited, ones my friends were fans of, but there were no deeply rooted connections. Although, that didn’t change the passion I had because once I was rooting for a team, I rooted hard. Still, things change entirely when you marry into a family that has a country that isn’t pathetic at football. It’s not like I’ve been rooting for the USA this past decade plus, they didn’t even qualify for one of the Cups.
I’ve already lost my train of thought. To summarize, what I was trying to say is that this World Cup hits differently. The USA weren’t godawful, at least making it through the group stages, and Brazil was well on its way to hoisting its 6th trophy. Going into the quarter-finals earlier against Croatia, I felt confident, it seemed that a semifinal matchup against Argentina was in the bag. Maybe the arrogance got to me because the Brazilians are so steadfast in their beliefs that they are the best. It’s like Alabama football, in every match that we go into, we expect to win. We do not even consider a loss an option, surely, losses happen but every time, it’s like a punch to the gut. It’s a sucker punch. It comes out of nowhere. I think that’s why I’m at a loss for words, still trying to process the loss that happened today. I watched three hours of a game, while on the job, at my office computer. I watched Neymar score in extra time, and I pumped my fist, and then put my head in my hands minutes later when Croatia tied it up. I got excited and then subsequently crushed watching Croatia perform a master class on penalty kicks. I sat there in disbelief, wondering why I ever bothered to watch anything, why do I bother to invest myself in a sport that loves to toy with your heartstrings.
I think these same thoughts after every loss about teams I truly care about. I wonder what’s the point, I wonder what else could I have done instead, I think why do I keep torturing myself with this as it happens time and time again. And then? I push those thoughts to some hidden compartment in my brain and I tell myself that it’ll be different next time. I reckon this is why we care so much about sports, because of the highs. It doesn’t matter if you have never set foot on the field, and it doesn’t matter that the players have no idea who you are, the thrill of the win, the joy in victory is a feeling like no other. Nothing can compare to the highs, I guess, other than being on the field itself, and knowing you’re one of the select few solely responsible for the feelings that erupt in populations that support you. This isn’t about winning though because Brazil did not win today. They lost. Which is why I’m still struggling to write coherent points from time to time. Because there sits a barren hole in my heart right now; an emptiness that will not be filled until 2026 when the World Cup restarts here in North America. I thought that writing out my thoughts and having a cathartic space to discuss the loss, I thought that it would help. Instead, it just shows how a loss affects us. It leaves us scrambling, it leaves us worse for wear, and again, this is all due to an irrational connection to a child’s game that is played professionally. I do not know why we let sports impact us like they do, but they do. And they will continue to. And I will continue to be a fan, a real fanatic, knowing I’m setting myself up for heartbreak because sports fandom is insane and I’m here for insanity. In the end, all the heartbreak, all the pain of a loss, is worth it when there’s a win. That’s why I’ll continue to watch sports, to be an unabashed fan. I’ll be chasing those wins, that winning feeling as long as I can. The higher the stakes, the sweeter the taste. There’s always next year, Alabama, you’ll make the playoffs again. There are always 4 years from now, Brazil, you’ll get that sixth championship soon enough. So it goes.