I know it’s been over for a while, but I’ve just started to shake off my post-World Cup funk.
The weeks after the World Cup hit hardest for “strange” Americans like me--we’re the weirdos that pay attention to the game whether it’s trending or not, the ones that grew up juggling a ball on basketball courts and baseball diamonds, and continue to play as lumbering, loud-mouthed adults--we give our all every weekend in amateur leagues, taking hours out of our weekends to fight for the pride of league promotion or to avoid the embarrassment of relegation. We play for fun, kind of, and are always game for mid-summer tournaments, and pick-up games.
I wish I could have just been content with Monday Night Football, or slow pitch softball, or whatever the hell else other Americans do with the little free time they have outside of work--but for me, soccer and the World Cup represents a celebration of the sport I love, and a moment to pause and reflect on our place on this tiny blue planet, orbiting in an endless space.
How Many World Cups Are You?
Measuring life one year at a time never made much sense to me. Do you really change that much from 31 to 32? How about 22 to 23?
Though, I bet freshman-you was pretty damn different from senior-you, and I’m sure by next World Cup a whole lot will change in your life.
Right now, I’m almost eight World Cups old, but I only really remember six and a half.
In 1990 I was just ¾ of a World Cup qualifying cycle, so I remember nothing--and only three images from the 94’ Cup stuck with me: Valderrama bouncing around the pitch, Romario and his gold chain, and Roberto Baggio skying a penalty 30 yards above the crossbar.
Each cup since then has left behind stronger memories: Jay-Jay Okocha showed me that you can do as many step-overs as you damn well please, Ronaldo (the first one) proved that even a toe kick can be cheeky, and the 2002 USMNT reminded me that we’ve always had boatloads of potential, and young talent, we just forgot to let the best kids play (one of our many deep-seated problems).
This World Cup for me will always be remembered as the one where the “under-dogs” showed the traditional powerhouses what’s real. And also that the era of Messi and Ronaldo came to an anticlimactic, abrupt end--their legacies eclipsed by a teenage king, Mbappe.
I’ve coped with my post-World Cup nostalgia by daydreaming where I could be in another four years.
For those of you in your 20s and 30s, American life can sometimes feel like it’s throwing everything at you at the same time: you can experience serious relationships, marriage(s), new career(s), moving to new environments, the birth of children, and the death of loved ones all in the span of a World Cup cycle. Adulting kind of sucks, but it’s also way more gratifying than being a dumbass teenager, or a sensitive college kid.
Who knows, by the next World Cup you could have a baby puking on your shoulder, or you could be watching it with the same crew as the last one. For the changes that do happen, let them be for the better. For what remains, let it be that which matters most to you.
Of course, I hope that by the next World Cup U.S. Soccer makes all the vast, sweeping changes that are being thrown around Twitter -- but I’m a realist, and I know we probably aren’t going to see much of change coming from the current lot we have running the USSF.
I don’t ever want to watch another World Cup without the USMNT, but we needed to sit this one out. Like a good friend fight, we have to go through the current shit-throwing contest to see which priorities will win the day, and hopefully we can move on in the same direction.
Whether U.S. Soccer decides to get out of its own way or not, I’ll still be here waiting to support the national team and fervently celebrate the World Cup. Here’s to the next four years, and whatever it brings.
Author: Sean Malvey