Soccer widow: And so begins the inevitable ...
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 11, 2010 - In the summer of 2002, I sat in a plane heading to the U.S. from South America when an announcement came out over the intercom.
It had nothing to do with our trip.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the captain said (and I'm definitely paraphrasing here). "We want to inform you that Brazil just won the 2002 World Cup."
The plane erupted in cheers.
We weren't coming from Brazil, but Guyana, a South American neighbor, where I'd just spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer and was heading home for a month before returning for a third year.
But it didn't matter.
Soccer in Guyana carries such fervor that everyone in the country got the next day off. That's right -- a holiday. For a World Cup victory. Of another country.
So I married a Guyanese, and now, every four years, printed out schedules get tacked on the walls near the couch wherever we live, and strange groups of international friends gather and drink and watch the World Cup.
Today, all of this is happening at my home, and our crew includes myself, my husband, who's taken the day off, and our nearly 3-year-old son, Max, who has already been taught by his father that it's not called soccer. It's football. (I'm sure this won't confuse the poor child at all down the road.)
This is a tradition I know we'll share for the rest of our lives because basically we have no choice.
Max and I can head to the playground or to grandma's house and escape weekend matches of the German Bundesliga or the British Premiere League, but we cannot run away from one solid month of soccer, shown three times a day, possibly more thanks to our DVR.
And so we will submit.
Like the Olympics, I do get into the World Cup. And in the past eight years, I'm realizing, it has become somewhat of a benchmark for where we are in our lives. Four years ago, the floors of our tiny apartment in St. Joseph, Mo., were covered with friends for a month under various states of sobriety, watching as the Italians won.
That night, my mom called from northern Italy, where she was staying with my sister and her family who live there. You could still hear the fireworks going off in the middle of the night. (Sadly, one of the great disappointments of my husband's life is that his Italian brother-in-law cares nothing for soccer. He's a windsurfer.)
This year we'll be experiencing the World Cup in the Lou, and there are tons of places to help us do that.
Tomorrow, head downtown to the Old Post Office and watch the first round match between the U.S. and England. My husband knows off the top of his head that Brazil will be playing Tues., June 15, and tells me they're in the group of death, which sounds like a designation akin to the pit of despair or the fire swamp from "The Princess Bride," but whatever.
Festivities for the World Cup Watch Party begin at noon and run until 4 p.m., free beer and food are available.
I'm also bookmarking the Riverfront Times very helpful directory of local bars showing World Cup matches.
Plus, I'm all for watching the games if I have fried plantains in front of me.
And so with that, we dive into the 2010 World Cup. Over the next month, I plan to stop by some of the places where people gather to watch these games, meeting the fans and fanatics and hopefully being smart enough not to talk with them during play.
I'll try to bring snippets of those visits back in this temporary column, where we'll also explore St. Louis soccer culture, the popularity of soccer here vs. the rest of the world, and whatever else gets kicked my way.
And don't worry, I have plenty of time for this. For the next month, I won't be spending weekends at the lake, or the Zoo, or even the pool. If I want to see my husband at all, we'll be watching the matches together.
Maybe this time I'll finally get what off sides is all about.