We began our journey to the stadium two hours before kick off, but we still didn't make it in time to see the game start. In fact, we were only 15 minutes late but when we got there we discovered that Argentina had already written itself onto the scoreboard 1-0. Poor Chief. He was having a heart attack trying to get us there before kick off. I kept telling him we probably wouldn't miss much and he'd respond with this you-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about stare. Apparently he was right.
We drove downtown to park at The Chief's office building and catch the trolley to Qualcomm. Traffic was terrible when we first entered the 5 from the 56, but after a while it thinned out and once we were downtown we were practically alone.
We caught the trolley and began our frequently-interrupted ride to the stadium. As we got closer and closer, the trolley occupants got progressively more colorful: green, red, and white. I, of course, wore blue....
Let's rewind for a moment, back to, oh, say four o'clock. Just out of the shower, I was methodically pulling shirt after shirt out of the closet, trying to find that perfect color of baby blue so that I could show my Honey just how invested I was in the evening. Yes, that's right, I wore Argentina's colors despite the fact that I lived in Chile for two years and the two countries aren't the biggest fans of each other. I love you, Chief. My precious Honey, however, chose to wear brown and informed me at the stadium that his wardrobe selection was based on a desire to remain clean, healthy, and "accident"-free throughout the night. Thanks for sharing.
Fast forward back to the trolley. Have you ever had one of those moments in your head where you suddenly have the impulse to do something insanely stupid and most likely death-defying? I had that experience on the trolley. I kept fighting back the urge to scream and shout my undying loyalty to Argentina. I struggled against professing my team spirit to a car full of rough and weathered "enemies." My soul was 19 again, but my body won out with its usual, cowardly, 26-year-old self...thank goodness.
While sitting in the stadium, I began to wax psychological as I watched these long-haired athletes run back and forth from one side of the field to the other. Were they heroes in their countries? What must it be like to have 68,000+ people honed in on you, depending on you (and their booze) for their immediate happiness and gratification? Did they enjoy following a black and white ball around the field? It reminded me of those little computer "games" where you move your mouse and all the spiders/ants/things follow your pointer.
And then I turned my attention to the crowd. They were a sorry sight. In a sea of red, green and white, you could see worn out, leathery faces munching on peanuts and gulping at beers, leaving the weight of the world behind for the night as they indulged in a mass bonding experience with their countrymen. The field around the Argentina goal keeper was littered with beer cans and trash, and paper airplanes and toilet paper rolls were the airborne objects of choice. I believe one section of the crowd (not mine, thank heaven) was even graced with an alcohol shower at one point. And yet, despite the unsavory surroundings, I still felt a sense of awe at being a part of something that meant so much to so many people. The experience was larger than life. When you see a soccer game on television, it seems so tiny and pathetic. But when you attend a soccer game where the "home team" is playing the number one ranked team in the world, you can feel your blood pumping to the rhythm of the crowd chanting and your ears ring from the constant white noise of the screaming fans. I began to understand more clearly that this was their football and their baseball combined. This is their sport of choice. They live and breathe for soccer. This is what they grow up watching on their little, fuzzy televisions capped with rabbit ears. And this is what their kids play in the dusty, dirty streets day in and day out. I felt like I was being absorbed into a world soccer nation, the soccer spectator nation. Despite our obvious differences - my white skin, their tanned skin; my blue shirt, their green shirts; my water bottle, their beer cups; my English, their Spanish; my love of football, their love of futbol - in that moment, we were kin. And it felt good.
This is a video of the stadium/crowd after Mexico scored their one goal.
It doesn't do the noise level justice.
It doesn't do the noise level justice.
It took us two hours to get home, too, but I enjoyed every minute of our six-hour date night.
Thanks for hanging in there with our boys, Todd!