I watched the USA-Belgium match from a very small booth in a very small pub in Venice, Italy and there were outer space black Guinness flags draped all on the walls because if you’re decorating on a budget then you use free stuff and that free stuff should look like death coming.
And I was there and dying with that Wondo miss and being brought back to life with every Howard save. The table was the color of cartoon seaweed and I would pound on it and bring my hands to my head and when kids would come to the window of the pub to buy gelato — I should say, this pub sold gelato — they would look inside at these tortured Americans and, I’d imagine, wonder why they thought they had a chance against the big, bad Belgians.
There was a bar across the street showing the game, too, and it was filled with other tortured Americans and when the good things and bad things would happen we would make the same noises as them. And when the extra time hit they began to chant “I believe that we will win” and some in our bar joined in and I would pound my hand on the small table again and strain my eyes, squinting up and towards the tiny television to the right of a picture of the Pope and try to see if that was a “2” or a “3” after the “9” on the clock. I am not Catholic, but I did let my eyes wander to him and say in my head “Come on, talk to Him.” See if He can do something about this. Then I prayed some.
And in the end, when Prince Harry and Lukaku (or, That Guy Who Grabbed The Camera After He Killed A Million American Hearts And Then Spoke To His Mama) had put shots in the net, us only mustering one, I felt a great deal of sadness. I felt that way because I’d become a genuine fan of those dudes in the all white kits who played so hard. Like they knew their efforts would directly affect some kid in Somewhere, America getting a soccer ball for his birthday this year instead of a Transformer or a DVD of Frozen or, and I’m just assuming interest from the kids on this one, a stuffed Bill Murray as Don from Broken Flowers doll.
I sat there in my seat as the people in the pub emptied into the off-gold side streets and the bartender began to put chairs on the tops of tables and he was whistling because the game did not matter to him at all. When I got up he said “Grazzi” very loudly and I waved back to him but he was looking at the muted television, three Italian football analysts smiling and sitting on white neon stools with the beach behind them and the wind in purchased palms along some resort shore at their linen suited backs.
And as my girlfriend and I headed out it was nighttime and that made sense because I don’t know how you deal with sunshine after a loss like that. I was happy to be seven hours in front of the American sadness that swept all around the fruited plains, up and over the majestic purple mountains and through those amber-tinted waves of grain. Because nights are when you stew and ache. You can’t properly mourn when the sun is bright and alive. You need the privacy that darkness provides. Same reason nobody wants to dance at a wedding reception in a well lit room. Give people anonymity to be their bare self. Let me be sad with the lights off. If I want someone to see, I’ll tweet about it.
And we walked along with the ocean on our right and the air was cool and we talked about how close we were to winning and how great Tim Howard and his beard were. And when I got back to my hotel I got on my phone and looked at Instagram and saw that Russell Westbrook is going to have a line of sunglasses. Then I felt all better again.
I’ve no idea what the Thunder will do to handle their starting shooting guard issues. Maybe nothing but sit back and watch Roberson’s wing span grow, or bask in the glow of Jeremy Lamb’s jumper setting fire to the the net with regularity once more. The targets that you hear about, the C.J. Miles and Mike Millers of the world, have either signed elsewhere, or are claiming their hearts are in Memphis.
And this Pau Gasol stuff is certainly fun to think about, but that doesn’t much answer our shooting guard issues. We just signed Sebastian Telfair, which would mean a lot if it was 2006 and you’d just seen Through The Fire, but Bassy’s been in China for a bit now and his Coney days of winning New York City titles are way behind him.
I go back to that Pau sentence from earlier. The one about fun. Because this time of year is really really fun. Let’s enjoy the possibilities.