As I looked up at the ceiling, both arms raised in triumph, the beer showered down on me. It soaked my clothes, got in my eyes and even found a way to trickle in to my left ear. As unappealing as it may sound, it was a sweet moment, one I will cherish for years to come.
After allowing Portugal an early goal by pressing the self-destruct button, the USMNT clawed back into the game. Jermaine Jones equalized just after the hour mark with an unstoppable effort.
With 10 minutes remaining, a glorious chance fell to the man everyone dreamed it would fall to. The skipper made no mistake. Clint Dempsey just about managed to scramble the ball across the line, and he just about managed to blow the roof off of the Varsity Theater in Baton Rouge.
In that moment I was flooded with emotions. The raucous celebrations ignited by Clint’s scrappy finish reminded me why I love the beautiful game.
I was filled with pride. My country had fought back from a goal down against the #4 ranked team in the world. We managed to keep the reigning world player of the year quiet. Only a handful of teams have displayed guts like that in this tournament.
I felt relieved. For much of the second half I thought someone would have to scrape me off the floor as I anxiously watched near misses at both ends. My heart raced for an hour and a half up until the second goal.
At the time, the goal meant we were going through to the knockout stages. I felt confident we could see the game out. That was a feeling of ecstasy. A feeling of pure bliss. Qualifying for the latter stages before Germany… who would have thought that was possible?
Dempsey’s goal threw the kitchen sink of emotions at me… and a little bit extra. The emotional roller coaster was incredible to ride, but that was only a slice of something special.
After a few seconds of embracing the beer shower with my eyes closed and letting the emotions overtake me, I scanned the room to see what I was missing. Before I could get a good look, a stranger hugged me tight and picked me up. Next thing I knew, I was in the center of a seven-man group hug.
Being crushed by drunken strangers was never something that I considered fun. In this moment, it was wonderful.
I was reminded as I stood sandwiched and covered in beer that THIS was the beauty I saw in the beautiful game. It has brought people together from all over the globe, people from anywhere… and everywhere.
I’ve experienced the game’s ability to unify the most random individuals firsthand over the last four years. Playing pick up games in Baton Rouge and Ruston, I’ve met people from over 40 countries and six continents.
I have friends from many corners of the world, and a few of them have become brothers.
Would one of these unknown guys squeezing the life out of me become the next friend I made because of my passion for the sport?
All these thoughts ran through my mind as I watched the dying moments of the match.
Silvestre Varela silenced the crowd with his last-gasp header. Watching the ball hit the back of the net was deflating. It was gutting. I must have looked deflated leaving the Varsity. I soon realized that I missed the biggest takeaway of the day.
I remembered that seven strangers became best friends, at least for a moment in time, with no knowledge of each other’s personal lives. This silly, wonderful, beautiful game was the reason. The game I owe so much for giving me some of my best friends… better yet, brothers. This is what I took home from the Varsity.
Moments like these are why I watch, and it’s moments like these that have me buzzing for Thursday morning!