I can’t sleep anymore this morning, both because it’s after 6am and because I have this little blip of nervous energy that won’t let me rest. Ordinarily, I would go for a run, but today it is pouring. In Recife, it has rained a little bit everyday, a cloud strolling by on its way to the theater, before the sun came back out and ruled the day. But today, it is straight up pouring. If I stepped outside right now, I’d be soaked within 10 minutes. Mix in the puddles, the splashing drivers, and the limited number of sneakers I brought with me, and it’s just better that I sit here in bed and write instead. You’re welcome.
There is something bouncing around my empty morning stomach, angling off the walls like the ball in a game of Breakout.
I’m very hopeful that it’s not some incubating Amazonian parasite, but something much more recognizable and benevolent.
There’s a reason that I want to run out the feeling in my stomach. When I was thirteen, my middle school track coach pulled me aside to talk about how it was always OK to be nervous before a race, no matter how many times you’ve toed the start line. About how it should feel like something big is going to happen because something big just might happen. Not everyone gets butterflies, you know. You have give them a reason to come. So I embraced them. Those erratic bursts of adrenaline carried me when my skinny little pre-pubescent legs were tired and begging for mercy.
Butterflies. I has them.
Today, the US Men’s National Team plays against Germany in a match that will determine whether they continue to the Round of 16 in the World Cup. As they finish their breakfast and pile onto the bus wearing their oversized headphones, I’m sure they all have butterflies. I know I do. And I hope you do too.
There aren’t many of these pivotal, do-or-die moments. Moments that mean something. Moments that say something about who you are as an athlete or a team or a nation just trying to get some respect on the pitch, goddammit. Moments that send you home to safety, comfort, and consolation that you “tried your best” or send you back on the field to die another day. Valiantly. Or to not die at all. To live forever and ever a hero, Amen.
Don’t you dare forget for one second who we are.
We’re the United States of America.
We don’t dive on the pitch, looking to the referee for his whistle or his cards or his mercy. We aren’t the most glamorous or the most talented or the most meticulous. We are scrappy, hard-nosed players who stay on our feet. We are a team that waits for nothing and goes for everything.
We are a team that can build or dismantle an empire. I want to see us storm the shores of Recife like this is fucking Normandy, 1944. I want us to destroy Germany.
Let us leave no doubt as to whom advances. We’re not here for fun. We’re here on business.