Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Midsummer's World Cup Dream

            In 2002 the World Cup was played in South Korea and Japan. Which meant that the earliest games of the day were broadcast live starting at 2:30am. At the time I was working three jobs from 6am until 8pm and playing pick up soccer nearly every night.

            Ducks can sleep with only one half of their brain at a time. They have one eye open and one half of their brain awake to watch for predators. I’m pretty sure my brain developed this ability during the 2002 World Cup. I saw every one of those games. 

           With half my brain asleep, watching soccer on Univision became a more immersive experience. I could hear the roar of the crowd in the hum of my ceiling fan, and feel the eruption of heat from the dancing fans after each goal in all the warm Wisconsin breezes that came in my open bedroom window like wind off fairy wings.

            Wondrous things would happen. Turkey went up one-zero over Brazil just before half time. The US nearly won its group by defeating the host country, South Korea, only to be undone by a goal in the 78th minute. The Korean team celebrated by re-enacting the famous disqualification of a South Korean ice skater at the hands of Apolo Ohno in Short Track at the Olympics earlier that year. Vengeance.

            I loved soccer so much.

            Boys love sports. And we dream of being pro ball players. It’s a hard day when you have to admit that you're never going to make it to the big leagues. And yet I wonder… maybe I shouldn't give up on that dream just yet. Stranger things have happened.

            Take Nick Bottom for example.

            Bottom is nothing more than a humble weaver, when he’s recruited to act in a performance for the noble Duke Theseus’s wedding. Not just act – mind you – he’s taking the lead role of “Pyramus, a lover that kills himself most gallant for love.”


That will ask some tears in the true performing of it.

If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes: (1:2)


            Nick’s enthusiasm for this opportunity is apparent when the bellows-mender is reluctant to take on the female lead, Nick Bottom asks to play that role as well.


Let me play Thisbe too.

I’ll speak in a monstrous little voice: “Thisne,

Thisne! – Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear! Thy Thisbe

dear and lady dear!” (1:2)


            Of course he can’t play both of the romantic leads, that would be ridiculous, but when he hears there’s to be a lion in the show –


Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will do

any man’s heart good to hear me. I will roar, that I

will make the Duke say: “Let him roar again; let

him roar again!” (1:2)


            Bottom wants nothing more than to do a good job in this, his debut performance, but Puck comes across the ramshackle troupe in rehearsal and transforms Bottom’s head into an the head of an ass. And fate carries him to the sleeping place of the Fairy Queen, Titania, whose husband has spread a love potion on her eyes so that she might fall in love with the first creature she lays eyes on. She wakes and sees ass-headed Nick Bottom and she declares her love to him. Nick takes it all in stride when she swears she loves him:


Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for

that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love

keep little company together nowadays. The more

the pity that some honest neighbours will not make

them friends. (3:1)


            Nick is not amazed or thrown off. He is simple and even if he suspects Titania might be messing with him, he doesn’t seem to care. Stranger things have happened… probably.

            When Bottom awakes, his old head intact, and the love of Titania evacuated, he attributes the night’s miracles to dreamwork. But his confidence is elevated because of the brush with immortality and the love of an important lady, and his theatrical ambitions skyrocket:


The eye of

Man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen,

Man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive,

Nor his heart to report, what my dream was. I

will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this

dream: it shall be called “Bottom’s Dream,” because

it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end

of a play before the Duke. (4:1)


            When we’re young we have to establish the limits of reality. I remember believing that dinosaurs had existed just before I was born. And then we establish the limits of our individual abilities (I was never going to sing opera or slam dunk). The world seems to get smaller and smaller as we age and focus our ambition. Hats off to the Nick Bottoms of planet Earth who are unafraid to tackle new opportunities with gusto.

            Seeing Edson Buddle play in this World Cup is going to be a particularly satisfying experience. He is a 28 year-old forward with only three international appearances under his belt. But he scored a plethora of goals for the LA Galaxy early this season and last weekend he scored 2 in the US’s final warm-up before playing England. 2 goals in 3 appearances. 28.

            Roger Milla came out of retirement at age 38 to play in the 1990 World Cup for Cameroon, who qualified for the first time ever that year. He scored 4 goals and led his team to the quarterfinals. Pele listed him as one of the 100 best footballers of all time.

            I’m 32 now. I’ve got 4 years until Brazil 2014. I'll be a full two years younger than Roger Milla was when he made his World Cup debut.

            This year, the World Cup is coming to us from South Africa. The games are going to start at 4:30 am pacific time. It looks like my old skills of watching the games with half of my brain are going to be called into action again.

            But maybe this year the sleeping half of my brain can dream a little harder. Or with a transformative visit from a meddling Puck, I can take on a different head. And instead of just feeling like part of the crowd... in my room a soccer pitch will grow... until the walls turn into the stadium all around. And I’ll be on the field, serving up crosses that sail through night and day and in and out of weeks; only to be headed home by Buddle and Messi and Torres.

            My soccer will be a roar, and it will do any man’s heart good to see us score. I will roar and make the world say: “Let him roar again; let him roar again!

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