Day 2 on my New Diet, the #Goal30

“How’s the great World Cup Immersion going?” a buddy texted my late Friday afternoon.

“So far, so great,” was my response, “but it’s still early.”

And it is still early. 4 games down, 60 to go.

I swear I’ve had this exact feeling before, and at first I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. I’ve never gone “all in” on a month-long sporting event before, so why was I feeling a vague sense of deja-vu?

Then it hit me.

I HAVE had this feeling before. This swirl of surprising optimism, cautious hopefulness, and slight dread at what might be coming. This is exactly like going on a diet.

Only instead of giving up bread and sugar for vegetables and lean chicken breast, I’m giving up golf and hanging at the pool for corner kicks and counter attacks.

I’m doing the sports equivalent of #Whole30. I’m doing #Goal30.

Behold the similarities, just two days in…

Day 1 of any diet is the easiest. You welcome the hunger pangs because they remind you that you actually ARE making a change. “Feel that angry burn, stomach? That is the sensation of weight being shed! Get used to it. I’M THE CAPTAIN NOW!”

That’s how I felt on Thursday. I missed a half a day of U.S. Open golf coverage to watch Russia take Saudi Arabia behind the woodshed and beat them 5-0. Five goals by the host team while the world’s best golfers struggled to break par! Maybe this soccer thing isn’t that bad after all?

And you know what happens on Day 2 of any diet, right? You put together the most amazing, healthy meal you are capable of making. Something so great, you sit and think to yourself, “Wow, I could eat like this the rest of my life.”

That’s exactly what happened with Friday’s final match, but let’s not skip the first two meals of the day.

The old me would have enjoyed a breakfast of Dustin Johnson and donuts, but the new me feasted on hummus and Uruguay vs. Egypt. Luis Suarez came out all bite and no bark, failing to score on any of his chances. Unfortunately, late pressure from Uruguay resulted in a goal in the 89th minute to give them the win most thought they would secure.

And wait, what is this I am feeling? Did I actually care about this result? Yes, yes I did. I was starting to connect with that plucky, upstart Egypt team. Their star, Mo Salah, was benched for medical reasons, and I thought they deserved at least a point for the tie.

The over/under on how many seconds of my life I would spend caring about the Egyptian soccer team was set at 0.5 seconds by Vegas back in 1976 when I was born. Thanks to today, if you took the OVER you can cash in that ticket.

Goal#30 brunch was a tussle between Morocco and Iran, possibly the worst matchup of the entire tournament. (Sort of like how brunch is the worst meal of the entire human existence.) No one scored a goal into the correct net over the course of 95 minutes, but Iran won 1-0 when a Moroccan man who will not sleep well for the next 18 months of his life scored an own goal by heading a ball into his own net a minute before the final whistle blew. Very unfortunate turn of events for that chap.

(If you’re not familiar with the term “own goal,” it is short for “Oh wow, that idiot just accidentally hit the soccer ball into his own goal.” As you can see, it’s a very long phrase, so that’s why it is shortened to two words. While this might not be the actual origin of the term “own goal,” it should suffice. All that to say that a young man from Morocco had the worst day of his life today, but hey, it’s all uphill from here!)

Ah, but back to the main course. The best “meal” I may eat this entire month of #Goal30, if I’m honest. The showdown between powerhouse Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

The matchup was as great as advertised with Ronaldo and Diego Costa exchanging a pair of goals to bring the game to a 2-2 draw 55 minutes into the match. Minutes later the tie was gorgeously broken via an all-time, one-timer by a man aptly named Nacho. And here I thought I’d only be eating healthy this month.

But then, for the third time in as many games on Day 2, a goal was scored after the 85-minute mark of the match. And also for the third time today, it was Ronaldo finding the back of the net with a free kick that defied physics and tied the game at 3-3.

My wife, who had just returned from the pool in time to join me for the last 10 minutes of the match, could not believe how Ronaldo had managed to bend it around the wall. “Wow!” she said, “Did he actually mean to kick it like that?”

Oh yes, honey. Oh yes he did.

So there it is. I feel the same way after two days of #Goal30 as most folks do two days into their diet. It’s all rainbows and unicorns and wonder. This new way of life is great, why didn’t I do this sooner?

I guess the question is, will it last, or will it go the way most diets go, crashing and burning into a dumpster fire of disappoint and sadness?

Saturday will be a great test as it is the busiest day of the World Cup. Four games starting at 6am ET, ending eleven hours later. There are 3 more games Sunday as well.

I’m not sure if anything in these next 28 days can be as satisfying as that Spain-Portugal match was, and yes, I can’t believe I am saying that about a contest that ended in a draw. It was that good.

Speaking of things I can’t believe I’m saying, I’m actually looking forward to this weekend.

Seven more games. Bring them on.

“We don’t want to tell our dreams. We want to show them.”

Cristiano Ronaldo

Bryan Allain has spent 41 years of his life ignoring soccer in favor of the Red Sox and golf, the REAL beautiful game. (His words not ours). This is the account of his 30-day, all in, deep dive on the premier showcase of the most popular sport on earth, the 2018 World Cup.