The Final Whistle

It’s been a week since the 2018 World Cup ended and honestly, I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to write this final piece of my immersion project.

There are three reasons why this has been difficult, and because everything worth sharing can be shared in list format, here you go:

1 – It’s hard to end things.

Ending things is hard, just ask your ex, England’s soccer team, or the writers of LOST. (For the record, LOST is my favorite television show of all time, and I loved the finale.)

2 – I’ve said almost everything I wanted to say about soccer.

I wrote 17 pieces in 30 days while watching the World Cup, and those posts captured how I was feeling in the moment better than any recap I could try to write now. I watched four games in one day, handed out awards, answered your questions, tried to fix multiple sports, learned some lessons, and even skipped church to watch soccer.

(As a reminder, you can read all the pieces here.)

I didn’t know I had that much to say about anything, nevermind soccer.

And finally (and most importantly)…

3 – This is not the end of my soccer journey.

It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around ending this project because even though the World Cup has ended, my experience as a burgeoning soccer fan hasn’t.

Had my World Cup project turned my ambivalence into hatred, this piece would have been cut and dry. “Now I know why I never got into soccer…because it bites like Suarez. The End.” But if you’ve been reading along, you know that’s not how I feel.

I’m in on soccer now. I still love watching golf and the NBA and NFL football more than I love soccer, but I’ve made some room in my heart for the beautiful game. I’m open to it growing. I don’t know how deep this will get, but I will be investing more time and energy into it going forward.

As I’ve written before, I believe soccer has way more going for it than working against it. The games are shorter than most sports, there are fewer commercials, the stars are accessible and not wearing helmets (and they have great hair!), the action is continuous, and it’s a sport you can consume while doing something else. In the culture we find ourselves living in in 2018, it’s a fantastic product, far more suited for our attention spans than baseball or tennis.

I was drawn into soccer for all of these reasons and more during this last month. It was so easy to commit to a two-hour game, knowing I’d get two fifty-minute blocks of nonstop action, and then I could go about my day. It was fun to see the best players in the world on the biggest stage. It was exhilarating to see a brilliant goal created from nothing. It truly was great fun.

These are the things I have taken with me from this World Cup. These are the things I am looking forward to when I think of watching more soccer. And yes, I will be watching more soccer.

Let’s make one thing clear: I’m not claiming to be a crazy, die-hard soccer fan. I met and spoke to many of them over the last month, and I was blown away by their knowledge and passion. They are some of the most amazing sports fans I’ve ever met, and I’m excited to learn more so I can hang in there longer in our future conversations. But I’m not there yet.

It’s been six weeks since I sat down to watch Russia soundly defeat Saudi Arabia in the first game of the World Cup. I had no idea what to expect. That was 40 days and 64 soccer games ago, and I’m so thankful that I spent that time immersing myself into this game the world loves, because I started to love it too.

The game has its hooks set in fairly firmly. I feel the pull. I’m not going to fight it.

I was a skeptic.

I’m now a believer.

Thanks for following along on my conversion by immersion.

Sincerely,

Bryan Allain, soccer fan

“I’m attracted to soccer’s capacity for beauty. When well played, the game is a dance with a ball.”

Eduardo Galeano

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.