When Real Life Gets in the Way of the World Cup

As of Sunday evening here on the East Coast, the 2018 World Cup halfway over. 32 games have been played, 32 games remain.

How many of those 32 games have I watched, you ask? Well, I’d love to tell you I cleared everything off my schedule for the last 11 days and did not miss a single match, but that would be the equivalent of a Suarez embellishment on a phantom tackle. In other words, ugly and fake.

Here’s the good news: I watched the first 16 matches of this World Cup in their entirety. From Russia’s 5-0 romp over Saudi Arabia to Japan’s surprise 2-1 win over Columbia five days later. Not to pat myself on the back, and definitely not to pat Pepe on the back, but it was an impressive start.

A few days ago I shared the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten since I started this project, but one question I left off that list was this: “How are you making time to watch all this soccer?!?!”

For the first 16 games I was a machine. Everything and everyone took a back seat to my new soccer appetite. It also helped that I didn’t have anything on the calendar that couldn’t be moved, which was incredibly serendipitous.

But after those first 16? Well, real life tried really hard to get in the way of the World Cup. Observe…

TUESDAY – I had a morning chiropractor appointment, and I had to pick my son up from golf camp. I recorded the first two games, but ended up fast-forwarding through much of them so that I could watch the third game in real time and get some work done.

WEDNESDAY – I woke up at 5:00am to play 9 holes of golf (first time since the World Cup started!) and got back home halfway through Portugal’s opening game. I fast-forwarded through most of the recording, watched all of game two, and then had to miss the end of Spain’s win over Iran for a work call.

THURSDAY – I watched one game: Denmark’s 1-1 draw with Australia. My friend Tyler was coming in from out of town to play in a golf tournament with me – my club’s Member-Guest Tournament – so the rest of the day was spent getting him at the airport, playing a practice round, attending an opening dinner, and then watching soccer highlights when we got home. (This event was on my calendar long before I ever dreamt I’d become a World Cup obsessive. #BadTiming)

FRIDAY – I watched zero soccer and played 27 holes of golf on Day 1 of the Member-Guest. Again, I watched highlights at night, but all I could think of was that it felt like I was cheating on soccer. (And frankly, I played horrible golf, probably because all I’ve been doing the past week is sitting around watching soccer.)

SATURDAY – Our first tee time for the final day of the golf tournament wasn’t until noon, so I watched all of Belgium’s dominating win over Tunisia. After that I had to bail on soccer again, relying solely on highlights later that night. Earlier that day as we waited on a tee box a fellow club member named Jerry told me, “That soccer thing you’re doing is the worst decision you’ve ever made. Terribly boring sport.” He was the third person that weekend to express similar sentiments.

SUNDAY – Before bringing Tyler back to the airport we watched England’s dominating win over Panama together. (I’m trying to get him hooked on soccer too!) I missed Japan/Senegal during the airport run, and yes, I missed church again this week too, but that catches us up to right this minute, as I am watching Columbia’s breakout 3-0 win over Poland as I am writing this.

So as for these first 32 games, I’ve essentially seen about 24 of them in their entirety. I’ve seen highlights from all the matches I’ve missed, but to my shame there have been 8 games that I haven’t watched from whistle to whistle.

The Group Stage ends this week, with Monday through Thursday featuring four games each day. Some of the games won’t mean anything in terms of who moves on, but many of them will have huge stakes tied to them.

Am I petering out? No.

Am I going to allow work or golf or doctor’s visits to get in my way of these games this week? No.

Am I ready to see which knockout round matchups materialize from this week’s results? The funny thing is, I can’t wait. I’m way more into the tournament at this point than I thought I would be.

So I’m clearing the calendar, telling the doctor I’m feeling fine, and putting the golf clubs back in the trunk.

We’re on the cusp of the knockout round, and I’m sorry Jerry, but I’m all in.

“In every country I’ve gone to, if you smile at people, they are going to be happy. This is my attitude.”

Heung Min-Son

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.